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Politics Section 230: Why the CEOs of Facebook, Google and Twitter are testifying before the Senate this week

15:40  25 october  2020
15:40  25 october  2020 Source:   cnn.com

Facebook and Twitter CEOs will have to answer to Senate Republicans after Biden NY Post story controversy

  Facebook and Twitter CEOs will have to answer to Senate Republicans after Biden NY Post story controversy Facebook and Twitter gave different reasons and methods of reducing distribution of the Post story, which the Biden campaign has rebutted. © Provided by CNBC Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Square co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey. Facebook and Twitter typically take heat for acting too slowly to reduce the spread of harmful misinformation. But on Wednesday, both companies acted surprisingly quickly to limit distribution of an unverified New York Post report claiming to contain a "smoking gun" email related to Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

The CEOs of Facebook , Google and Twitter have agreed to virtually testify before the Senate Commerce committee on Oct. 28. The CEOs will testify on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects tech companies from liability over the content posted by users on their

The chief executives of Facebook and Alphabet-owned Google have agreed to voluntarily testify at a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee on Oct. 28 about a key law protecting internet companies. Facebook and Twitter confirmed on Friday

A right-wing offensive is underway to discredit social media companies just days before the election.

Sundar Pichai, Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey are posing for a picture © Carsten Koall/Mandel Ngan/Drew Angerer/Getty Images

What began as complaints about anti-conservative censorship by social media companies has now evolved into outright allegations of election interference, as high-ranking Republicans have accused online platforms of helping Democrats by way of their content moderation decisions. On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee is set to grill the CEOs of Facebook, Google and Twitter amid right-wing cries of partisanship and threats to change a critical law, known as Section 230, that protects the companies' ability to moderate content as they see fit.

Trump vs. Big Tech: Everything you need to know about Section 230 and why everyone hates it

  Trump vs. Big Tech: Everything you need to know about Section 230 and why everyone hates it Section 230, a provision to a 1996 law that shields Facebook and Google from liability for what users post, is increasingly under fire from Trump.The Communications Decency Act is an obscure law passed by Congress in 1996 that has profoundly shaped today’s internet.

The chief executive officers of Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. have agreed to testify on Nov. 17 before a Senate panel looking into restrictions their companies put an on article about the son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Facebook , Twitter Chiefs to Testify Before Senate on Nov.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey have agreed to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee to discuss Section 230 While Google has yet to issue a confirmation, a source told Reuters that Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai will be testifying , as well. Section 230 of the

Outside experts have found little evidence to support claims of widespread, systematic political bias in Silicon Valley's technology. But the conservative allegations are an explosive charge and a dramatic escalation ahead of Election Day. They reflect not only the stakes of the race, but also the fact that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have become key parts of America's democracy, for better or for worse — and now, fair game for a party with a habit of working the refs.

The Commerce Committee isn't the only one looking to put tech execs in the hotseat. Last Thursday, Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans voted to authorize subpoenas for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey that would compel them to testify about conservative censorship. No Democrats participated in the vote to compel their testimony.

Repealing Section 230 could have unintended consequences for Trump and conservatives

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The CEOs of Facebook and Twitter have agreed to appear before the Senate Judiciary Both Zuckerberg and Dorsey are also scheduled to testify alongside Google CEO Sundar Pichai before the Senate Commerce 28. That hearing will focus on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act

Facebook ’s public policy director Neil Potts will attend the hearing held by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the “Big tech behaves like the only acceptable views are those on the far left,” Cruz said last week . Facebook , Google and Twitter , not to mention the Corrupt Media, are sooo on the

In calling for the subpoenas earlier this month, Sen. Ted Cruz blasted tech platforms for "actively interfering in this election in a way that has no precedent in the history of our country."

"Twitter and Facebook and Big Tech billionaires don't get to censor political speech and actively interfere in the election," Cruz said. "That's what they're doing right now."

Twitter declined to comment for this story. Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said the company has faced criticism equally from Republicans "for being biased against conservatives and Democrats for not taking more steps to restrict the exact same content. We have rules in place to protect the integrity of the election and free expression, and we will continue to apply them impartially."

Google didn't respond to a request for comment.

Constant complaints of bias

As with traditional media, conservatives have long complained of unfair treatment at the hands of social media platforms. But that critique shifted into overdrive this month with the election looming.

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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg have agreed to attend voluntarily, their companies said. The hearing “must be There’s bipartisan agreement in the Senate that Facebook , Twitter and Google are failing to properly manage content posted by billions of users to their platforms.

The Senate Judiciary Committee announced Friday that it will hear testimony from the CEOs of Both executives , along with Alphabet's Sundar Pichai, will also testify before the Senate Commerce Lawmakers at the hearing are expected to attack Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act

The high-profile demands for executive testimony are just one way that conservatives are dialing up the pressure on Big Tech.

Sen. Josh Hawley, one of the tech industry's most vocal antagonists, sent letters to Facebook and Twitter this month characterizing some of the companies' content moderation decisions as an illegal campaign contribution benefiting former Vice President Joe Biden. Hawley has encouraged President Donald Trump's campaign to file a complaint to the Federal Election Commission. The Republican National Committee actually did so, accusing Twitter on Oct. 16 of being Biden's "media operative" and of perpetuating a "feud" with Trump.

The flurry of accusations has created a right-wing firestorm aimed at forcing social media platforms to treat conservative content more permissively — and in the event they refuse, to broadly delegitimize the platforms at a time when millions are relying on their services for accurate information about voting and the pandemic.

Experts in political communication say that what Cruz, Hawley and other Republicans are doing right now fits a longtime pattern.

Google, Facebook and Twitter CEOs to appear on Capitol Hill for grilling over censorship

  Google, Facebook and Twitter CEOs to appear on Capitol Hill for grilling over censorship The CEOs of major tech companies will be in the hot seat Wednesday as Republican senators accuse their internet platforms of censoring conservative viewpoints and demand changes to the federal law that protects them from lawsuits. © FoxNews.com Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., gives his take on Big Tech hearings, arguing there was ‘bias on behalf of the liberal point of view’ and ‘restriction to conservative thought.

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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will testify before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee next month. The CEOs of Facebook , Twitter and Alphabet Inc will also testify before the Senate Commerce The hearings come just over a week after Dorsey apologized after Twitter blocked a story about Joe

"We could have called this like a CW show from the year 2000," said Dave Karpf, a political scientist at George Washington University. "You can predict every beat that'll happen."

Independent studies of social media have found little credible evidence to suggest that the technology is biased against right-wing viewpoints. Trump, Fox News, the conservative commentator Dan Bongino and other right-wing stalwarts consistently dominate rankings of the top-performing posts on Facebook, according to data from CrowdTangle, a Facebook-owned data analysis tool used widely by many outlets, including CNN, to survey the social media landscape.

A complicated relationship

The Trump campaign was so effective on social media — particularly Facebook — in 2016 that election post-mortems would describe Brad Parscale, Trump's digital campaign director, as a genius for figuring out how to target voters with just the right political messaging.

And the platforms themselves have gone out of their way to help conservatives.

Tech companies in 2016 embedded employees in political campaigns of both parties to advise them on how to engage with voters on digital platforms. Trump's presidential campaign accepted the offer of assistance; Hillary Clinton's campaign declined to join the programs. The practice was first reported in a peer-reviewed paper by political scientists and media experts including Shannon McGregor, an assistant professor now at the University of North Carolina.

Republicans used a Senate hearing to criticize tech CEOs for fact-checking Trump's posts before the election

  Republicans used a Senate hearing to criticize tech CEOs for fact-checking Trump's posts before the election Democrat senators voiced concerns that tech companies would be too willing to bend to Republicans' wishes in the week leading up to the election. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. The CEOs of Facebook, Google, and Twitter were subpoenaed to testify before Congress on Wednesday about Section 230, a foundational law of the internet that both Democrats and Republicans are angling to rewrite. But Section 230 itself barely came up at the hearing.

Since then, companies like Facebook have moved away from providing such assistance — though Sen. Roger Wicker, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, sent letters to Facebook and Twitter last week asking if they have continued to provide data-driven support to campaigns. Twitter said it had received Wicker's letter and would respond to the senator; Facebook didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.

McGregor said it makes no sense to label companies' content moderation decisions under their publicly stated policies as an "in-kind contribution" when the companies had already provided direct assistance to campaigns in the past.

"No one was making claims of it being an illegal in-kind contribution in 2016 when there were actual staffers working side-by-side in the Trump campaign offices," McGregor said. To say that the companies' content decisions violate campaign finance laws "is a pretty wild and baseless claim," she added.

Social media platforms have also given prominent conservatives the benefit of the doubt. For years, they took a hands-off approach to Trump's comments on social media that otherwise would have violated their policies, crafting ever more elaborate loopholes that allowed them to turn a blind eye. The Wall Street Journal has reported that after Facebook tweaked its algorithm in 2017 to reduce low-quality political content, "policy executives were concerned about the outsize impact of the changes on the right," prompting Zuckerberg to approve plans to suppress left-leaning content more. In a statement to the Journal, Facebook said its changes were never meant to target any single publisher, but it did not dispute the report.

The Senate's section 230 hearing was partisan and predictable

  The Senate's section 230 hearing was partisan and predictable Vital debate on the future of the internet or pure political theatre? Today's Senate Commerce Committee hearing featured Twitter's Jack Dorsey, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai of Alphabet, and addressed with the very law that's foundational to free-flowing user content. But arriving six days before the presidential election, it was always bound to be primarily partisan. Republicans, for the most part, complained of an alleged double standard of moderating on tweets and Facebook posts, with Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO, bearing most of their disdain.

It was not until this spring that Twitter, and then Facebook, began more aggressively applying labels and in some cases removing some of Trump's misleading claims about Covid-19 and mail-in voting — decisions that incensed Trump and his allies, prompting the president to call for government regulation of social media that a digital rights group has alleged is unconstitutional.

Among tech executives, Zuckerberg has proven particularly receptive to right-wing complaints, hosting a landmark meeting with conservative leaders in 2016 to hear their concerns about bias and with many others since then, including Trump.

In the May 2016 meeting, one of the attendees told CNN that most in the room assumed Facebook is "not operating in bad faith."

But fast-forward four years, and allegations of the tech industry's liberal agenda dominates Republican talking points.

"If there's any interference in the election, it's by Twitter and Facebook right now and trying to put a particular narrative out there," White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said last Monday on Fox News.

Republican lawmakers have repeatedly hammered Google over its alleged censorship of The Federalist, a right-leaning website Google warned could be banned from its advertising platform because the site's comment sections were filled with racist rhetoric that violated platform rules. Sen. Mike Lee has tried to draw a connection between the incident and Google's antitrust woes.

"Isn't this behavior evidence of market power?" he said in a September hearing. "Why would any company want to treat its customers that way unless it was confident its customers had no viable alternative?"

In the hearing, Google testified that its policies are designed to protect advertisers from having their ads shown against harmful content, and that it worked with The Federalist to find a solution. Google has also previously taken similar actions against non-conservative sites.

The Technology 202: The social media hearing was a missed opportunity for lawmakers

  The Technology 202: The social media hearing was a missed opportunity for lawmakers A conversation about Section 230 took a backseat to political attacks in the final days before the election. Lawmakers uncovered little new information that could actually inform their efforts to regulate the tech industry during yesterday’s hearing with three influential social media CEOs.

Big Tech's real Washington problems

Big Tech does face a range of problems in Washington, including questions over its economic dominance and facilitation of violent and hateful rhetoric. With lawmakers concluding that Big Tech wields monopoly power in anti-competitive ways, a major reckoning for the industry on those issues is looming. Last week, the Justice Department sued Google in a landmark antitrust complaint, alleging it has abused its monopoly position in online search.

But those issues are fundamentally different from what top Republicans have identified as their main grievance with tech companies, said Sen. Brian Schatz, who also sits on the Commerce Committee.

"I do want to separate the good-faith critiques of Section 230 and the questions surrounding antitrust, which are legitimate," Schatz said. "That's not what this [upcoming] hearing is about, and that's not what this effort two weeks out from the election is. This is about just bludgeoning these CEOs into submission."

No matter how hard tech platforms seek to win conservatives' approval, it is becoming increasingly clear that nothing will stop the attacks over alleged political bias, said Karpf. That's because, he said, sowing distrust in the medium is precisely the point.

"There is no set of things you can do to get Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz not to complain about this, because it is strategically useful to complain about it," said Karpf.

A troubling side effect of the conservative attacks is the politicization of social media technology itself, said McGregor, which is problematic when so many Americans now use social media to get their news.

"We can disagree about information," McGregor said. "But to say that there is some grand conspiracy perpetrated by the legacy media and tech platforms to silence Republicans is a step beyond that, and it delegitimizes these mechanisms we have to get people information."

Several experts said the GOP's efforts to discredit social media companies is similar to how it has politicized executive agencies, cast aspersions on federal inspectors general and violated longstanding political norms over judicial appointments and confirmations.

"If you undermine those institutions that can provide a check on your power, then power is unlimited," McGregor added. "Then that's not a democracy."

The Technology 202: The social media hearing was a missed opportunity for lawmakers .
A conversation about Section 230 took a backseat to political attacks in the final days before the election. Lawmakers uncovered little new information that could actually inform their efforts to regulate the tech industry during yesterday’s hearing with three influential social media CEOs.

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