During a recent interview, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden highlighted the possibility of Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg going to jail. He said that Zuckerberg should be held personally accountable for misleading Americans about Facebook's lax privacy controls.
The senator suggested prison time and monetary fines for Facebook's CEO. Theoretically, incarceration is entirely possible, but the chances of it happening are rather slim. As Ron Wyden pointed out, jail time is not unheard of for executives in the financial industry if they lie about finances.
Ron Wyden Has The Section 230 To His Credit
What might possibly work in Zuckerberg's favor is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. This legislation provides immunity from liability to tech companies who publish third party content. Many Republicans and Democrats now want to throw this law out as they believe it let companies set their own standards about moderating content.
Interestingly, Sen. Ron Wyden played a crucial role in passing Section 230. He terms it a success as it allowed the internet to become useful for a wider group of people. However, he also thinks that companies like Facebook used the law to their advantage.
In 2018, the senator introduced a bill that would extend the Federal Trade Commission's power to penalize companies for data breaches that violate consumer privacy. Under the bill which is called the Consumer Data Protection Act, executives can be held liable by personal fines up to 5 million and prison time of up to 20 years.
Facebook Has Been Under Constant Scrutiny Since 2018
Facebook has been constantly under the limelight since the past year for all the wrong reasons. In July, the FTC approved a $5 billion fine against the social media giant for privacy violations. The commission began investigating the company when the news emerged that the Cambridge Analytica harvested consumer information. This violated a 2012 settlement which required Facebook to be more vigilant when it comes to privacy. The $5 billion fine is the largest in FTC history.
Separately, the Securities and Exchange Commission also fined Facebook $100 million. The SEC claims that despite knowing about the Cambridge Analytica data breach since 2015, the company described it in hypothetical terms to investors. Moreover, the company allegedly didn't have specific procedures or policies in place to make accurate disclosures regarding the results of the investigation.
Some activists and lawmakers also think that Facebook should be broken up. As a result, the company is apparently trying to integrate its different messaging platforms tightly so that it becomes harder to separate them. So while it's rather unlikely that Zuckerberg will go to jail or the company will let go off the platforms it acquired, all this pressure still seems to be having an effect.
Case in point: The company reportedly backed out of another accusation as it didn't want to draw additional attention from the FTC. It was supposedly on the verge of buying a video chat app called Houseparty. The app is apparently famous amongst teenagers, a demographic the company is after. Currently, the FTC is also investigating the social media company for antitrust violations.