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Facebook must be ‘reined in’ by strong regulation, Germany’s justice minister says after whistleblower testimony

Facebook must be ‘reined in’ by strong regulation, Germany’s justice minister says after whistleblower testimony
Facebook has placed profit above social responsibility, German Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said after a former employee delivered a highly publicized testimony against the tech giant.

“The latest revelations surrounding Facebook prove how urgently we need strong and effective regulation of social media in Europe,” Lambrecht told RND.

“In a united Europe, we are all affected when social media reinforce hatred and incitement through their algorithms and promote undesirable political and social developments,” she said.

The minister made her statement after former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen testified before a US Senate subcommittee on Tuesday, arguing that the social media giant “will continue to make choices that go against the common good” unless some type of outside oversight is introduced.

Echoing that sentiment, Lambrecht said appeals to the sense of responsibility and self-regulation are not enough because Facebook has placed “the interests of profit above social responsibility.”

This is unacceptable, given the market power and social relevance of big tech companies… Therefore, it’s important to put the reins in on Facebook and others and tighten them.

The minister said Facebook users should be given the option to switch off personalized ads, and ads targeting minors must be banned.

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In her testimony, Haugen alleged that Facebook, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp among other services, was hiding information from the public and prioritizing profit instead of policing harmful content on its platforms, particularly when it affects underage users.   

“Facebook has demonstrated they cannot act independently. Facebook, over and over again, has shown it chooses profit over safety,” Haugen told CBS News’ ‘60 Minutes’.

Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg argued that Haugen’s testimony paints a “false picture” of the company. He vehemently denied that Facebook was putting profit above safety, outlying several measures Facebook has taken to improve transparency and the wellbeing of its users.

“If we didn’t care about fighting harmful content, then why would we employ so many more people dedicated to this than any other company in our space – even ones larger than us?” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post.

For several years, Facebook has been accused by Western politicians and the media of not doing enough to curb the spread of extremist ideas and misinformation, including falsehoods about Covid-19 and vaccines.

In the US, Zuckerberg’s company has been in the crosshairs from both sides of the isle. Democrats have claimed that Facebook allowed election meddling by Russia and turned a blind eye to white supremacy on its site, while conservatives say the social media platform censors them.

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