Wednesday, October 20, 2021

‘Time has come for you to deal with your own epidemic’: congressman’s Facebook rant goes viral

US Congressman Jim Langevin makes extraordinary demand, telling the company: ‘The time has come for you to deal with this … We have thousands of high school students on Facebook and not that much on Instagram’ “Menace” and “horror” are words you often hear used to describe Facebook and its subsidiaries. That was how the American congressman on oversight and investigations referred to their existence. Jim Langevin,

a Democrat who represents Rhode Island in the House of Representatives, said it’s time for Facebook to get rid of them. On Wednesday, at a hearing where Congress was directly questioning Facebook on its security practices, he said, “You have a large collection of people who are not active on Facebook because they are afraid of being stalked and they are afraid of being a predator … The time has come for you to deal

with this.” Facebook meeting to address users’ privacy concerns brought to standstill Read more It was one of many telling statements the congressman made during a tumultuous two and a half hours. It was Langevin’s morning hearing at the Capitol building, and as he banged on the wooden table in front of him, using his two feet to push himself in an exasperated motion, he quickly went viral for his deranged and

patriotic name-calling. At the time, he was wearing a bright red ball cap on the gray and misty Capitol floor. He continued. “I think we need to have fact-based policy with you. I think it’s time for you to deal with your own epidemic and your own horrible app. We have thousands of high school students on Facebook and not that much on Instagram. The people who should not be on Instagram should not be on Instagram.

You have a generation of kids who should not be on Facebook … why are we going to give it to them? Why?” As that went on, as the US Congress loudly complained about Facebook’s unchecked power and warned it of its responsibilities, Langevin became aware of one of Facebook’s denials: it is not beholden to Congress and that, “Congress has never said to us, ‘You must do this or that’”. But in the midst of his anger, he

bellowed in amazement: “They say ‘Don’t do it!’ and, ‘Don’t do it!’ But then they say ‘Fuck you!’ and ‘How dare you?’ and ‘You are obstructing our communication!’” When other legislators attempted to reason with him, like Georgia congressman David Scott, a Democrat, who said he thought “clearly there are legislation gaps that need to be addressed”, Langevin was unmoved. “I am not wasting my time telling them to do

anything. Do you want to do something?” he shouted. “There are laws in this country on certain things. Pass them!” He switched to a new demand: “I want the data of this building. Do you have a Facebook page? Delete it … I want your email. Delete it. Close down this corporation that is the very model of a surveillance society!” His spiel would have been more tolerable if they weren’t discussing this stuff at all, but

it goes to show that the US Congress wants to control technology, and the tech companies have already decided that’s not good enough. Langevin was far from alone in his frustration about Facebook. Representatives from multiple parties spent the two and a half hours publicly ranting about the company’s lack of transparency. Don Marron, a Democrat from Maryland, spoke out in favor of stronger legislative oversight. “We

need to have laws that go beyond the letter of the law so we can strengthen these platforms,” he said. “There is a political will for government intervention here.” But it was Langevin who sounded like he was screaming the loudest.

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