US Senate to subpoena Facebook, Google, Twitter CEOs over censorship issues

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The U.S. Senate has voted to subpoena Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Google's Sundar Pichai, and Twitter's Jack Dorsey to testify before Congress about the existing Communication Decency Act, and allegations of political censorship on social media.

Credit: WikiCommons
Credit: WikiCommons


Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act offers important protections for online platforms, including shielding them from liability for their moderation practices and user posts. In late September, the U.S. Justice Department unveiled draft bill that could reform the protections.

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee voted unanimously and across party lines to subpoena the tech CEOs, CNBC reported. Although some Democrats initially opposed the subpoena, the vote became bipartisan when Republicans included language specifying that the testimony would focus on privacy and "media domination.

Republicans have repeatedly criticized Section 230 as an area of concern amid rumors that social media platforms censor conservative voices. That even became the primary topic of conversation among Republican members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee at what was, in theory, a meeting on antitrust.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, the committee's top Democrat, expressed concern that reforms could lead to a "chilling effect on individuals who are in a process of trying to crack down on hate speech or misinformation about Covid during a pandemic."

However, after the subpoena language was changed, she said she would welcome a debate about reforms, adding that it should be a "long and thoughtful process."

Although the protections, introduced in the 1990s to allow the technology industry to flourish, have mostly garnered scrutiny from the right, both 2020 presidential candidates support reforming it.

President Donald Trump earlier in 2020 issued an executive order targeting the law after Twitter issued a fact check for a tweet he posted. Former Vice President Joe Biden told The New York Times in January that Section 230 "should be revoked."

Executives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter have all testified before Congress in the past on topics ranging from privacy to alleged bias. Most recently, Pichai and Zuckerberg testified in a U.S. House meeting on antitrust in July. The subpoenas will see Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Google's Sundar Pichai, and Twitter's Jack Dorsey testify again before the Senate.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,721member
    Personally, Iā€™d like to see the industry censor ALL political content and ads equally. Would hurt the Right more than the Left because they virtually live and die by the social media rumor mill.
    edited October 2020 muthuk_vanalingamOfergenovellewatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 12
    I'm not sure why this is an issue. The Constitution only prohibits the government from limiting speech. On private property there are no such protections. Everyone may be on FaceBook but that doesn't make it public property. The existing laws were established to address liability as a consequence of that speech.
    mark fearingcornchipdysamoria
  • Reply 3 of 12
    It's really odd. Conservatives (especially the older ones in the Senate) seem to have less a handle on technology. I remember they once complained about Twitter ranking showing negative remarks about Trump were always at the top, as if that isn't 90% of twitter. At least the part of Twitter that most people pay attention to. They also think Google somehow magically forces negative news on them to the top, again, as if there are millions searching that out.  There IS a real issue here, but not being fair to idiots isn't the issue. Access and the ability for true lies to spread via these networks is the issue. I have no answers here. But I think actually understanding how the technology works and that measuring searches and display the results of said searches isn't manipulation. There's a joke here somewhere too...millionaires (most in the senate are) calling billionaires in to testify. Those millionaire senators are mainly upset they have less money than the 30 years olds who actually did build apps and networks that people use.
    Ofergatorguymuthuk_vanalingamdysamoriawatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 12
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,637member
    This is about the time of the year that the Bluefish migrate from colder northern Atlantic ocean to the warmer southern Caribbean waters. Apparently, the Red Herring are migrating in the opposite direction, northward, taken up fall and winter residence along the Chesapeake Bay, and up into the Potomac River. We should expect a record migration this year. Be wary, both of these species are known to bite.
    cornchipchasm
  • Reply 5 of 12
    chasmchasm Posts: 2,611member
    I find that people who claim that the mainstream media is "leftist" or liberally-biased have a) forgotten that Faux Noise is as "mainstream" as the media gets, and b) have absolutely no idea what "leftist/liberal" actually means (kinda like how they have literally no idea what "socialism" is). If America's media was truly "liberal," you'd have to subscribe to specialist publications to find out what the top administration officials currently in power have said, because there would be a video blackout and internet services like Twitter would have an iron-clad "zero untrue statements" policy that would mostly (but not exclusively) censor many of the people we hear from and about every day.

    If anything, nearly all mainstream media outlets in the US DEFER to the "conservative" and/or "cult" viewpoints, and downplay most "left-of-center" views. Some of you folks should probably get out of the US for a while and travel to other countries that have a more accurate take on "right" and "left" and areas in-between those sides. Oh wait, that's right, you can't. Oops.
    muthuk_vanalingamdysamoria
  • Reply 6 of 12
    bluefire1bluefire1 Posts: 1,243member
    Maybe the Senate can determine if these media companies are platforms or publishers.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 12
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,567administrator
    bluefire1 said:
    Maybe the Senate can determine if these media companies are platforms or publishers.
    They are welcome to believe what they want, but until they change the law, Twitter and Facebook are legally and very clearly platforms, and not publishers.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 12
    Facebook can't censor.
    Google can't censor.
    Twitter can't censor.

    The only entity that can censor is the government.

    The little bitches in congress just don't like the fact that those entities won't give them free publicity.
    dysamoriawatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 12
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,430member
    Good comments so far. Good job, everyone.

    šŸ‘šŸ½
    gatorguy
  • Reply 10 of 12
    Hank2.0Hank2.0 Posts: 150member
    Congress shall make no law...{snip}...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press

    The Constitution is very clear ā€“ anything goes. Of course the 
    forefathers who wrote this were highly educated (for their times) gentlemen who couldn't possibly foresee the extent of foul language and indecent subjects (e.g. pedophilia) that we have today. I'm all for Congress getting all the information possible and hear as many views as possible before making any changes. 
    cat52
  • Reply 11 of 12
    if twitter is purposefully and actively denying one segment of the population use of its service for little more than political dissent, than that could certainly be construed as discriminatory in nature.  While I agree with those who suggest we have the right to do as we please in regards to private property, Twitter, Google and Facebook aren't fighting loss of liability protection because they're reveling in their "private property" status. They CAN do as they please, but they most definitely DO NOT deserve liability protection for their actions when their actions are so blatantly skewed toward silencing one segment of the population unfairly.  If they are going to be a platform, then be a platform. If they're going to moderate what gets posted and what doesn't, they are no longer a platform of equal access, but rather an editorial based service with power to censor what it doesn't want to exist on its site.  That's where they lose their claim to liability protection and opens them up to legal action, and believe me, there are hordes of willing participants to that class action
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