Tech feuding flares on the Hill as Haugen’s star power fades

The parties “have very different views of the problem” with the online platforms, Rep. Dan Crenshaw said during a hearing where Republicans brought their own Facebook witness.

12/2/2021 3:36:00 AM

Haugen’s revelations about the social media giant briefly ignited optimism among big tech’s critics that Democrats and Republicans could unite to rein in the companies. But her return to Congress today made it clear how far apart the two parties remain

The parties “have very different views of the problem” with the online platforms, Rep. Dan Crenshaw said during a hearing where Republicans brought their own Facebook witness.

Link CopiedFacebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s revelations about the social media giant briefly ignited optimism among big tech’s critics that Democrats and Republicans could.But her return to Congress on Wednesday made it clear how far apart the two parties remain.

Haugen’s testimony before a House Energy and Commerce panel featured sharp partisan divides on one of lawmakers’ biggest tech policy priorities — curbing the online industry’s liability protections. Republicans alsoderided Democratic proposals for regulating online companies and their algorithms, while sounding their own accusations that social media platforms censor conservatives.

Read more: POLITICO »

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12/01/2021 07:30 PM EST Link Copied Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s revelations about the social media giant briefly ignited optimism among big tech’s critics that Democrats and Republicans could . But her return to Congress on Wednesday made it clear how far apart the two parties remain. Haugen’s testimony before a House Energy and Commerce panel featured sharp partisan divides on one of lawmakers’ biggest tech policy priorities — curbing the online industry’s liability protections. Republicans also derided Democratic proposals for regulating online companies and their algorithms, while sounding their own accusations that social media platforms censor conservatives. And unlike Haugen’s media-grabbing Capitol appearance in early October , when she testified solo in front of a Senate Commerce subcommittee, she had to share the spotlight Wednesday. Republicans called their own former Facebook employee to testify alongside her: A conservative who echoed their own arguments about censorship. Lawmakers also appeared far apart on the hearing’s main topic: how to rewrite Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a decades-old law that provides broad liability protections over user-posted content online. Haugen even faced some harsh public questioning from GOP lawmakers Wednesday — for the first time ever. Here are POLITICO’s top takeaways from the hearing: Republicans hammer Haugen this time The warm reception and praise Haugen received during her earlier appearances before the Senate and policymakers in Europe were less evident Wednesday, as some Republicans took a hostile tone with the former Facebook product manager. Several lawmakers, especially Democrats, still heaped praise on her for divulging thousands of internal documents detailing Facebook’s research into the harm its products inflict on vulnerable populations or political discourse. But the tough questioning from some GOP members, along with low in-person attendance at the hearing, show that her star power may be dwindling — and that her credibility with Republican lawmakers may be starting to wear thin. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) and Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) were among the lawmakers who grilled, snubbed or interrupted Haugen in a manner unseen at the Senate hearing in October, when members of their party joined Democrats in applauding Haugen’s strength and bravery for coming forward. McMorris Rodgers zeroed in on GOP complaints that social media companies censor conservative voices — and in doing so, appeared to pin Haugen as a liberal even though she has not been explicit about her political views. "Do you support Big Tech's censorship of constitutionally protected speech on their platforms?" McMorris Rodgers said, demanding a yes-or-no answer. When Haugen failed to respond in one word, McMorris Rodgers interrupted her, saying: “I take it as a no.” Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen appears before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee at the Russell Senate Office Building on Oct. 5, 2021 in Washington, D.C. | Matt McClain-Pool/Getty Images In another apparent snub, Johnson posed a question to Haugen but then asked witness Kara Frederick, a tech policy research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, to respond. Johnson raised concerns about Haugen’s recent testimony before the U.K. Parliament in which she had called for regulators to intervene in tech platforms’ content moderation operations. Johnson argued that government involvement in private businesses’ content moderation is a threat to the First Amendment. “This is un-American,” Johnson said in his line of questioning to Haugen — but he tossed the floor to Frederick before Haugen could respond. It added up to often-chillier treatment than Haugen has received since going public as the Facebook whistleblower in October, including in her