Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., told the Washington Examiner on Wednesday that Facebook executives "do not seem to care about their continuous shortcomings, both with their users and in their interactions with Congress."
Lummis said she sent a letter last month to the company to request internal research about the social media platform’s negative impact on children that were first brought to public attention by Facebook whistleblower Francis Haugen.
She also asked the company to explain how it plans to fix these problems, but told the Examiner that she and her staff were extremely disappointed and frustrated by the company’s response, which they shared with the news outlet.
"Facebook is blatantly ignoring congressional requests and misleading policymakers," Lummis said in an interview with the Examiner. "Most alarmingly, they do not seem to care about their continuous shortcomings, both with their users and in their interactions with Congress."
The senator and her staff went on to say that Facebook is aware of the issues parents face when it comes to their children being negatively affected by the content and advertising they can see on the platform, but has yet to provide the necessary implements and resources to help children.
"In their letter to us, Facebook just pointed to a myriad of things on their website that parents will likely never actually stumble upon or use, it just buries them in overwhelming information that's inconvenient and hard to find," a senior aide to the senator told the Examiner.
"We take the issue of safety and well-being on our platforms very seriously, especially for the youngest people who use our services. That’s why we do research so we can make our products better," Facebook said in the letter, which defends the company’s response and notes that it has created tools for parents thanks to its private internal research.
"The lack of transparency is frustrating. They send their experts to the Hill, and they give half answers and provide spin on the other half," another senior Lummis aide said.
"The Facebook executives that meet with us are very well trained on deflecting from real problems within the company so outsiders can't see them," they added.
Former Facebook Public Policy Director Katie Harbath told the Examiner that "Facebook sharing its proprietary research does shut down debate internally within the company, which is a real problem."
She added, "We need to find some sort of regulatory structure that allows for Facebook to do research internally and privately while also allowing for the public to see what's happening on the platform. A balance between the two."
Harbath also said it’s unacceptable that Facebook hasn’t notified Congress or its users about the content and ads that are viewable by children, or what happens to the user data that the company collects.
"There’s definitely a need for more transparency from Facebook to explain its inner workings that affect children, it does need to be held accountable. But some of the problems arise because everyone’s talking past one another," she added.
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