- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
- During the hearing, lawmakers from both major political parties grilled the CEOs about decisions the platforms made around the US presidential election.
- Republican lawmakers have criticised the platforms’ labelling of falsehoods from GOP officials and fact-checking of President Trump as a form of censorship. Democrats, meanwhile, have argued that Facebook and Twitter did not go far enough to stop the spread of misinformation, including Trump falsely claiming he won the election. (Joe Biden won the election.)
- Much of the criticism of Facebook and Twitter revolves around a law known as Section 230, which allows tech companies to avoid legal responsibility for the actions of their users.
- The hearing was scheduled last month after Facebook and Twitter temporarily restricted the spread of an unverified New York Post article about Joe Biden’s son Hunter, which made its way to the Post through Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer.
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Lawmakers grilled Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Tuesday over their platforms’ handling of the 2020 election â€” and both Democrats and Republicans voiced a growing consensus that legal protections for social media companies should be heavily reformed.
The two tech CEOs were summoned to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee by Republicans who were upset with the tech platforms’ content moderation before and after the election. Both platforms added labels to posts made by President Donald Trump that falsely claimed victory in the election, which Joe Biden won with 306 electoral votes. Facebook also suspended all political ads following the election to prevent the spread of false claims.
Republicans have argued that those warning labels amount to anti-conservative censorship, while Democrats have called on tech companies to more robustly crack down on hate speech and misinformation. On both sides of the aisle, lawmakers say tech companies should face more legal scrutiny.
Lawmakers also questioned whether the companies should retain legal protections afforded by Section 230, a law that shields social media sites from being held liable for users’ posts in the way that publishers are responsible for content they produce.
“When it comes to social media platforms and Section 230, change is going to come,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsay Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said at the hearing Tuesday.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the ranking Democrat on the committee, dismissed Republicans’ complaints that the social media companies were unfairly censoring the president but agreed that laws should be rewritten to set stricter standards for the tech companies.
“You have built terrifying tools of persuasion and manipulation… You have made a huge amount of money by strip mining data about our private lives and promoting hate speech and voter suppression,” Blumenthal said.
Both Zuckerberg and Dorsey defended their companies’ moderation practices, claiming that they are politically neutral. The two CEOs said they would be open to new legislation more clearly defining social media companies’ legal obligations, but have opposed any overhaul of Section 230.
“People ask if the regulatory model should be more like the news industry or more like telcos, but from my perspective, these platforms are a new industry and should have a different regulatory model that is distinct from either of those other two,” Zuckerberg said.
The hearing comes as Republican leaders scramble to bolster Trump’s claims that he actually won the election due to increasingly far-fetched theories â€” from a widespread conspiracy to “rig” the results to evidenceless claims that hundreds of thousands of votes were cast illegally. Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer who is leading Trump’s lawsuits challenging the election, was linked to a story about Joe Biden’s son in the New York Post that Facebook and Twitter both temporarily restricted last month amid questions about its accuracy.
Graham himself has also taken an outsize role in that push â€” Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State said Monday that Graham pressured him to find ways to discard legally cast ballots as the state conducts a hand recount this week.