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Oregon Rep. Greg Walden Open To Regulating Facebook

<p>U.S. Rep. Greg Walden talks about the bills that have been passed recently in Congress during a town hall meeting Monday in Baker City.</p>

E.J. Harris

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U.S. Rep. Greg Walden talks about the bills that have been passed recently in Congress during a town hall meeting Monday in Baker City.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, will testify in front of U.S. House and Senate committees in Washington, D.C. this week about recent user privacy and data scandals. On Wednesday, he’ll appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Greg Walden, the only Republican member of Oregon’s congressional delegation.

“I think it’s a time for introspection,” Walden recently told OPB's "Think Out Loud." “I think it’s time for a step backward, to say 'OK, what happened here?'”

Monday, Congress released Zuckerberg’s prepared testimony. In it, Zuckerberg acknowledged that Facebook didn’t do enough to stop the misuse of its platform — including the spread of fake news and hate speech; foreign interference; and breaches of data. "We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake," Zuckerberg said in the statement. "It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”

Walden said his main questions for Zuckerberg in Wednesday's hearing are: “What did you know? When did you know it? And what did you do about it?”

He would also like to see a simplification in the terms of service so that users have a better idea of how their data is being used. Walden even left open the possibility of some kind of congressional regulation of Facebook’s privacy policies.

“The question is: At what point is a platform like that a common carrier in the information age?” Walden said, referring to the federal designation that would allow a company to be regulated by the Federal Communications Commission like a utility.

The congressman said that, although he is not personally concerned about his data being available to companies like Facebook, he has heard from many constituents in Oregon who are worried about who owns their photos and information.

Because of the share of the advertising market they control, companies like Facebook and Google have “enormous power,” Walden said. “And pretty soon here you get the federal regulation to start to take hold if they can’t self police and we can’t have transparency and accountability.”

Walden is bullish, though, that the congressional hearings will result in changes at Facebook.

“I’ve found over the years, when you schedule a congressional hearing it's amazing how hard these companies work to try to dig out all the bad things, change their policies, and notify users and customers within days of the hearing taking place.”

To hear the full conversation with Walden, click the play button at the top of the page.

Copyright 2018 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Sage Van Wing, Chris Seigel