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Senators Press Tech CEOs at Section 230 Hearing

CEOs from Facebook, Google and Twitter testified before the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday.
(Ascannio)
(Ascannio)
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Chief executives from Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg), Google (Sundar Pichai) and Twitter (Jack Dorsey) appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday to field questions about their content moderation practices, The Information reports. The hearing is part of the committee’s examination of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

What is Section 230? It’s a 1996 law that “helps shield internet platforms from liability for user-generated content.”

Zuckerberg, Pichai and Dorsey all “expressed support for the law as expected, but emphasized different priorities.”

  • Zuckerberg: Update the law to “make sure it is working,” requiring companies to be transparent about what is removed.
  • Dorsey: Regain public trust, possibly by disclosing more information about algorithms that power social platforms.

The committee also drilled the trio of CEOs on how much they invest in content moderation.

  • Zuckerberg: Facebook spends $3 billion per year, with more than 35,000 working on content moderation.
  • Pichai: Alphabet, which includes YouTube, diverts around $1 billion a year and employs over 10,000 content reviewers.
  • Dorsey did not disclose specific numbers for Twitter.

Both parties agree Section 230 needs work. But the hearing highlighted a clear divide in how Democrats and Republicans see that happening.

  • Republicans want to taper back companies’ moderation efforts, saying Section 230 has been “misused to censor conservative views.” Republican committee chairman Roger Wicker cited Twitter and Facebook limiting distribution of a recent New York Post article regarding Hunter Biden.
  • Democrats want companies to be even more involved, adding new safeguards to prevent disinformation. Maria Cantwell, the leading Democrat on the committee, also said Section 230 should consider “user privacy issues and the future of the news media.”

Justin Oh:

I’m less concerned about content moderation as it pertains to the tech giant stocks than antitrust issues. If they have to change how transparent or stringent they are on what gets censored, it doesn’t necessarily degrade their positions as the nexuses of internet activity.

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