Key GOP Sen. Thune is 'not rushing' to slap regulation on Facebook

Key Points
  • Sen. John Thune casts doubts on swift regulation of Facebook in response to user privacy concerns.
  • Mark Zuckerberg is testifying before the Senate on Tuesday amid backlash over Cambridge Analytica's use of personal information.
  • Thune says he primarily wants to see how big of an issue data misuse is and what Facebook is doing to fix its issues.
Sen. Thune on protecting social media privacy
Sen. Thune on protecting social media privacy

A top Republican senator said Tuesday he does not necessarily want to pass legislation regulating Facebook amid concerns about user privacy.

"I'm not rushing to do that," Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

His comments came ahead of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's Tuesday afternoon testimony before Thune's committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. Zuckerberg will face questions about the revelation that consulting firm Cambridge Analytica may have misused the personal information of up to 87 million people. He will also likely get grilled about the use of his platform on Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 election.

Thune, the third-ranking Senate Republican, said he hopes to find out at the hearing how far-reaching the misuse of personal data is. The South Dakota senator also wants to find out what Facebook is doing on its own to prevent the abuse of user information.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD)
Aaron P. Bernstein | Reuters

Thune did not rule out regulations on Facebook and other social media platforms. However, he called himself a "light-touch person" on business regulations and said Tuesday's hearing will only start the process of figuring out potential regulatory fixes.

Several lawmakers, including Commerce Committee ranking member Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., have pushed for tougher regulation of social media companies. In his prepared testimony, Zuckerberg said Facebook supports the Honest Ads Act, proposed legislation that aims to better disclose the source of political advertising. He will also highlight Facebook's efforts to limit data developers can access and detail efforts to delete fake accounts from the platform.

It is unclear what other legislation lawmakers may propose to regulate Facebook. Thune said "some" of the restrictions European regulators recently put on social media companies could be applicable.

The European Union's General Data Protection Regulation will take effect next month. It will require companies to disclose more about what information they gather and why, and give users more control over how their data is used.

On Monday, after he met with Zuckerberg, Nelson expressed doubts about the GOP-controlled Congress or Trump administration regulatory agencies taking new steps to keep Facebook in check in the coming months.

However, Nelson added that Zuckerberg "knows that there is going to be a hard look at regulation."