Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen Leads Off House Sec. 230 Hearing

Frances Haugen of Facebook testifies before Senate subcommittee
(Image credit: C-SPAN via YouTube)

The House Energy & Commerce Committee has lined up Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen as its lead-off witness for a Dec. 1 hearing--"Holding Big Tech Accountable: Targeted Reforms to Tech's Legal Immunity."--on legislation to curb social media sites' immunity from civil liability over third-party content. That's according to a just-released list of the Democratic witnesses. No Republican witnesses were listed.

Haugen created quite a stir on Capitol Hill in a testimony in which she revealed internal Facebook research showing the company knew its Instagram platform could be harmful to some teens. Facebook countered that the research also showed that most teens said it was helpful and that the information on those who said otherwise was useful feedback for potential changes to the platform to address that concern.

But legislators on both sides of the aisle were unconcerned and more hearings, like Wednesday's were lined up as they decided how to respond.

Also: Gizmodo to Publish Leaked Facebook Internal Research

Wednesday's hearing will feature two panels. Panel one leads off with Haugen, former Facebook product manager, followed by Rashad Robinson, president, Color of Change, and James Steyer, founder and CEO, Common Sense Media.

Panel two will include from the Democratic side: Karen Kornbluh, director, Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative and senior fellow, The German Marshall Fund of the United States; attorney Carrie Goldberg; Matt Wood, VP of policy and general counsel, Free Press Action; and Dr. Mary Anne Franks, law professor at the University of Miami School of Law and president and legislative & tech policy director at the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative. 

Republican leaders did not offer up any witnesses Monday (Nov. 29), but did weigh in on the importance of the hearing

House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Communications and Technology Republican Leader Bob Latta (R-OH) released the following statement regarding the upcoming committee hearing on Big Tech accountability.  

“A conversation about reforming Section 230 is long overdue, and we look forward to having that discussion this week," said House E&C Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Communications Subcommittee Leader Bob Latta (R-Ohio). "Big Tech continues to prioritize the censorship of speech that does not fit the liberal orthodoxy when they should be focused on encouraging robust discussion and removing illegal content. Energy and Commerce Republicans have been running a process since day one of this Congress to hold Big Tech accountable, which has been guided by our Big Tech Accountability Platform. We look forward to discussing our legislative proposals which will help ensure that free speech is preserved on these platforms.” ■

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.