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The CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Google face another grilling in front of Congress on Wednesday, with GOP senators expected to make the case for stripping long-standing legal protections for internet companies.
The Senate Commerce Committee has summoned Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai to testify for a hearing Wednesday. The executives agreed to appear remotely after being threatened with subpoenas.
How to watch the hearing with Big Tech CEOs on Section 230
- What: Senate Commerce Committee hearing with testimony from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Alphabet Inc. and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The hearing is titled, “Does Section 230’s Sweeping Immunity Enable Big Tech Bad Behavior?”
- Date: Wednesday, October 28, 2020
- Time: 10 a.m. ET
- Location: Russell Senate Office Building 253, Washington, D.C.
- Online Stream: Live on CBSN in the player above and on your mobile or streaming device
With the presidential election looming, Republicans, led by President Donald Trump, have thrown a barrage of grievances at social media platforms, which they accuse without evidence of deliberately suppressing conservative, religious and anti-abortion views.
The story escalated earlier this month when Facebook and Twitter acted to curtail the spread of a story from the conservative-leaning New York Post — an unprecedented action against a major media outlet. The story, which was not confirmed by other publications, cited unverified emails from Hunter Biden, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s son, that were reportedly disclosed by Trump allies.
The companies faced blowback from conservatives and civil libertarians after suppressing the story, and Twitter on sharing hacked material.
“The fact that selective censorship is occurring in the midst of the 2020 election cycle dramatically amplifies the power wielded by Facebook and Twitter,” Senator Roger Wicker, Republican of Missouri, said as the hearing opened Wednesday.
Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington, decried the internet platforms’ influence over news content, saying that tech companies “create a chokepoint for local news” and siphon advertising money from local media.
The internet as we know it
The debate centers on a two-decade-old law known as Section 230. The law makes it possible for internet companies to set rules for speech on their platforms, but avoid being held liable for everything that is said within their confines. Section 230 is largely responsible for the shape of the internet as it exists today, but critics on all sides of the political spectrum have said the law allows tech giants to abdicate their responsibility to impartially moderate content.
The Justice DepartmentEarlier this year, Mr. Trump signed an executive order challenging the protections from lawsuits under the 1996 telecommunications law.
In their opening statements prepared for the hearing, Dorsey, Zuckerberg and Pichai addressed the proposals for changes to the law.
Zuckerberg said Congress “should update the law to make sure it’s working as intended,” adding, “We don’t think tech companies should be making so many decisions about these important issues alone.”
Dorsey and Pichai, however, urged caution in making any changes. “Undermining Section 230 will result in far more removal of online speech and impose severe limitations on our collective ability to address harmful content and protect people online,” Dorsey said.
Pichai urged lawmakers “to be very thoughtful about any changes to Section 230 and to be very aware of the consequences those changes might have on businesses and consumers.”
Last week, the Justice Department sued Google, accusing it of. It’s the government’s most significant antitrust lawsuit since its groundbreaking case against Microsoft more than 20 years ago. Facebook, Apple and Amazon also are under investigation at the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.
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