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A group of 13 Democratic senators led by Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Jack Reed of Rhode Island has called on Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to answer how Facebook handled misinformation enforcement ahead of the January 6th US Capitol attack. Citing documents and testimony shared by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, they say they want to know why the company "prematurely" removed safeguards it had in place before the 2020 presidential election.
"This action allowed misinformation, disinformation, and violent rhetoric to return to the platform immediately following Election Day and in the lead-up to the January 6th insurrection," the group said.
Many of the questions center around Meta's defunct Civic Integrity team. During her testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security, Haugen said that the company dissolved shortly after the 2020 election. That's a claim Meta has consistently disputed.
"We did not disband Civic Integrity," Guy Rosen, Meta vice president for integrity, told Time in October. "We integrated it into a larger Central Integrity team so that the incredible work pioneered for elections could be applied even further, for example, across health-related issues. Their work continues to this day."
To that point, the group asks Zuckerberg when Meta made the decision to disband the team and who ultimately made it. They also want to know what part of Meta is currently responsible for overseeing its efforts to prevent election-related misinformation, in addition to details like how many employees the company has assigned to that division. Beyond those questions, the group says they want to know how Meta plans to protect the integrity of future elections.
"While we acknowledge the efforts Facebook took to prevent the spread of election-related misinformation and disinformation, violent rhetoric, and harassment prior to the 2020 elections, it clearly was not enough to prevent lies about the election from taking root on the platform and fueling violence against our democracy," Klobuchar, Reed and the 11 other senators said.
The group stops short of threatening regulatory action against Meta. It's possible the Senate could call on Zuckerberg to testify much like Instagram head Adam Mosseri was asked to do earlier this month. While most US lawmakers agree more needs to be done to regulate Facebook and other social media platforms, Democrats and Republicans have found little common ground on how to approach the issue.