Senator Trying to Hold Big Tech Accountable Knows Nothing About Big Tech

Posted: Sep 30, 2021 2:50 PM
Senator Trying to Hold Big Tech Accountable Knows Nothing About Big Tech

Source: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

In a congressional hearing into Facebook and Instagram's impact on youth mental health Thursday, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) was questioning Facebook's global head of safety Antigone Davis when he revealed just how little he knows about big tech and the platforms Facebook created, including Instagram.

"Will you commit to ending Finsta?" Blumenthal asks Davis, referring to the term given to secondary Instagram accounts used by people who wish to have a public profile and a more private profile to share content with a smaller circle of people.

"Senator, again, let me explain, we don't actually do Finsta," Davis responded. "What Finsta refers to is young people setting up accounts where they may want to have more privacy. You refer to it as a privacy from their parents but what, in my interaction with teens, what I've found is that they sometimes like to have an account where they can interact just with their, a smaller group of friends."

Blumenthal interrupted her answer saying "Finsta is one of your products or services, we're not talking about Google or Apple, it's Facebook, correct?"

Again trying to explain that finstas are not a service or product offered by Instagram, Davis clarifies that "finsta is slang for a type of account, it's not a product."

"Ok will you end that type of account?" Blumenthal asked, doubling down on his erroneous belief. 

"We, I'm not sure I understand exactly what you're asking," said a reasonably confused Davis. "What I can say is that based on what we've seen in terms of teens using those kinds of accounts, we've actually given them additional privacy options to address those kinds of issues where they want more privacy," she explained of Instagram's close friends feature and other means of sharing with a subset of a user's followers. 

"Well, I don't think that's an answer to my question," Blumenthal concludes, still not understanding that Facebook and Instagram don't enforce a limit on the number of accounts an individual can create, nor do they control what slang terms users choose for their secondary accounts. 

The reactions to Blumenthal's overly confident yet entirely incorrect line of questioning point out that someone who doesn't understand the basic workings of social media really can't pretend they're able to provide oversight for their gargantuan and powerful parent companies.