CEOs of 3 Tech Giants To Testify at Senate Hearing

 The CEOs of technology giants Facebook, Google and Twitter are expected to testify at an Oct. 28 Senate hearing on several issues, including alleged anti-conservative bias on their platforms.

The Senate Commerce Committee voted last week to authorize subpoenas for Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Sundar Pichai of Google and Jack Dorsey of Twitter to force them to testify if they didn’t agree to do so voluntarily.

“Technology companies argue that their broad liability shield should remain in place,” Sen. Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican who heads the Commerce Committee, said in a statement. “However, they disproportionately suppress and censor conservative views online. Public testimony from these CEOs is critical as the Committee considers several proposals to reform the Communications Decency Act.”

Section 230 of that law protects the tech giants from being held liable for the content their users post.

Representatives of the companies said Monday that the CEOs will cooperate.

The hearing “must be constructive and focused on what matters most to the American people: how we work together to protect elections,” Twitter said in a tweet in its policy channel.

The hearing will come less than a week before Election Day.

It marks a new bipartisan initiative against Big Tech companies, which have been under increasing scrutiny in Washington and from state attorneys general over issues of political bias, competition, consumer privacy and hate speech.

The executives’ testimony is needed “to reveal the extent of influence that their companies have over American speech during a critical time in our democratic process,” Wicker said.

Facebook, meanwhile, is expanding restrictions on political advertising, including a new ban on messages expressing concern about widespread voter fraud.

The new prohibitions laid out in a blog post came days after President Donald Trump raised the prospect of mass fraud in the vote-by-mail process during a debate last week with Democratic rival Joe Biden.

With Trump leading the way, conservative Republicans have kept up a barrage of criticism of Silicon Valley’s social media platforms, which they accuse of deliberately suppressing conservative views.

The Justice Department has asked Congress to roll back the Section 230 legal protections for online platforms, putting down a legislative marker in Trump’s drive against the social media giants.

The proposed changes would strip some of the protections that have generally shielded the companies from legal responsibility for what people post on their platforms.

Trump signed an executive order in May addressing the issue of tech bias and challenging social media companies’ protections from lawsuits.

“Online platforms are engaging in selective censorship that is harming our national discourse,” the president’s order said. “Tens of thousands of Americans have reported, among other troubling behaviors, online platforms ‘flagging’ content as inappropriate, even though it does not violate any stated terms of service; making unannounced and unexplained changes to company policies that have the effect of disfavoring certain viewpoints; and deleting content and entire accounts with no warning, no rationale, and no recourse.”

Twitter tweeted in its policy channel that “reactionary and politicized attempts to erode Section 230 … threaten the future of online speech and Internet freedoms.”

While Republicans fight bias against conservatives on social media, Democrats have focused on what they say is the Big Tech CEOs’ failure to police content, especially with regard to hate speech, misinformation and other content they say can incite violence or keep people from voting. 

Powered by Blogger.