Sen. Richard Blumenthal doesn’t understand what a finsta is. Facebook should be delighted.
The senator from Connecticut displayed his ignorance of the slang term during a Thursday hearing designed to hold Facebook officials to account after the Wall Street Journal published a bombshell series of articles based on leaked internal company documents. Sen. Blumenthal’s misunderstanding of the word, which has since gone viral on Twitter, paints a picture of an out-of-touch elected official trying to regulate tech platforms — and in the process serves as a likely welcome distraction for Facebook officials.
After all, why should the public focus on the real harms documented by Facebook’s own internal researchers when we can instead all gawk at the old man misusing internet slang?
For the blissfully unaware, the term finsta is meant to designate a secondary Instagram account, often made under a fake name. The slang is used by the likes of teens, adults, and even former president Barack Obama, and has bled into the mainstream.
No one apparently told Sen. Blumenthal, however, as on Thursday he attempted to get Antigone Davis, Facebook’s global head of safety, to end finstas as if they were an official service from the company.
“Will you commit to ending Finsta?” asked the senator.
“Senator, again let me explain,” replied Davis. “We don’t actually, we don’t actually do finsta. What finsta refers to is young people setting up accounts where they want to have more privacy […].”
Sen. Blumenthal wasn’t convinced.
“Finsta is one of your products or services,” he pressed. “We’re not talking about Google or Apple, it’s Facebook, correct?”
“Finsta is slang for a type of account,” reiterated Davis. “It’s not a product.”
“OK, will you end that type of account?” followed up Sen. Blumenthal.
“We, I’m not sure I understand exactly what you’re asking,” replied Davis.
Indeed, it appears that neither Davis nor Sen. Blumenthal understood exactly what the senator was asking — a fact that many were quick to point out (and mock).
And sure, when it comes to laughing at Sen. Blumenthal’s dumb question while understanding the scope of harm caused by Facebook, the public, media, and Facebook critics can walk and chew gum at the same time.
But it must be a relief for Facebook when the gum becomes extra distracting.