The CEOs of three of the nation’s top tech firms — Google, Twitter and Facebook — are being grilled by a Senate panel on Wednesday after coming under fire over censorship concerns, specifically for blocking The Post’s reporting on Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine and China.
Zuckerberg argued in his opening statement that while Section 230 needs to be changed, going too far could result in the companies being even more restrictive concerning what they publish on their platforms that could get them in legal trouble.
“Without Section 230, platforms could potentially be held liable for everything people say,” Zuckerberg explained.
But that “Congress should update the law to make sure it’s working as intended,” and that “We stand ready to work with Congress on what regulation in these areas could look like.”
Wicker kicked off the hearing raising Twitter and Facebook’s blocking The Post’s story, claiming it was based on hacked materials.
“It is worth noting that both Twitter and Facebook’s aversion to hacked materials has not always been so stringent. For example, when the president’s tax returns were illegally leaked, neither company acted to restrict access to that information. Similarly to the now discredited Steele dossier was widely shared without that check or disclaimers,” he said.
He raised a warning that the tech companies have become too powerful.
“My concern is that these platforms have become powerful arbiters of what is true and what content users can access. The American public gets little insight into the decision-making process when content is moderated and users have a little recourse when they are censored or restricted,” Wicker said.
Piggybacking off of an earlier grilling of Dorsey by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Republican Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson pressed the Twitter head on whether the company had any evidence that Hunter Biden emails were doctored or an example of foreign disinformation.
“We don’t,” Dorsey flatly replied.
And pressed on why Twitter stemmed the story’s spread under its “hacked materials” policy — despite The Post clearly explaining the origin of the Hunter Biden documents — Dorsey too conceded that they had no evidence of a hack.
“We judged in the moment,” he said. “It looked like it was hacked materials.”
Interjected Johnson, “You were wrong!”
Johnson turned the question to Zuckerberg and Facebook, which did not delete coverage of the story outright but throttled its spread pending an independent fact-check.
“We relied heavily on the FBI’s intelligence and alerts,” said Zuckerberg, who admitted that the feds hadn’t given them any specific warning about The Post’s story. “They alerted us to be on heightened alert around a risk of hack-and-leak operations.
“We didn’t censor the content. We flagged it for fact-checkers to review,” Zuckerberg continued. “Pending that review, we temporarily constrained its distribution to make sure that it didn’t spread wildly while it was being reviewed.”
Under follow-up questioning by Wicker, both Dorsey and Zuckerberg confirmed that they had no independent evidence that the Hunter Biden email trove is Russian disinformation.
Sen. Roger Wicker, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, questioned Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey why the social media platform flagged a posting from President Trump about mail-in ballots, but allowed tweets that “glorify violence” against Israel by Iranian President ali Khamenei to remain untouched.
“Mr Dorsey, is that acceptable, based on your policies?” Wicker asked.
“We believe it’s important for everyone to hear from global leaders,” Dorsey said.
“We want to make sure that we are respecting their right to speak and to publish what they need. But if there’s a violation of our terms of service,” Twitter will label it as doing so.
“Do they violate your terms of service,” Wicker pressed.
“We did not find those to violate our terms of service, because we consider them part of the speech of world leaders in concert with other countries,” he said.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) followed up that line of questioning by raising tweets from Iran’s ayatollah Hosseini Khamenei denying the Holocaust.
He asked Dorsey if Twitter considered that “misinformation.”
“Somebody who denied the Holocaust is not misinformation,” he said.
The tech bosses are answering questions about their business practices, the blocking of The Post’s story, and rolling back liability protections the tech giants receive from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Dorsey called for “thoughtfulness and restraint” and told lawmakers that eroding the law “could collapse how we communicate on the Internet, leaving only a small number of giant and well-funded technology companies.”
After the Post’s Biden exposé, Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said his agency would work to “clarify the meaning” of Section 230.
Pichai said Google conducts its business without political favor.
“To do otherwise would be contrary to both our business interests and our mission, which compels us to make information accessible to every type of person, no matter where they live or what they believe,” he said.
Sen. John Thune (R-SD) questioned each of the CEOs about political ideology at their companies after pointing out that Facebook’s election integrity expert was a staffer when Joe Biden served as vice president.
“I think having a balance is valuable. We try to do that,” Zuckerberg said. “I am not aware of the example of someone in charge of this process who worked for Biden.”
Dorsey said it’s important to be transparent about the platforms processes and policies, and it is “independent of the viewpoints that our employees hold.”
Pichai said Google routinely works and consults with third party organizations across both sides “when we develop our policies.”
President Trump accused Twitter and Facebook of interfering in the election by censoring The Post’s reporting.
In an interview with the Sinclair Broadcast Group, Trump said the tech companies were “trying to protect” Biden, his Democratic presidential challenger, but “they got caught and that’s turning out to be just as big a story.”
Asked if it constitutes election interference, Trump said, “Yeah, 100 percent.”
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