Facebook could face two decades of oversight as part of an agreement with the U.S. government.
According to a report in Reuters citing a source knowledgeable about the discussions, the agreement, if reached with the Federal Trade Commission, would end an inquiry into whether or not Facebook violated a privacy consent order inked back in 2011. It would also mean the company is under government oversight for what could amount to twenty years. Ever since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where the now-defunct political consulting firm accessed the data of 87 million Facebook users without their consent, the FTC has been looking into whether that violated a prior agreement. Facebook said when it reported earnings that it set aside $3 billion to cover what could amount to a record $3 billion to $5 billion fine by the government agency. While reports have said a settlement announcement is imminent, sources told Reuters a deal won’t be inked this week and could happen next month.
According to the report, lawmakers in the U.S. have already taken issue with some of the potential settlement between the FTC and Facebook. As it stands, the two sides have discussed requiring Facebook to hire executives to oversee the implementation of privacy rules and a committee that would review the privacy practices in addition to the fine. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Josh Hawley sent the FTC a bipartisan letter arguing that a $5 billion fine is too small and that executives including Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, should be personally held responsible.
Facebook has been facing calls from lawmakers and 2020 presidential hopefuls to break the company up in the wake of data scandals and the spread of fake and hate speech on its platforms. In a scathing op-ed in The New York Times last week, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes argued the company should be broken up and Facebook forced to sell off Instagram and WhatsApp.
In the piece, Hughes argues Facebook and Zuckerberg have too much power and that the power is hurting society. “Mark’s influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government,” wrote Hughes, who co-founded Facebook with Zuckerberg at Harvard 15 years ago but has not worked at the social media firm for a decade. “Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook’s algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered. He sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive, and he can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it.”