Sceptics don’t expect much as Facebook’s Zuckerberg faces Congress

WASHINGTON Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg's No. 1 mission during his appearance before US lawmakers will be to defend against calls to regulate Internet-based companies.

The prospect of new laws that restrict Facebook and other Internet companies, however, is extremely unlikely, not only because of a lack of political will and the effective lobbying of technology companies, but also because few lawmakers want to grapple with the complexity of the technical issues involved.

Mr Zuckerberg started testifying before a joint hearing of the Senate Commerce and Judiciary Committees yesterday and it is expected to go on for at least another day.

He is confronting combined outrage over how Russia used Facebook to spread divisive political propaganda during the 2016 US presidential election and how a political consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, improperly harvested personal data of about 87 million Facebook users, most of them Americans.

Senator Bill Nelson, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, said on Monday that while he believed new regulation was needed, he did not expect anything substantive to happen. He asked: "How in the world can you have 44 senators do a hearing that has a lot of substance when each senator has only four minutes?"

Republicans are generally against more corporate regulation .

"I don't want to hurt Facebook. I don't want to regulate it half to death," said Republican Senator John Kennedy, a member of the Judiciary Committee.

"But we have a problem. Our promised digital utopia has minefields in it." - REUTERS