Sen. Ron Wyden is floating the possibility that imprisoning Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg might be the best way to hold the social media company responsible for privacy violations.
“I think he ought to be held personally accountable, which is everything from financial fines to—and let me underline this—the possibility of a prison term,” Wyden said in an interview published Saturday on a local Oregon website. “Because he hurt a lot of people.” The Oregon Democrat is best-known for spearheading legislation in the 1990s that helped kickstart the internet explosion.
Legal experts splashed cold water on that suggestion. Such a prosecution is possible, but “the likelihood of criminal action is rather slim,” Tim Gleason, who teaches communications law at the University of Oregon, told reporters about Wyden’s suggestion.
Wyden added: “And, by the way, there is a precedent for this: In financial services, if the CEO and the executives lie about the financials, they can be held personally accountable.” Wyden also responds to questions about whether he regrets proposing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects Internet companies from being held responsible for what users post.
Wyden is often critical of tech companies, despite raising $124,625 from Twitter, Google, and Facebook, reports from 2017 note. He cosigned a letter in 2017 with other Democrats asking the Federal Election Commission to devise new rules to prevent foreign groups from purchasing online political ads.
Wyden is finding an unlikely companion in Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, who believes Facebook and other big tech companies are hurting children. Other Republicans are jumping on board as well.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of President Donald Trump’s most devoted allies, said in July that he wants to make changes to Section 230, which was passed in 1996 when the internet was new. Hawley has been front and center on the issue for months, pushing various legislation targeting YouTube and Silicon Valley companies.
Neither Wyden’s office nor Facebook have returned calls for comment.
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