Zuckerberg, Dorsey face angry questions of Senate2 min read . Updated: 19 Nov 2020, 08:43 AM IST
- The Big Tech CEOs responded by pledging to boost transparency of their operations
The chief executive officers of Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. fielded the latest round of complaints from US senators who remain divided on how to regulate the companies heading into 2021.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey answered questions Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee about content moderation and their role in political discourse for more than four hours, with Republicans reprising their claims that the companies silence conservatives and Democrats revisiting worries about the proliferation of misinformation and hate speech on the platforms.
With a new Congress starting in January and Democratic President-elect Joe Biden entering the White House, senators from both parties called for reining in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects the companies from lawsuits over how they police user content. Yet the committee members often espoused goals that were fundamentally opposed, with Republicans wanting more content left up and Democrats wanting more taken down. Both sides worried about stepping on free speech as well.
“Section 230 has to be changed," said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the panel’s outgoing chairman and a close ally of President Donald Trump.
The CEOs responded by pledging to boost the transparency of their operations and Zuckerberg suggested that changes to Section 230, which they prize, should be limited to creating incentives for the kinds of disclosures they are already promising. Graham endorsed ideas to boost transparency but is planning to move forward a bill that would limit the companies’ ability to moderate political content. He also questioned the companies’ decisions to limit the spread of a recent New York Post article that could have been politically damaging to Biden. “That to me seems like you’re the ultimate editor," he said. “If that’s not making an editorial decision I don’t know what would be."
During several exchanges, as Republicans accused them of squashing debate, the CEOs said companies need to be more transparent in particular about what kinds of posts they remove. Zuckerberg suggested that tech companies should have to meet certain standards for removing content as part of any changes to regulation. Facebook already shares quarterly reports detailing what types of posts it removes, and how many of them were detected using automated software instead of user reports.
The hearing comes in the wake of a contentious election, in which both companies sought to minimize misinformation. Twitter flagged Trump’s posts dozens of times in recent days for breaking rules around false claims and undermining election results, and in some cases the company has hidden his tweets behind warning screens.