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'More power than classic media': Facebook, Twitter policies attacked

November 19, 2020
Republican senators in Tuesday attacked the principle executives of Facebook and Twitter for what they called censorship of President Trump and his allies during the U.S. election while Democrats bemoaned the propagate of misinformation on interpersonal media.

The CEOs, Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Tag Zuckerberg of Facebook, defended their content moderation practices at a congressional hearing scheduled after the platforms decided to block stories from the New York Post that made claims about the son of then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

The move incited uproar among Republican lawmakers who have consistently accused the firms of anti-conservative bias.

In his starting remarks, Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham asked:  "What I want to try to discover is if you're not really a newspaper at Twitter or Facebook, then why do you have editorial control over the brand new York Content?"  He said he did not think articles on Hunter Biden, refuted by the Biden advertising campaign, would have to be flagged or excluded from distribution.

Democrats focused on the pass on of misinformation by Trump, a Republican, and his supporters. They pushed the companies to limit the spread of fake and misleading content ahead of elections in Georgia, where two Republican incumbent senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, happen to be facing run-offs against well-funded Democratic opponents - contests which will likely determine which party controls the Senate.

Zuckerberg and Dorsey admitted the firms have made some mistakes, but typically defended their policies.

However, broader issues with their content moderation decisions, specifically around violent speech, became evident when Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, asked Facebook's Zuckerberg if he'd invest in taking down the profile of former Trump Light House adviser Steve Bannon immediately after he advised the beheading of two senior U.S. officials.

Zuckerberg refused.  "Senator, no. That's not what our plans would advise that we should do in this instance," he said.

Reuters reported the other day that Zuckerberg told a great all-staff assembly that Bannon had not violated more than enough of Facebook's guidelines to justify his suspension.

Blumenthal also noted that Alphabet Inc's Google, which owns YouTube, had received a  "move" from the hearing, saying that the company was being rewarded for its  "timidity" in articles moderation.

Zuckerberg and Dorsey as well fielded several pointed problems on whether they act as publishers, that your CEOs said these were not.

Upset over the firms' decision on what things to leave about the system and what to remove, many Republican lawmakers and Trump own threatened to eliminate protections for internet companies under a federal rules called Section 230 of the Communications Decency Action. The law protects businesses from becoming sued over materials users post on the platforms.

Graham also said he expectations Section 230 is changed.

"When you have businesses that have the energy of government, have a lot more power than traditional mass media outlets, something must give," he said.

President-elect Biden in addition has said he favours repealing Section 230. Congressional Democrats, however, prefer a more deliberate method of reforming the law.

Zuckerberg and Dorsey said they would be open for some reforms to regulations.

At an October hearing, Twitter's Dorsey said eroding Section 230 could significantly hurt how people communicate on the net. Zuckerberg said he supports changing regulations but also said tech platforms were likely to censor more to avoid legal hazards if regulations is repealed. 

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