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Congress Grills Web Titans Over Unfair Competition, Hate Speech, Election Interference and More

Congress Grills Web Titans Over Unfair Competition, Hate Speech, Election Interference and More
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks via video conference during the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law hearing on Online Platforms and Market Power in Washington on Wednesday. (Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images)

Wednesday, 29 July 2020 03:48 PM

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was on the defensive on Wednesday in a congressional hearing that, among other things, fixed on the social network’s role as a conduit for hate speech and election interference. 

Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, raised concerns during the hearing that right-wing groups are using the social media giant to infiltrate the Black Lives Matter movement and to spread anti-Semitic propaganda.

Zuckerberg says Facebook uses sophisticated technology to intercept hate speech, often before it’s seen on the platform. “It hurts our business,” he said.

His comments came at hearing that also featured Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai. The CEOs are answering for their companies’ practices as a House panel caps its yearlong investigation of market dominance in the industry.

The hearing was at times contentious, and not just because of the points raised by the social media giants. According to Fox News, at one point Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan asked Google's head if the company would "tailor its features to help Joe Biden in the 2020 election. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, a Pennsylvania Democrat, shot back at Jordan, accusing her Republican peer of engaging in "fringe conspiracy theories."

The exchange led to calls for Jordan to put on his face mask against the coronavirus.

Earlier in the hearing, with Facebook in the hot seat, lawmakers deployed internal company documents to assert that it has gobbled up rivals to squelch competition.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, the Democrat who heads the House Judiciary Committee, told Zuckerberg that documents obtained from the company “tell a very disturbing story” of Facebook’s acquisition of the Instagram messaging service.

He said the documents show Zuckerberg called Instagram a threat that could “meaningfully hurt” Facebook.

Zuckerberg responded that Facebook viewed Instagram as both a competitor and a “complement” to Facebook’s services, but also acknowledged that it competed with Facebook on photo-sharing. Some critics of Facebook have called for the company to divest Instagram and its WhatsAPP messaging service.

Google also took heat. 

The chairman of a congressional committee investigating the power of major technology companies accused Google of leveraging its dominant search engine to steal ideas and information from other websites and manipulating its results to drive people to its own digital services to boost its profits.

Rep. David Cicilline peppered Google CEO Pichai with the allegations of abusive behavior while grilling him.

Pichai repeatedly deflected Cicilline’s attacks by asserting that Google tries to provide the most helpful and relevant information to the hundreds of millions of people who use its search engine each day. He said this is part of its effort to keep them coming back instead of defecting to a rival service, such as Microsoft’s Bing.

Pichai struggled to answer one question about whether Google threatened to dump Yelp from its search engine database after the restaurant review site told Google to stop scraping its site for content. Yelp raised that issue about a decade ago before Pichai became CEO in 2015.

Newsmax' Jeffrey Rubin contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


   
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was on the defensive on Wednesday in a congressional hearing that, among other things, fixed on the social network's role as a conduit for hate speech and election interference. Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, raised concerns during the...
Congress, Big Tech, CEOs, The Latest
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2020-48-29
Wednesday, 29 July 2020 03:48 PM
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