The CEO of Twitter, Facebook, and Google face the hammering of Republican senators making false claims that tech companies exhibit anti-conservative bias. The Senate Commerce Committee called on Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai to testify at the hearing on Wednesday. After being confronted with subpoenas, the executives decided to appear remotely.
In the run-up to the presidential election, Republicans led by President Donald Trump have hurled a barrage of complaints at Big Tech’s social media sites, which they suspect without the justification of intentionally undermining conservative, religious, and anti-abortion beliefs.
The chorus of outrage rose this month after Facebook and Twitter moved to restrict the distribution of the conservative-leaning New York Post’s unverified political tale about Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, an unusual move toward a major media outlet. The article, which was not authenticated by other publications, quoted unverified emails from Biden’s son Hunter that were allegedly released by Trump’s allies.
Apart from interviewing the CEOs, senators are scheduled to investigate plans for the revision of long-standing legal safeguards for online speech, an immunity that opponents of both parties claim allow businesses to abdicate their responsibilities for impartially moderate content.
For too long, social media sites have been running behind Section 230 rights to block content that deviates from their values, said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Commerce Committee.
In their opening remarks scheduled for the hearing, Dorsey, Zuckerberg, and Pichai discussed plans for amendments to the so-called Section 230 of the 1996 legislation, which served as the basis for unfettered expression on the Internet. Zuckerberg said that Congress should amend the legislation to ensure that it works as expected.
Dorsey and Pichai, however, called for restraint in making such improvements. Undermining Section 230 would result in even more deletion of online expression and place serious limits on our mutual capacity to handle harmful content and protect users online, Dorsey added.
Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd told Legislative representatives in a letter Tuesday that the reforms have become more urgent in recent events. He cited the action taken by Twitter and Facebook in response to the New York Post article, finding the shortcomings of the corporations very serious.
The president of the Federal Communications Commission, an independent body, has recently announced intentions to re-examine the legal safeguards, possibly placing meat on Trump’s bones and opening the door to tougher regulations. The step by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, nominated by Trump, signaled an uproar from the institutions in the previous place.
Democrats have based their critique of social media primarily on hate speech, propaganda, and other material that may cause abuse or discourage citizens from voting. Big Tech CEOs have been blamed for failing to monitor content, for playing a part on the networks of hate crimes, and for the rise of white nationalism in the US.
Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have been trying to stem the flow of violence-inducing content that promotes lies and unfounded conspiracy theories.
The businesses deny the allegations of racism but have disagreed with how deeply they should interfere. They have also gone out of their way not to seem to be bias against conservative views, a position that others argue is essentially tilting them towards certain points of view. The initiative was particularly strained on Facebook, which was caught off guard in 2016 when it was used as a driving force by Russian agents to spread propaganda to Trump’s presidential campaign.
Last week, the Department of Justice sued Google for exploiting its supremacy in internet search and advertisement by governments for the most substantial effort to preserve markets since the landmark lawsuit against Microsoft more than 20 years ago.
With antitrust in the spotlight, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon are all under review at the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.