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'Who the hell elected you?' U.S. Senate tech hearing becomes political showdown

42 Comments
By Nandita Bose and David Shepardson

A U.S. Senate hearing to reform an internet law and hold tech companies accountable for how they moderate content quickly turned into a political scuffle as lawmakers not only went after the companies but also attacked each other.

Lawmakers are split on ways to hold Big Tech accountable under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act - which protects companies from liability over content posted by users but also lets the firms shape political discourse.

Republican lawmakers used most of their time during the hearing to accuse the companies of selective censorship against conservatives. Democrats primarily focused on insufficient action against misinformation that interferes with the election.

In response to a limited number of questions discussing the law, the chief executives of Twitter Inc, Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google said it was crucial to free expression on the internet. They said Section 230 gives them the tools to strike a balance between preserving free speech and moderating content, even as they appeared open to suggestions the law needs moderate changes.

All three CEOs also agreed the companies should be held liable if the platforms act as a publisher but denied being the referees over political speech - a claim that angered some Republicans.

Senator Ted Cruz went after Twitter's Jack Dorsey after the CEO said Twitter has no influence over elections.

"Who the hell elected you and put you in charge of what the media are allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to hear," Cruz said, referring to the platform's decision to block stories from the New York Post about the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Ahead of the hearing, the senator released a picture on Twitter titled "Free Speech showdown Cruz vs Dorsey" that showed him and Twitter's Dorsey pitted against each other.

Democratic Senator Brian Schatz said he did not have any questions, calling the hearing "nonsense". "This is bullying and it is for electoral purposes," he said.

Other Democrats including Tammy Baldwin, Ed Markey and Amy Klobuchar also said the hearing was held to help President Donald Trump's re-election effort.

Trump, who alleges the companies' stifle conservative voices, tweeted "Repeal Section 230!" during the hearing.

Twitter's Dorsey, who drew the most amount of criticism from Republicans, warned the committee that eroding the foundation of Section 230 could significantly hurt how people communicate online. Pichai said Google operates without political bias and that doing otherwise would be against its business interests.

Zuckerberg, who briefly had difficulty with his internet connection at the start of the hearing, said he supports changing the law but also warned that tech platforms are likely to censor more to avoid legal risks if Section 230 is repealed. Biden has expressed support for revoking the law.

Republican Senator Roger Wicker, who chairs the committee, said it was important to shield companies from liability without giving them the ability to censor content they dislike.

"The time has come for that free pass to end," he said.

Wicker also criticized Twitter's decision to block the New York Post stories about Biden's son and Facebook's move to limit their reach.

He and other senators such as Cory Gardner went after Twitter for not taking down tweets from world leaders that allegedly spread misinformation but going aggressively after Republican President Donald Trump's tweets.

U.S. lawmakers are not the only ones pushing for reform. The European Union's executive Commission is drafting a new Digital Services Act that, in addition to tackling market abuses by dominant platforms, would also address liability for harmful or illegal content. Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager is due to unveil her proposals on Dec 2.

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

42 Comments

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The right wing idiot currently running (and ruining) my country would not have come to power without Twitter and Facebook. So yeah, there is insufficient action against misinformation but you can argue that free speech needs to be preserved as well. If the US comes out with a law forcing these social media giants to strike a balance between protecting free speech and preventing misinformation then it will be better for the entire world as a whole.

11 ( +15 / -4 )

When the aging, far right regress-ives, especially those like Trump and his R's think the 1950s were a 'great' era, one that should be re-made, it's not surprising they use 'tech' as a pejorative. 'Tech' has joined 'Hollywood', 'hoax' and so many other terms in the alt right's glossary.

The far right and their corporate backers want to keep the fossil economy intact. Burning huge amounts of fossil fuels and fighting wars for their control have kept the fossils rich and in power.

3 ( +9 / -6 )

Dorsey lied when he told Cruz Twitter doesn't do what Cruz accused them of doing.

Burning huge amounts of fossil fuels and fighting wars for their control have kept the fossils rich and in power.

Yeah they were in power in the U.S. until 2017, then Trump became president. In case you haven't noticed, ( you haven't ) Trump is getting us out of Middle East wars and not starting any new ones.

-7 ( +6 / -13 )

This is rather funny. In a story about big tech misinformation, the first two post would definitely qualify as misinformation.

would not have come to power without Twitter and Facebook.

One would need to spend hours and hours researching to make such a claim. Then it would need to be peer reviewed for accuracy. I hope you realize how silly this comment is some day.

The far right and their corporate backers want to keep the fossil economy intact. Burning huge amounts of fossil fuels and fighting wars for their control have kept the fossils rich and in power.

The “far right and their corporate backers” eh? Another golden hack job. Defense Bill 2019 vote 377 for, 48 against.

It is disingenuous to try to claim that Dem Politicians are somehow not equally culpable in the US war machine or the corporate state.

Invalid CSRF

-4 ( +5 / -9 )

"One would need to spend hours and hours researching to make such a claim. Then it would need to be peer reviewed for accuracy. I hope you realize how silly this comment is some day."

You have absolutely no idea about my country and what goes on over here. The idiot running my country communicates only through social media (no press conferences or interviews where he can be grilled about his failures). Without the millions of youngsters who got swayed by his tall and fake promises on Facebook and Twitter, without his army of trolls and bots and without the millions of fake accounts maintained by his social media cell which specialize in spreading bigotry against minorities and attacking anyone with opposing views, the guy would have been spending retirement time in his village right now.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

The far right and their corporate backers want to keep the fossil economy intact. Burning huge amounts of fossil fuels and fighting wars for their control have kept the fossils rich and in power

Here is the thing, Dems need to use fossil fuels to get to creating their green energy and in the process if they will put 750k people on the streets and in the bread lines. The big tech and Celebrity elites of the former once great state of California have nothing to worry about, they can always outsource (cheaper for them) but for Americans, it will be total devastation, not to mention with a pandemic that many of their leaders refuse to allow people to work will further erode the economy, these States and the nation.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

You have absolutely no idea about my country and what goes on over here. The idiot running my country communicates only through social media (no press conferences or interviews where he can be grilled about his failures). Without the millions of youngsters who got swayed by his tall and fake promises on Facebook and Twitter, without his army of trolls and bots and without the millions of fake accounts maintained by his social media cell which specialize in spreading bigotry against minorities and attacking anyone with opposing views, the guy would have been spending retirement time in his village right now.

Wow! I’m actually feeling sorry for you right now. It seems you have no thoughts of your own, just MSM/big tech talking points. I’d say the poor young kids who died fighting for OUR country would be very disappointed in how easily the minds of some Americans are manipulated. And what are you going to say if it turns out more minorities vote for Trump rather than that corporate deep state actor war mongering Biden?

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

I’d say the poor young kids who died fighting for OUR country would be very disappointed in how easily the minds of some Americans are manipulated. And what are you going to say if it turns out more minorities vote for Trump rather than that corporate deep state actor war mongering Biden?"

I am not an American so this is not Trump vs Biden.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Poor conservatives. Always the victim.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

How’s that TikTok deal going?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

It is obvious that big tech is engaged in censorship of viewpoints they don't like (conservative, etc). Personally I'd rather that governments stay out of interfering with the private sector's freedom to operate as they wish. However in this case, with the flow of 90% of global information being filtered by these three companies in a biased manner I believe it is in the US public's and the global population's interest that the US government intervenes. Most countries have antitrust laws for a reason, and this is one of them.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Simple. Block all political content on all those huge platforms. There is no right to free speech on private systems. Twitter and facebook aren't UGovt property.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

They could move their bases out of America.

I have not used FB/Twitter/ for more than 10 years.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Ah ha ha ha ha,

play it again Sam.

ah ha ha ha ha.

Truth is nobody elected Jack Dorsey

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Encouraging to see at least one politician hasn't been bought by Wall street.

These techs companies are not just distuptors, they're law breakers, and the only reason why they have not been stopped is because of furious lobbying from Wall street bankers keen to make sure their tech stocks appreciate in value.

Google, Facebook, Twitter etc have all broke publishing and broadcasting laws. They also hold monopoly on private personal information, yes even to the point of being able to manipulate election results.

Uber broke taxi licensing laws, AirBnB broke local planning and stare environmental laws....

Break them up or stop tgem altogether.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

When looking at what these big tech companies are doing to the nation. I think that in a true democracy you’re allowed to express opposing viewpoints and liberals can express their point of view all the time and conservatives should be allowed to do the same, for all the people that sit there and talk about Trump, there is nothing wrong with the people that support the president and liberals want to deflect from their own problems and scandals and failures, but want to keep the focus solely on the President only. Liberals continue to think they have the right to silence free speech and silence conservatives from speaking out about it and pointing out what companies like Facebook, Twitter it’s completely justified and liberals think that we should have an echo chamber of a one-sided liberal opinion need a point of you.

Yes, Twitter is a private company and yes, they have a platform they can say and do whatever they want, but then why are they doing it in the US?, Then they should go to another country or Congress should do some thing about section 230 and make sure that they don’t have the protection of being protected in that would open up the floodgates and allow them to be sued. Maybe that is what should happen.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

SerranoToday  07:23 am JST

Dorsey lied when he told Cruz Twitter doesn't do what Cruz accused them of doing

Ted Cruz Supported an 8-Justice Supreme Court if Clinton Won in 2016. Now He’s Preemptively Striking Against Court Packing.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/ted-cruz-supported-an-8-justice-supreme-court-if-clinton-won-in-2016-now-he-e2-80-99s-preemptively-striking-against-court-packing/ar-BB1abnRE

you mention “lying” Serrano?

i too think Twitter was out of line originally blocking that “not-at-all suspicious” laptop story.

But listening to that sanctimonious, self-righteous gutter vermin Cruz pontificate on “fairness” is nauseating.

Beneath contemp

2 ( +4 / -2 )

If you don't like their ToS, use a different platform.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Google, Facebook, Twitter etc have all broke publishing and broadcasting laws.

They aren't publishers or broadcasters. They are more like bulletin boards.

They are not monopoles either, though they do have lots of power.

The private data these companies have was all provided voluntarily by fools. If you ever email someone using a gmail account, you are providing private data, voluntarily.

A simple opt-in mandate for all data ue is all that is needed to enhance privacy. People not logged into their services shouldn't worry about data being abused.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

We still use JT even when our comments get moderated. I don't see the big deal.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

bass: liberals want to deflect from their own problems and scandals and failures, but want to keep the focus solely on the President only.

And conservatives want to deflect from their own problems and scandals and failures.

Right now there is literally an open investigation into the Trump organization that gets zero mention from the right. An actual, real, confirmed investigation. How often do you hear about it in your bubble? How often do you talk about it?

6 ( +7 / -1 )

About that 1st Amendment Ted,

https://youtu.be/qR_mJZKPgaw

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"Who the hell elected you and put you in charge of what the media are allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to hear," Cruz said,

cruz never had any morals nor a spine, he stands behind and enables trump's lies.

I feel sorry for the people who elected him, time to kick him out!!

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Who would have thought that Big Brother would turn out to be a mega-rich tech oligarch?

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

The great sanctimonious Cruz - tossed out of Canada because of his unhinged ranting...and now he thinks he's a Texan...

Well, Ted - how about all the social media companies running Trump's allegations n 2016 that your father was a terrorist as evil as Bin-Laden and was part of the assassination of JFK....

I assume you're fine with these companies keeping those stories up on their platforms?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Why not go after Big Tech for being publishers? Why not open them to libel, defamation, slander suits like regular publishers face? By exercising what is, in effect, editorial control, are they not performing a key function of being a publisher? What if Torba is right, and the door IS closed to alternative platforms because Section 230 isn't there?

Secondly, Trump BLEW IT when he didn't go after Big Tech in 2018. How so? Remember when Jack Dorsey and his fellow Big Tech CEOs testified in front of Congress in late 2018? Remember that this was AFTER Alex Jones and Laura Loomer had already been banned? Didn't that constitute sufficient proof that they were lying to Congress? If Big Tech had been punished then, wouldn't they have thought twice before engaging in the BLATANT, in your face censorship they're engaging in now? It's because they weren't punished back then that they're arrogant and cocky now.

Granted, getting the Big Tech CEOs for lying to Congress wouldn't have punished censorship, per se; it would've been akin to how the Feds nailed Al Capone. Remember, they didn't get Capone on murder, robbery, extortion, etc., crimes he was actually guilty of; no, they got him on tax evasion. Nailing the Big Tech CEOs for lying to Congress would've been analogous to that; though it wouldn't have punished them for their REAL crime, they'd have been punished nonetheless.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

I have always been strongly against all forms of social media. The reason is that good people usually stay quiet, it is the bad who are always shouting! Therefore my prediction at the beginning of social media revolution was that it will become a social, political and criminal cesspit!!! And here we are!!!!

I do not use any form of social media, e-mail system is perfect for keeping in touch with important people in ones life. There is no need for anyone to know or see what I had for lunch or have 1000+ followers who are not my friend and will not enrich my life one little bit, in fact there is a higher risk of being trolled by them instead...

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Ah, Ted Cruz with that fake outrage and victimhood again. Your wife's ugly and your dad killed JFK. Remember who said that?

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Here is the thing, Dems need to use fossil fuels to get to creating their green energy and in the process if they will put 750k people on the streets and in the bread lines.

Like many of the top 500 Fortune companies, the big techs have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in renewables energies especially for powering their huge power hungry data centers.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

A major concern should be the combined wealth of the CEO's of these companies. Bezos of Amazon has seen his wealth during the pandemic increase from $130 billion to $180 billion. Is it time to limit the wealth a single individual can own? The warehouse workers at Amazon work for poor wages and poor conditions.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Ted Cruz on Tuesday unloaded on Donald Trump, accusing him during a news conference of being a "pathological liar," "utterly amoral," "a narcissist at a level I don't think this country's ever seen" and "a serial philanderer."

https://edition.cnn.com/2016/05/03/politics/donald-trump-rafael-cruz-indiana/index.html

Four years ago - the last time Ted Cruz spoke the truth....

And Ted, you can one add more; "one term President".....

3 ( +3 / -0 )

SuperLib, sorry to be repetitive but,

They have great entertainers. That's how they defend themselves from lawsuits. Just like Hannity or Jones. "I'm just an entertainer, not a legitimate newsperson.

Pretty sure Dan Rather considers himself a “legitimate newsperson.” What was that he said about showing “disrespect to rats?”

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Dorsey really did a great job.  Goes to show that money doesn't signify beyond making you rich.

Designing, building and running the cyber cesspit that is Twitter certainly seems to have taken it out of him.

all the platforms should just allow unrestricted use (they allow porn and plenty of politically charged content and lots of unverified stuff already) and save themselves from the politicians who will otherwise destroy their business model.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Ted Cruz on Tuesday unloaded on Donald Trump, accusing him during a news conference of being a "pathological liar," "utterly amoral," "a narcissist at a level I don't think this country's ever seen" and "a serial philanderer."

https://edition.cnn.com/2016/05/03/politics/donald-trump-rafael-cruz-indiana/index.html

Four years ago - the last time Ted Cruz spoke the truth....

And Ted, you can one add more; "one term President".....

great, and we had an election in 2016 after that. what happened?

Well, it's plainly obvious what happened - he humiliated himself by turning into a sniveling, groveling, suck-up...

And lost whatever small credibility he once had...

Cruz is a clown now - and this is a perfect example of his "over-the-top", "I'm outraged", clown show...

He was outraged at Trump in 2016 too - now look at him...he grovels before Trump the way Trump grovels before Putin...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

EvilBuddhaToday  06:42 am JST

The right wing idiot currently running (and ruining) my country would not have come to power without Twitter and Facebook. So yeah, there is insufficient action against misinformation but you can argue that free speech needs to be preserved as well. If the US comes out with a law forcing these social media giants to strike a balance between protecting free speech and preventing misinformation then it will be better for the entire world as a whole.

There used to be. Since late 1992 AM radio and some TV channels have been clogged by hatemongering scummy idiots. In my home city there is a 'green' FM radio station but they're so 'stereotypical leftist/pro-abortion/vegetarian/PC/no-matter-what' they leave no room for moderation either. It's sickening.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Conservative billionaires, and there are many, are free to start their own media channels or social media sites. Can't blame the democrats over the lack of interest form the conservative money men.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Pukey2Today  11:10 am JST

Ah, Ted Cruz with that fake outrage and victimhood again. Your wife's ugly and your dad killed JFK. Remember who said that?

That bears repeating. Cruz is a slimeball swamp creature.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Yeah, I agree. Most of these Republicans are not good for anything more than an overly dramatic soundbite and a sternly worded letter demanding something that they never force anyone to give them.

Jack Dorsey knew they were all a joke and werent actually going to do anything to him.

So he just lied whenever he felt like it. No consequences. Zuckerberg couldnt be bothered, he just placated them until it was over. The Google guy was like why am I even really here?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The thing is, there was no conservative outlet until Fox News came along as far as television was concerned, every single TV networks Always took a more liberal slant and with the exception of “Meet the Press, 60 minutes and Crossfire on CNN” there wasn’t much for conservatives to rely on except for talk radio (which they dominate) And you had amazing people such as Rush Limbaugh who really was a pioneer and a person that spearheaded the conservative movement and then you had Roger Ailes who knew that there was an audience out there that wasn’t serviced in a soon as he came up with Fox News to change the entire playing field. There wasn’t going to be any more shows with conservatives in some dark room once a week, it was going to be 24 hours of news, opinions and offering opposing viewpoints and now they have become more powerful and more politically influential than liberals ever expected.

But now the Tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Twitter now once again are trying to take the country back to a time when conservatives were regulated into one corner and try to stop them for speaking out as much as they possibly can especially in this election

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Cruz is a creepy clown, someone who never had any morals and is at home in the current GOP.

Once trump is kicked out, all these clown need to be removed and should not hold public office again.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

A free and impartial press is the bane of dictators, so not surprised to see cruz and his band trying to fight them.

Falsehoods belong to conspiracy sites and morally bankrupt channels like fox.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I don't think Google deserves to be lump together with Facebook and Twitter.

They're a search engine first and foremost with other services that were added later, and we've seen what happened to their attempt at SNS. (No one talks about Google+, not even Google.)

You can try to argue they suppress conservative websites, but maybe you just need to learn how to use a search engine.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

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