Former Twitter Inc. and Facebook executives on Wednesday told a Senate panel that the biggest social media companies can do more to rein in extremism and misinformation, but won’t unless forced to by regulation.
Brian Boland, a former vice president with Meta Platforms Inc.’s Facebook, and Alex Roetter, Twitter’s former senior vice president for engineering, warned the Senate’s homeland security committee that social media companies including YouTube, Twitter, Meta and TikTok have failed to address the harm their platforms can cause, including how their algorithms can amplify harmful content. They argued that the platforms prioritize profit over ensuring their users are safe.
Both Boland and Roetter urged the panel to pass legislation requiring the companies to create more transparency. Roetter said it’s unlikely that the companies will voluntarily reform their practices.
“Today you don’t know what’s happening with the companies, you have to trust them,” said Boland. “I lost my trust with the companies with what they were doing and what Meta was doing. We should move beyond trust to helping researchers and journalists understand the platforms better.”
Boland contrasted the companies’ development with the auto industry, where advancements are tested and overseen by safety regulators before being put on the road.
“There’s almost no ability to protect our future and create a version of crash-testing a car,” he said.
The social media companies’ “growth over safety incentive structure” is at the root of the companies’ inability to handle the rise of viral misinformation and political extremism, he said.