The United States Senate Trade Committee held a hearing on Wednesday (28) with the CEOs of Facebook, Google and Twitter. The session was convened to address Section 230, an excerpt from the Communications Decency Act that exempts platforms from liability for content posted by users. The law is criticized by some parliamentarians, who defend changes, but it was defended by executives.
The nearly four-hour audience with Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai and Jack Dorsey was marked by accusations by Republicans of censorship of conservative speeches and criticism by Democrats for the lack of more intense action to combat disinformation. . The senators also questioned what measures are being taken before the US elections, scheduled for next Tuesday (3).
Zuckerberg calls for caution before changes to law
In one of his speeches, Zuckerberg admitted the need for changes to Section 230 to give users more transparency about moderating content. Then, the executive positioned himself next to Pichai and Dorsey when he understood that there is no need to change the end of the section of the law that authorizes companies to restrict content considered “obscene”, “lustful”, “excessively violent”, “hostile” or “ otherwise questionable ”.
“I am concerned that some proposals that suggest removing the ‘otherwise objectionable’ phrase from Section 230 would limit our ability to remove bullying and harassment content on our platforms, which would make them worse places for people,” said Zuckerberg. “I think we need to be careful how we think about it.”
The executive said that Facebook will act to avoid disinformation with early declarations of victory on US election day. The platform had already said that if a post of this type is made by candidates, it will be signaled with the official information of the investigation. Zuckerberg also promised to ban publications in which candidates incite violence and claimed that his social network removed recommendations from groups about politics.
Senators criticize Twitter moderation
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was asked a lot about how the platform acted to limit the spread of a report from New York Post about emails involving the son of the Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden. The sharing of the news was banned by the social network and, after several criticisms, it was allowed again.
Dorsey apologized for the decision and defended the adoption of measures that increase transparency. “We realized that we need to gain more confidence. We realized that more responsibility is needed to show our intentions and results ”, said the executive.
He was also questioned for signs made to the tweet in which U.S. President Donald Trump questions the security of votes by mail. For some Republican senators, the social network does not act the same in other situations.
“When we think about applying a rule, we consider the severity of the damage offline and act as quickly as possible,” explained Dorsey. “We act on the tweets of leaders from around the world, including the president. And we took action in relation to that tweet, because we saw the confusion that could occur and we labeled it accordingly ”.
Google criticized after antitrust lawsuit
Of the three executives, Sundar Pichai was the least questioned by senators. The executive said that Google has an extensive role in moderating content, spending $ 4 billion a year with about 10,000 moderators. However, senators focused on criticism of the company after the US Department of Justice’s action over an alleged monopoly on online searches and advertisements.
One of the senators called Google’s response to the accusation “offensive”. The company had claimed that the lawsuit is “deeply flawed” and that people use its services because they want to. At the Senate hearing, Pichai again defended the company’s position. “We see strong competition in many categories,” he said.
In his opening speech, the executive also maintained the position that the company does not limit speeches due to politics. “We approach our work without political bias, period,” he said. “Doing something else would be contrary to our business interests and our mission, which requires us to make information accessible to all types of people, regardless of where they live or what they believe in.”
With information: The Washington Post, The New York Times.