New York (CNN Business) – On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee will question the CEOs of Facebook, Google, and Twitter amid cries of conservative bias and threats to change a crucial law, known as Section 230, that protects companies’ ability to moderate trade. content as they see fit.
The hearing comes less than a week before the US election, and social media companies have been bracing for an onslaught of misinformation and misinformation. In recent days, Facebook and Twitter have taken steps to curb the dissemination of some content, causing accusations of bias, censorship and even electoral interference.
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In a video posted before the hearing, the Senate Commerce Committee highlighted what it says are examples of social platform actions against conservative accounts, such as when Twitter tagged a tweet from Fox News personality Tucker Carlson saying that the media that he shared included “potentially sensitive content.”
There is little evidence that the technology is biased, according to studies
Independent studies of social media have found little credible evidence to suggest the technology is biased against the views of the right, but executives clearly expect to be pressured about it.
“We ensure that all decisions are made without using political views, party affiliation or political ideology, whether they relate to the automatic classification of content on our service or how we develop or apply the Twitter Rules,” said the Chief Executive Jack Dorsey in prepared remarks viewed by CNN.
“Our Twitter Rules are not based on any particular ideology or set of beliefs. We firmly believe in being impartial and strive to enforce our Twitter Rules fairly, ”he added.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company approaches its work without political bias, “full stop.”
“Doing otherwise would go against both our business interests and our mission, forcing us to make information accessible to all types of people, no matter where they live or what they believe,” Pichai said in prepared statements.
Section 230, the key
At the heart of the hearing will be Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The companies have invoked federal law in court case after court to dismiss potentially costly lawsuits over messages, videos and other user-created content.
Under Section 230, “interactive computer services” are considered legally separate from the users who generate their content. It cannot be said that they publish or “say” the words of their users. In practice, courts have repeatedly accepted Section 230 as a defense against allegations of defamation, negligence, and other accusations.
In their prepared comments, the three CEOs tried to emphasize the importance of Section 230 to their businesses, and that diminishing it would result in removing more content.
“Section 230 is the most important law on the Internet for freedom of speech and security,” said Dorsey. “Eroding the foundations of Section 230 could collapse the way we communicate on the Internet, leaving only a small number of well-funded, giant tech companies.”
Zuckerberg asks to update the law
While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s remarks highlight the importance of Section 230, he also said Congress should “update the law to make sure it works as intended.”
“I think we need a more active role for governments and regulators, so in March of last year I called for a regulation on harmful content, privacy, elections and data portability. We are ready to work with Congress on what regulation might look like in these areas, “he said.
Attacks on Section 230 have intensified in recent days, as Facebook and Twitter limited the distribution of a series of articles from the conservative New York Post that claimed it had obtained “revealing” emails about Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his dealings in Ukraine. CNN has not determined the authenticity of the emails.
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Facebook said it decided to “reduce the distribution” of the article “pending fact-check review” as part of its policy against “disinformation.” Twitter later blocked users from having links to the main story as part of its policy against spreading ‘hacked materials’, although it was unclear whether the underlying emails attributed to Hunter Biden were hacked, copied or fabricated. .
US authorities are investigating whether the recently released emails are related to an ongoing Russian disinformation effort targeting the former vice president’s campaign, a US official and a congressional source briefed on the matter said.
Hearings begin at 10 a.m. ET and will air live on CNN Business.
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