Proving once again that the U.S. federal government’s gerontocracy is totally unqualified to adjudicate tech issues—let alone regulate or break up large social media companies—Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D–Conn.) asked Facebook’s head of security to commit to “ending finsta.”
The question made no sense whatsoever, since “finsta” is not a product or service that Facebook provides. The fact that Blumenthal posed this question during a hearing on Thursday about social media’s potential to harm children demonstrates that he doesn’t actually know what a finsta is—but thought Facebook should do something about, it anyway.
The term finsta is short for “fake Instagram.” It’s an unofficial word for a secondary account that an Instagram user creates in order to have more privacy. This secondary account might follow different people than the primary account, and might not include the user’s actual name or identifying details.
“We don’t actually do finsta,” Antigone Davis, Facebook’s head of security, explained. Blumenthal was not satisfied with this answer.
Sen. Blumenthal asks Facebook "Will you commit to ending Finsta?"
Facebook's safety chief has to explain that Finsta is slang for a fake account. pic.twitter.com/jMYy5AIZjY
— Eric Morrow (@morroweric) September 30, 2021
To be crystal clear about what’s happening here, a U.S. senator is demanding that a private company remove a feature that isn’t actually something the company is responsible for creating. And this is hardly the first time something like this has happened. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D–Vt.) once asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to justify the existence of several specific images that had appeared on the site. (He brought along print-outs of the pictures.) “I’m not familiar with those pieces of content,” Zuckerberg responded, with considerable exasperation.
Legislators have repeatedly asked Facebook to let users obtain all of the information the site has collected about them, failing to understand that Facebook already does this.
Blumenthal’s confusion over finsta is just one small part of the case against having the government do something about Big Tech. I elaborate on so many additional reasons in my new book, Tech Panic: Why We Shouldn’t Fear Facebook and the Future, which was published this week. You can order it here, read an excerpt from it here, and watch me discuss it with Reason‘s Nick Gillespie here.
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