Tags: republicans | socialmedia | censorship

GOP Lawmakers Press Social Media Execs on Censorship, Engagement Tools

GOP Lawmakers Press Social Media Execs on Censorship, Engagement Tools
(Dreamstime)

Thursday, 25 March 2021 03:22 PM

Facebook, Twitter and Google executives came under fire from Republican lawmakers at a House panel hearing Thursday, grilled for their roles in censoring conservative voices and for the engagement tools they use to attract children and teens, The Associated Press reported.

At a sometimes contentious virtual hearing by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., laced into Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Google’s Sundar Pichai.

Scalise targeted Dorsey for the Twitter decision to block links to the New York Post last October in its reporting on Hunter Biden’s business dealings and its ramifications on his father, Joe Biden, and the older Biden's presidential campaign. Twitter claimed the reports were based on hacked information.

''To censor a newspaper … for two weeks by mistake … who made the decision?'' Scalise demanded.

''You’re acting as a publisher if you’re telling them to delete something,'' he said, referring to its demands to the Post before it could be reinstated. ''You’re acting as a publisher when you do that.''

Twitter caved after it revised its policy.

''It is something we learned,'' Dorsey told Scalise.

McMorris Rodgers called the giant media platforms "my biggest fear as a parent."

"I do not want their self-worth defined by the engagement tools you built to attract their attention," McMorris Rodgers said. "I do not want them to be in danger from what you've created. I do not want their emotions and vulnerabilities taken advantage of."

Ahead of the hearing, McMorris Rodgers said she was also concerned about how the tech giants ''have abused their power to censor and control political speech they disagree with,'' her spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., calls Facebook, Twitter, and Google's platforms  "my biggest fear as a parent," according to The Associated Press.

"I do not want their [children's] self-worth defined by the engagement tools you built to attract their attention," McMorris Rodgers said. "I do not want them to be in danger from what you've created. I do not want their emotions and vulnerabilities taken advantage of."

She then pressed Zuckerberg on whether he agrees his business model and the design of his products ''is to get as many people on the platform as possible and to keep them there for as long as possible? If you could answer yes or no, that would be great."

After trying to deflect, he ultimately said: "I believe the answer is yes."

Pichai was on the hot seat about Section 230, a piece of internet legislation that’s part of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 that provides immunity for platforms from third-party content — and pushed back on changes Zuckerberg proposed that would raise the bar on immunity.

''We rely on the liability protections to actually take strong action on particularly new types of content,'' such as a video of a mass shooting, Pichai told lawmakers.

McMorris Rodgers also pressed him on whether Google had conducted any ''research on the effect your products are having on the mental health of children.''

''We consult widely with expert third parties on this area, including … mental health organizations, and spend a lot of time and effort in this area.''

The lawmaker responded: ''I would like to see that. ... let's get focused on our children.''​

All three executives testified at several congressional hearings last year, sometimes under threat of subpoena. But at Thursday’s hearing, they faced tougher dynamics — in a Senate hearing shortly after the election in November, for instance, Zuckerberg and Dorsey gave lawmakers assurances of vigorous action against disinformation.

Former President Donald Trump has been banned on Facebook and Twitter after the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol — an unprecedented step.

Facebook hasn't yet decided whether it will banish the former president permanently. The company punted that decision to its quasi-independent Oversight Board — sort of a Supreme Court of Facebook enforcement — which is expected to rule on the matter next month.

At the hearing, Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo., asked Zuckerberg point-blank if he’d respect the decision if it decides to reinstate Trump.

''Facebook, we will respect the decision of Oversight Board and if they tell us former President Trump’s account should be reinstated, we will do that,'' he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Politics
Facebook, Twitter and Google executives came under fire from Republican lawmakers at a House panel hearing Thursday, grilled for their roles in censoring conservative voices and for the engagement tools they use to attract children and teens, The Associated Press...
republicans, socialmedia, censorship
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2021-22-25
Thursday, 25 March 2021 03:22 PM
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