Facebook isn’t just a company. It’s a behemoth, with 2.1 billion monthly users, $40 billion in revenue and more than 25,000 employees worldwide.
And that leaves Washington with a daunting task: How do you tame a corporate giant? Or do you even try?
“It’s tricky and it’s going to be hard, but there are ways it can be dealt with,” says Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, a former tech executive who has led investigations into Russian interference on social media over the last year as the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. “The idea that we’re going to keep the wild, wild West — I don’t think it’s sustainable.”
The picture will begin to come into focus next week. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is scheduled to testify April 10 and 11 before Senate and House committees as his company grapples with the privacy scandal involving Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm linked to President Donald Trump.
Facebook’s reckoning in Washington comes on multiple fronts. Russia’s use of the platform to meddle in U.S. elections, a regulatory investigation that could result in fines of hundreds of millions of dollars against the company for privacy violations, and the Cambridge Analytica episode are all topmost concerns.
But in the capital’s pro-business, anti-regulatory climate, it’s questionable whether the Republican-led Congress or Trump regulators have the appetite to rein it in.
Facebook is spending millions on lobbying to try to ward off regulations, even seeking to narrow a Senate bill that lawmakers call “the lightest touch possible.” It would require more transparency in online political ads, something Facebook says it is providing on its own.
But the stakes grew Wednesday when Facebook revealed that information belonging to as many as 87 million of its users may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica, which gathered the data with the intent of swaying elections….