IN THE HOTSEAT: Big Tech CEOs called to testify Wednesday before Senate amid censorship uproar
Heads of Twitter, Facebook and Google have been called to testify on Section 230 protections
The chair of the committee, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., announced the hearing will examine whether Big Tech should still be afforded liability protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act or whether the federal shield “has outlived its usefulness in today’s digital age.”
The announced witnesses for the 10 a.m. hearing on Oct. 28 are Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet and Google.
The hearing comes as Twitter took extraordinary steps to stop the social media spread of New York Post articles on purported emails from Hunter Biden that allegedly link the former vice president to his son’s business dealing in Ukraine. Twitter went so far as to lock the account of the newspaper and the Trump campaign for tweeting about the New York Post’s findings, claiming the article violated Twitter rules.
Twitter has since backed off and announced new policies.
But the suppression of the article caused outrage among Republicans, with President Trump and others calling for a repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 that states “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
The section has been pivotal in the rise of today’s social media giants by allowing not only Internet service providers – but also Google, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and others – to be shielded from liability from content posted on their platforms by third parties, in most cases. But some critics on the right feel that tech giants should no longer benefit from protections of Section 230 if they censor conservative viewpoints, including controversial postings by Trump.
“It is clear that section 230 in its current form is no longer working,” Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Thursday.
“It is time to scrap the law and start over,” McCarthy added.
Wednesday’s scheduled appearance for the tech executives may be just the beginning.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote Tuesday on a subpoena for Dorsey to testify before the committee on Friday, Oct. 23. And Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is pushing for Zuckerburg to be included too.
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) October 16, 2020
Hawley already wrote the Facebook and Twitter executives to testify before his Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism at a date to be determined. The focus of that hearing would be on election interference and whether social media companies violated campaign finance law by suppressing the articles critical of Biden.
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