Senators Cantwell and Warren call for federal inquiries on Facebook

Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Speaks during the hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Security in Afghanistan and the Regions of South and Central Asia, in the Dirksen Building on Tuesday, October 26, 2021 .

Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Maria Cantwell urge federal regulators to investigate Facebook claims the company misled advertisers, investors and the public about public safety and the scope of ads on its platform -form.

Warren on Thursday urged heads of the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission to initiate criminal and civil investigations into Facebook or its executives to determine whether they had violated US fraud and securities laws. .

A day earlier, Cantwell, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, had encouraged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether Facebook, now known as Meta, had violated the agency’s law against unfair or deceptive business practices. Cantwell’s letter was released to the public on Thursday.

The letters came to light a day after Instagram director Adam Mosseri testified before a trade subcommittee on protecting children on the platform. That hearing, and the letters that followed, were the result of internal Facebook research disclosures that were disclosed by whistleblower and former employee Frances Haugen to the Senate, the SEC and reporters.

Haugen’s attorneys have previously filed a complaint with the SEC, saying the company violated securities laws by misleading investors about its understanding of security concerns on its platform, among other allegations.

Warren’s letter points directly to Haugen’s disclosures and says they add to the evidence that Facebook has misled ad clients and investors about the reach of their ads. The Massachusetts senator said it could constitute a violation of securities laws and amount to “incredibly illegal behavior on the part of one of the largest social media companies in the world.”

Warren claimed, based on the disclosures, that Facebook failed to notify investors or the SEC of errors in the platform’s “Potential Reach” product, which aimed to estimate the number of people in an area who could see advertising. Warren wrote that the evidence increasingly suggests that executives were aware the metric “was significantly and consistently inflated.”

In his letter to the FTC, Cantwell focused on Facebook’s claims about the safety of its products, in addition to the allegedly inflated advertising projections. The Washington senator pointed to Haugen’s disclosures to suggest that Facebook’s claims about the effectiveness of its algorithms in removing hateful content “could significantly distort” their effectiveness. She suggested that the agency investigate Facebook and, evidence shows, seek financial aid from advertisers and restitution of allegedly ill-gotten gains.

A Facebook spokesperson did not immediately respond to the letters.

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