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Senator Urges Facebook To Sell WhatsApp, Instagram; Zuckerberg Says 'no'

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Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), a known critic of Silicon Valley's tech giants, urged Mark Zuckerberg to sell Instagram and WhatsApp in order to escape regulatory threats. But in his meeting with a handful of senators on Capitol Hill Thursday, the Facebook chief executive rejected the call.

Hawley revealed the content of "a frank conversation" he had with Zuckerberg on Twitter Thursday.

Howley said he challenged Facebook's top executive to show that the social media company is serious about bias, privacy and competition.

The Republican senator from Missouri said he asked Zuckerberg to sell WhatsApp and Instagram, and to conduct a third-party audit on conservative censorship. "He said no to both," Hawley tweeted.

The media asked questions to Zuckerberg and Howley as they were leaving the Senate Office Building after the meeting.

"If Facebook is serious about this privacy pivot, they will sell WhatsApp and they will sell Instagram, and they will abandon the attempt to harvest data across all of these platforms and use them so that they can make more money by directing more behavioral ads," Hawley told reporters.

Hawley said they discussed the issues of political bias on these social media platforms, consumer data privacy and China during the hour-long meeting.

Hawley, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee's antitrust panel, had introduced in June the "Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act", which removes immunity that online platforms enjoy if they fail to provide "politically unbiased content moderation" or submit to a third-party audit to prove it.

On his return to Washington Wednesday night, for the first time since he testified in two congressional hearings last year, zuckeberg had a dinner meeting with a few senators, organized by Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA).

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