After years of allowing the world’s largest social network to police itself, Congress and federal regulators are discussing some promising reforms.
Typically, the FTC can only impose penalties if a company has violated a previous agreement with the agency.
That means Facebook may well face a fine for the Cambridge Analytica breach, assuming the FTC can show that the social network violated the 2011 settlement. In that settlement, the FTC charged Facebook with eight counts of unfair and deceptive behavior, including allowing outside apps to access data that they didn’t need—which is what Cambridge Analytica reportedly did years later. The settlement carried no financial penalties but included a clause stating that Facebook could face fines of $16,000 per violation per day.
.. “I predict that if the FTC concludes that Facebook violated the consent decree, there will be a heavy civil penalty that could well be in the amount of $1 billion or more,” he said.
.. “Facebook rejects any suggestion that it violated the consent decree,”
.. Daniel J. Weitzner, who served in the White House as the deputy chief technology officer at the time of the Facebook settlement, says that technology should be policed by something similar to the Department of Justice’s environmental-crimes unit. The unit has levied hundreds of millions of dollars in fines. Under previous administrations, it filed felony charges against people for such crimes as dumping raw sewage or killing a bald eagle. Some ended up sentenced to prison.
.. “We know how to do serious law enforcement when we think there’s a real priority, and we haven’t gotten there yet when it comes to privacy,” Weitzner said.
.. Facebook has said it will introduce a new regime of advertising transparency later this year, which will require political advertisers to submit a government-issued ID and to have an authentic mailing address. It said that political advertisers will also have to disclose which candidate or organization they represent and that all election ads will be displayed in a public archive.
.. While she was at the commission, she urged it to consider what it could do to make internet advertising contain as much disclosure as broadcast and print ads. “Do we want Vladimir Putin or drug cartels to be influencing American elections?” she presciently asked at a 2015 commission meeting.
.. Even if it does pass such a rule, the commission’s definition of election advertising is so narrow that many of the ads placed by the Russians may not have qualified for scrutiny. It’s limited to ads that mention a federal candidate and appear within 60 days prior to a general election or 30 days prior to a primary.
.. Last year, ProPublica found that Facebook was allowing advertisers to buy discriminatory ads, including ads targeting people who identified themselves as “Jew haters,” and ads for housing and employment that excluded audiences based on race, age, and other protected characteristics under civil-rights laws.
.. Facebook has claimed that it has immunity against liability for such discrimination under section 230 of the 1996 federal Communications Decency Act, which protects online publishers from liability for third-party content.
.. But sentiment is growing in Washington to interpret the law more narrowly.
.. Jonathan Zittrain, wrote an article rethinking his previous support for the law and declared it has become, in effect, “a subsidy” for the tech giants, who don’t bear the costs of ensuring the content they publish is accurate and fair.
.. “Any honest account must acknowledge the collateral damage it has permitted to be visited upon real people whose reputations, privacy, and dignity have been hurt in ways that defy redress,” Zittrain wrote.
Mr. Trump, who had to sign off on the memo’s release, has been at odds for much of the past year with several Justice Department leaders having to do with the Russia probe. He fired FBI Director James Comey and publicly criticized his own appointees, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, over his recusal from the Russia matter, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who now oversees the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.
.. A person who has reviewed the surveillance-warrant application said Mr. Steele’s research formed only a part of the application. The other information included in the application hasn’t been declassified, though Mr. Trump has that authority... “This was about telling a political story that’s helpful to the president. It’s about telling a political story that’s designed to injure the work of the special counsel and to discredit it,” said Mr. Schiff... Democrats on the committee have compiled their own memo on the matter, which addresses the information that prosecutors used beyond Mr. Steele’s research, but the GOP-controlled committee has so far blocked its release... Mr. Page has been on the radar of U.S. intelligence since 2013, when Russian spies made an attempt to recruit him... He left Mr. Trump’s campaign in September 2016 after reports that a July 2016 trip he took to Moscow was of interest to investigators... At least two of those renewals occurred while Mr. Trump was president and at least one was authorized by a Justice Department official he appointed. A person familiar with the matter said that four separate federal judges approved the surveillance of Mr. Page, and all of those judges were appointed by Republican presidents... The memo is critical of Mr. Steele and notes that prosecutors in their application for the warrant didn’t explicitly state that he was working for a firm funded by Democrats. But the FISA application did disclose Mr. Steele was being paid by a law firm working for a major political party .... The bureau considered Mr. Steele a reliable source from previous investigations, having helped provide information during a federal probe into alleged corruption at FIFA, the world soccer organization.. The memo alleges that Mr. McCabe testified before the House Intelligence Committee in December that “no surveillance warrant would have been sought…without the Steele dossier information.”.. Officials in Congress and the Justice Department familiar with Mr. McCabe’s testimony said the memo mischaracterized what he told lawmakers. He was asked what percentage of information in the FISA application was provided by Mr. Steele, and he demurred, saying the FBI didn’t evaluate such applications in such a way. Mr. McCabe was asked if it might have accounted for half of the warrant application, and he said he didn’t know, one person familiar with the matter said... Mr. Trump and other Republicans cheered the buildup to the document’s release, fueled by social-media campaigns, saying it would expose law-enforcement wrongdoing in prosecuting the president... One person close to Mr. Trump said this week that the president believes the memo undermines the credibility of Mr. RosensteinAsked Friday if he had confidence in Mr. Rosenstein, Mr. Trump said: “You figure that one out.”