Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey appears on a screen as he speaks remotely during a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, in Washington. The committee summoned the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Google to testify during the hearing. (Michael Reynolds/Pool via AP)
tech

Facebook, Twitter CEOs to be pressed on election handling

11 Comments
By MARCY GORDON

The CEOs of Facebook and Twitter are being summoned before Congress to defend their handling of disinformation in the 2020 presidential election, even as lawmakers questioning them are deeply divided over the election's integrity and results.

Prominent Republican senators have refused to knock down President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of voting irregularities and fraud, even as misinformation disputing Democrat Joe Biden's victory has flourished online.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee to which the CEOs will testify Tuesday, has publicly urged, “Do not concede, Mr. President. Fight hard.”

Both Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey promised lawmakers last month that they would aggressively guard their platforms from being manipulated by foreign governments or used to incite violence around the election results — and they followed through with high-profile steps that angered Trump and his supporters.

Twitter and Facebook have both slapped a misinformation label on some content from Trump, most notably his assertions linking voting by mail to fraud. On Monday, Twitter flagged Trump's tweet proclaiming “I won the Election!” with this note: “Official sources called this election differently.”

Facebook also moved two days after the election to ban a large group called “Stop the Steal” that Trump supporters were using to organize protests against the vote count. The 350,000-member group echoed Trump’s baseless allegations of a rigged election rendering the results invalid.

For days after the election as the vote counting went on, copycat “Stop the Steal" groups were easily found on Facebook, with one nearing 12,000 members as of last week. As of Monday, Facebook appeared to have made them harder to find, though it was still possible to locate them, including some groups with thousands of members.

Facebook didn't immediately respond to a request for information on its specific actions currently toward such groups.

Warily eyeing how the companies wield their power to filter speech and ideas, Trump and the Republicans accuse the social media companies of anti-conservative bias. Democrats also criticize them, though for different reasons. The result is that both parties are interested in stripping away some of the protections that have shielded tech companies from legal responsibility for what people post on their platforms. Biden has heartily endorsed such an action.

But it's the actions that companies have taken around the election that are likely to be a dominant focus at Tuesday's hearing.

The GOP majority on the Judiciary panel threatened Zuckerberg and Dorsey with subpoenas last month if they didn’t agree to voluntarily testify for Tuesday’s hearing. Republicans on the Senate Commerce Committee lambasted the two CEOs and Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, at a hearing last month for what they said was a pattern of silencing conservative viewpoints while giving free rein to political actors from countries like China and Iran.

Despite fears over security in the run-up to Nov. 3 and social media companies bracing for the worst, the election turned out to be the most secure in U.S. history, federal and state officials from both parties say — repudiating Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of fraud.

Facebook insists that it has learned its lesson from the 2016 election and is no longer a conduit for misinformation, voter suppression and election disruption. This fall Facebook said it removed a small network of accounts and pages linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency, the “troll factory” that has used social media accounts to sow political discord in the U.S. since the 2016 election. Twitter suspended five related accounts.

But critical outsiders, as well as some of Facebook’s own employees, say the company’s efforts to tighten its safeguards remain insufficient, despite it having spent billions.

“Facebook only acts if they feel there’s a threat to their reputation or their bottom line,” says Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate. The organization had pressed Facebook to take down the “Stop the Steal” group.

There’s no evidence that the social media giants are biased against conservative news, posts or other material, or that they favor one side of political debate over another, researchers have found. But criticism of the companies’ policies, and their handling of disinformation tied to the election, has come from Democrats as well as Republicans.

Democrats have focused their criticism mainly on hate speech, misinformation and other content that can incite violence, keep people from voting or spread falsehoods about the coronavirus. They criticize the tech CEOs for failing to police content, blaming the platforms for playing a role in hate crimes and the rise of white nationalism in the U.S. And that criticism has extended to their efforts to stamp out false information related to the election.

″If you thought disinformation on Facebook was a problem during our election, just wait until you see how it is shredding the fabric of our democracy in the days after,” Biden spokesman Bill Russo tweeted.

This story has been corrected to reflect that copycat “Stop the Steal" groups appear to have been made harder to find but not taken down.

© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

11 Comments
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Everyone knows that Silicon Valley and the mainstream media are totally biased against conservatives and Trump.

Without their disinformation campaign for Joe Biden wouldn’t have stood a chance

wake up America!

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

It's almost unbelievable how these tech platforms are blatantly undermining the preferred candidate of half their US users. As a result hordes of them are now abandoning Facebook and Twitter for MeWe and Parler.

Bad judgement, bad businesses and disrespectful behaviour towards their own clients.

Time for Congress to bust up these information monopolies and strip them from legal liability protections.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

It's almost unbelievable how these tech platforms are blatantly undermining the preferred candidate of half their US users. As a result hordes of them are now abandoning Facebook and Twitter for MeWe and Parler.

Good for them. I'm sure that will all turn out well for America.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Hey Trump people just use Parler and stop complaining about Twitter. I was checking Parler and there is a lot of information about Trump's plan to inject Mr Clean for COVID 19 treatment. CNN and even FOX news won't cover this. Go with Parler and stop complaining

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Interesting to see that Americans believe that Facebook and Twitter censor conservative viewpoints. In my country, it is the exact opposite. Facebook and Twitter have long been platforms for the ruling right wing bigot and his army of trolls and bots to spread his ideology of hate against minorities. But my country is an important market for these social media giants so they will not offend the guy in power lest they be banned or restricted.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

EvilBuddha - your comment reminds me of the Wayfair (Amazon like US online company) employee walk out to protest beds being sent to immigration detention centers. All the while most of the products the sell are from China.

I guess ideological differences stop at the US border.

P.S. I am rooting for you to be a GoodBuddha one day ;)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Waste of time, the American people have spoken.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I don't see any good reason for social media to delete or censor anything. Post it all, every lie, every rumor, and their rebuttals. This whole idea that media has to tell only the truth is ridiculous. It goes utterly against the right of a free press. Partisan media promoting a particular point of view is older than the US and its right to be partisan is protected in the US by the 1st Amendment. I wish these media tycoons would stop censoring what is posted and tell Congress to take a hike. Then challenge Congress in the courts if they dare censor them on their own. Government has no right to tell anyone in the press or the media what they can or cannot say. If you don't like what someone says, come up with a rational counter argument. Censorship is what childish insecure dictators and their equally childish supporters do.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Disinformation is dangerous, but I think that censorship is equally worrisome. Not only does it infringe on our right to free speech, it also has the potential to causes more problems than it would solve. Questionable censorship policies and inconsistent enforcement for example could be weaponized by the government in ways that would silence dissenting opinion. Also, since FB and Twitter started censoring posts, it has only seemed to have fueled even more disinformation and distrust of government. Evidence that addressing disinformation in an open forum is more effective than simply trying to erase tweets.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

On the one hand, the Republicans want the social media platforms to be more hands-off

On the other hand, the Democrats want the social media platforms to be put under regulation

While the social media platforms just don't want to be liable, sued, or prosecuted for what happens on their platforms

It's all about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act law

https://www.techrepublic.com/article/section-230-hangs-in-the-balance-after-attacks-from-biden-and-trump/

At its core, Section 230(c)(1) provides immunity from liability for providers and users of an "interactive computer service" who publish information provided by third-party users:

"No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

The statute in Section 230(c)(2) further provides "Good Samaritan" protection from civil liability for operators of interactive computer services in the removal or moderation of third-party material they deem obscene or offensive, even of constitutionally protected speech, as long as it is done in good faith.

Passed at a time when Internet use was just starting to expand in both breadth of services and range of consumers in the United States, Section 230 has frequently been referred as a key law that has allowed the Internet to flourish, and has been called "the twenty-six words that created the Internet".

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Loveline

Not only does it infringe on our right to free speech

Actually, it doesn't at all.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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