. @SenatorWicker opens that the light touch regulatory approach has been important to US success in innovation. He also points out that #Section230 was critical at the beginning. (P.S. It still is if we the opportunity for new platforms to emerge)
. @SenatorWicker then criticizes that these are no longer "small scrappy startups" and control the news and information that can be accessed. But there are many options & if we want new "small scrappy startups" to challenge these giants we need to continue the light touch approach
. @SenatorWicker also alleges that these large platforms are engaging in "selective censorship." I'll let other folks explain why this is a misuse of the word censorship, but we should be concerned that what this really is is a call for neutrality that could end badly.
. @SenatorCantwell opening statement asks committee to discuss publishing market and #dataprivacy as well as #Section230
. @SenatorCantwell asks that this hearing not serve as a chilling effect for removals/content moderation around hate speech or misinformation. This is an important reminder that #Section230 enables content moderation choices to remove such materials.
. @SenatorCantwell accuses Big Tech platforms of creating a choke point for local media.
. @SenatorWicker and @SenatorCantwell both say this will not be the last hearing on this subject matter. Everyone in tech policy now:
And testimony starts with @jack
. @jack points out the importance of #Section230 in allowing both protection from user generated content and good faith removal.
. @jack says he wants to address concerns about good faith and earn trust by 1) requiring a published moderation process (more transparency) 2) requiring an appeal process (for when they don't get it right) 3) enabling algorithmic choice when possible
Next @Google's Sundar Pichai discusses how the internet has been a force for good and improved communications and opportunities to connect. He also discusses the opportunity to share more voices then before.
. @Google's Pichai discusses what they are doing to improve access to news publishers and commitment to transparency in clear guidelines as well as the commitment to free expression.
He says that this work is only possible because of #Section230 and points out its importance to platforms of all sizes.
. @google's Pichai points out that policymakers should consider the consequences changes to #Section230 could have to customers
And apparently @SenateCommerce can't connect with @Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg
And they got it fixed so moving on to @Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg's testimony
. @Facebook's Zuckerberg states that setting the rules for online discourse goes beyond one platform. He then says private companies should not make these decisions on their own and points to working with experts on difficult questions.
. @Facebook's Zuckerberg points out that both sides have criticized the choices with Dems often saying not enough is removed and Reps often saying too much is removed.
He continues pointing to @Facebook's increased transparency, but then says he believes Congress has a role and that is why he has called for regulation. He then discusses #Section230 and expresses an openness to "updating the law".
. @SenatorWicker asks @Jack about examples of conservative content being "censored." Points to examples of foreign leaders being treated differently than President Trump and discusses fact checks.
. @senatorwicker brings up a tweet by @ajitpai concerning Iranian dictator's tweets that glorified violence and were not taken down. @jack mentions policies around world leaders that they will label things that violate ToS & discusses saber rattling v. threats against own citizens
. @GaryPeters starts questioning for Dems about radicalization. Asks @facebook about redirecting groups on the path to radicalization. Zuckerberg says they try when they can with the help of experts to show other information and suggests maybe they should expand.
. @CoryGardner asks @jack about Holocaust denial and if should be classified as misinformation. Says Iranian Ayatollah's tweets have remained unchecked while others have not. Asks if there are other incidents of Twitter deleting heads of state's tweets other than President Trump's
. @jack promises a list of such tweets.
. @jack clarifies Twitter's policies around misinformation are related to specific categories not all misinformation. Points out there are other categories such as those concerning incitement to violence.
. @jack says they look for reports and do not maintain a list of accounts. That the reports typically come from people using the service. Content moderation involves both human and algorithms (ps is this the first time I've correctly spelled algorithm today without spellcheck)
. @corygardner says you can choose against Google, etc. but "You cannot unsubscribe from government censors." Admits he doesn't like the idea of Silicon Valley elites choosing speech but correctly points out the government doing so would be worse.
All platforms agree that they would be liable for the content they themselves create. (Also @Google's Pichai almost accidentally injects the publisher-platform thing. Please let's not go there)
. @amyklobuchar says she's going to focus on a "blueprint for the future". Asks @Facebook's Zuckerberg about political advertising and the Honest Ads Act.
Zuckerberg has said they basically have implemented Honest Ads Act into their system. Points to increased transparency around political ads and also the potential friction with privacy concerns
. @SenJohnThune talks about the use of algorithms in content moderation. He then asks if the platforms should be considered "the refs" over speech. All three say no.
. @SenJohnThune calls for more transparency. He asks about due process and explanation when content is removed. All three agree it is a best practice.
. @SenJohnThune asks about how often the suppression of newspaper articles online. @Facebook's Zuckerberg points to independent fact checking program to prevent widespread hoaxes. @jack is open to providing a list of articles and more transparency
Question about the need for diversity of viewpoints within companies. @jack points to transparency to support objectiveness. @google says consult widely and a wide range of opinions
Seriously hats off to @senjohnthune for well articulated questions that were appropriately on topic. This is better than most of the hearings we've been through.
. @SenBlumenthal starts by mentioning the need for further attention on #antitrust & #dataprivacy. Mentions he's been calling for #Section230 reform for 15 years (nb: this is not a good thing), but feels this hearing is intended to bully these companies in advance of the election
And here comes @tedcruz he says these platforms pose the greatest threat to free speech but I would mention that inserting a government regulator would be a far greater risk
You know this is just a lot of yelling and not a lot of actual policy right now so I'm going to take this opportunity to remind you that you can think Twitter made the wrong call on the New York Post article and still think #Section230 is good.
Also I'm glad this portion is over
I never thought I would say this but my reaction to @brianschatz's statement/questions about the current events in #Section230
. @SenatorFischer asks about concerns around value judgments about what's going to be on the platforms and potential manipulation. @jack responds that he's trying to improve transparency and algorithmic choice.
. @SenatorFischer asks @Facebook's Zuckerberg what changes to #Section230 he'd be open to.
. @SenatorCantwell comments that the hearing could have happened later and that the CEOs are trying to deal with misinformation. She points out that these companies are working with law enforcement when needed.
"We're talking about whether we're going to be on the side of freedom and information...or if we're going to prematurely get rid of #Section230" - @SenatorCantwell
Also can I pause for a moment and discuss how in this hearing we seem to be seeing the Democrats defend the rights of private actors to make decisions and Republicans call for government intervention into those decisions.
The Dems are far from perfect on #Section230 but this is a strange realignment from a first principles point of view that should be noted. We should be cautious of calls for government intervention into speech decision regardless of who they come from.
And we're taking a quick break. Thank goodness
And I’m now prepared to keep going
And we're back with @JerryMoran who asks about the cost of content moderation and litigation. This isn't just an issue for the big guys imagine the costs to small companies https://www.engine.is/s/Engine_Primer_230cost2019.pdf
. @EdMarkey expresses concerns about hate speech and misinformation and says anti-conservative bias is not a problem. Says the problem is too many posts are left up not that too many things are taken down.
This illustrates how difficult content moderation is (one side says too much and one side says too little) and the continued need for section 230 to allow for platforms to engage in moderation and at times make different difficult choices
. @MarshaBlackburn asks if there are any conservative content moderators? Facebook and Twitter say they don't ask for ideology. Google says yes because they are throughout the United States.
. @MarshaBlackburn claims that President Trump has been censored 65 times. Look, first this misuses the term censor. Second, President Trump's social media reach seems to be doing just fine as he himself pointed out in the 60 minutes interview. https://mashable.com/article/trump-social-media-60-minutes/
. @jack correctly points out that they have not censored President Trump. None of the tweets have been taken down. I'd mention again that fact checks are different than removals and likely are better considered in the First Amendment context than #Section230
. @MarshaBlackburn accuses the platforms of "a pattern of subjective manipulation" and claims that as more of life is conducted online people are aware that platforms are "picking winners and losers"
. @SenatorTomUdall asks if the Russians are still attempting to use platforms to influence the #2020election. All say they continue to see attempts at interference, they are taking actions as much as possible, and being transparent about those efforts.
The CEOs all say this is important work and they will continue to address it
. @SenCapito asks about defining otherwise objectionable. Having this catchall enables platforms to act against abuse, harassment, bad actors, or even for reasons that do not reflect their audience or intended use of the platform without fear of liability.
Great example from @google's Pichai about how otherwise objectionable allows them to respond to new and unpredictable issues such as the Tide Pod challenge
. @SenatorBaldwin now asks @jack about some of President Trump's comments about Covid and implies they were not flagged. Jack points out that the tweets did have a link to their Covid information center and reiterates their policies around Covid misinformation
. @jack says will continue to refine policies around misinformation
. @SenatorBaldwin asks @facebook's Zuckerberg about violent organizing on the platform. Points to events in Kenosha and asks what steps are being taken. Zuckerberg responds they have strengthened policies around militias and conspiracy networks like QAnon.
. @SenMikeLee quotes each of the CEOs and says these are contrast to the actions taken against conservatives. He asks if similar actions have been taken against Democrats/left-leaning groups.
Zuckerberg kind of flubs this answer. @jack points out they've flagged Dem House candidates/members as well. @google's Pichai lists several examples and clarifies that it is not censorship.
I do appreciate that at least @SenMikeLee admits that the use of the term "censorship" here is not actually about censorship. I just wish he would use the correct terminology instead.
. @SenMikeLee argues that this is an issue of deceiving consumers bout what the policies concerning the political neutrality of the actions of the platforms are
. @SenDuckworth criticizes Facebook and Twitter's actions during the 2016 Election on misinformation and says this hearing is playing politics on such threats now. Asks for a commitment to combat mis/disinformation
. @SenRonJohnson asks about the political ideology make up of the company. @jack says not something he looks for, @google's Pichai says over 100,000 employees so a wide range & tries to explain examples, @facebook's Zuckerberg suggests that the employee base probably leans left
. @SenRonJohnson goes after @jack over the election influence picking up on Ted Cruz exchange and New York Post article. Jack sticks to his standards (and his principles).
Again there's a lot of anger and something is or is bordering on yelling. It's okay to be upset about the actions of these companies (I am sometimes), but the response should be to switch to the other options in the market not to regulate and make it harder on new entrants
. @jontester asks CEOs to commit to returning to discuss a wide range of issues. While I get this was not the right, this is my reaction to another tech policy hearing:
All the CEOs agree they will be happy to talk again in the next Congress. Meanwhile the idea of another one of these has me like:
. @jontester correctly calls out the questions that have implied you need to ask about political affiliation and the idea that you need to regulate companies differently based on if they are liberal or conservative
. @SenRickScott mentions Chinese censorship and that the platforms are banned there. Says people expect to be able to use the platforms freely but says the perception is that these companies are targeting conservatives. Says factcheck system has liberal bias.
Also this hearing on both sides has serious academic conference "This more of a statement than a question" vibes
. @jack again explains Twitter's policy and offers to send more specific information on the actions taken on other global leaders.
. @SenRickScott asks what the recourse for users. @jack responds about more transparency and efficient appeals. But of note the question was about a @facebook account not a Twitter account.
Asking one CEO about another company's action seems to have become a tech hearing tradition and I'm only disappointed that this one didn't get called out for what it was.
. @SenJackyRosen says that the platform algorithms are allowing exploitation of divisions in the country by foreign actors and calls for more action to correct the role algorithms may have in driving individuals towards hate
. @SenatorWicker closes the hearing.
And now I'm once again like as I realize where the techlash is and where the #Section230 debate is heading
You can follow @jrhuddles.
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