More social media regulation expected in 2023, members of Congress say


Social media giants can look forward to more government regulation in the new year.

TikTok and other tech companies were in the crosshairs of Congress last year, and according to Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), that’s expected to continue in 2023.

Gallagher compared TikTok to “digital fentanyl” on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, adding that he views the app as dangerous.

“It’s highly addictive and destructive,” he said. “We’re seeing troubling data about the corrosive impact of constant social media use, particularly on young men and women here in America.”

Last month, Congress passed a bipartisan bill banning the use of TikTok on government devices amid concerns that data obtained by the popular social media app may fall into the hands of the Chinese Communist Party. 

Former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen speaks during a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, on Capitol Hill, in Washington.
Former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen in front of the Senate Commerce consumer protection subcommittee in 2021.

TikTok, which attracts more than 1 billion views a month, has repeatedly said its US user data is not based in China, though those assurances have done little to quell concerns.

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who was also on “Meet the Press,” said she thinks most people are unaware of how far behind the US is when it comes to social media regulation.

“This is like we’re back in 1965, we don’t have seatbelt laws yet,” she said, adding that social media platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube operate using similar algorithms, and that regulators should push for more transparency about how they work as a first step.

 The logo of the TikTok application is seen on a mobile phone
Rep. Gallagher called TikTok “digital fentanyl” and said it should be banned nationally.

In 2021, Haugen leaked a trove of internal Facebook documents to the Wall Street Journal, the Securities & Exchange Commission and Congress. It led to the Journal publishing a multi-part series that examined Facebook’s exemptions for high-profile users, impacts on youth, the effects of its 2018 algorithm changes, weaknesses in the response to human trafficking and drug cartels and vaccine misinformation, among other things.

Lat year, Congress failed to pass the most aggressive bills targeting tech, including antitrust legislation to weaken Google and Apple’s app store profitability and loosen their restrictions on developers, as well as recent sweeping measures that would protect kids online.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies during a remote video hearing held by subcommittees of the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee on "Social Media's Role in Promoting Extremism and Misinformation" in Washington, U.S., April 25, 2021.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies during a remote video hearing held by subcommittees of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee on “Social Media’s Role in Promoting Extremism and Misinformation” in Washington, April 25, 2021.

While Congress made some progress last year toward a compromise bill on national privacy standards, there still is much work to be done when it concerns how consumer data is protected.

Klobuchar told “Meet the Press” that while bipartisan support exists to pass such legislation, the tech lobby is so powerful that bills with “strong, bipartisan support” can fall apart “within 24 hours.”

“We are lagging behind,” she said. “It is time for 2023, let it be our resolution, that we finally pass one of these bills.”