WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- On Wednesday, a senate hearing on Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act ended in a political banter between GOP and Democrat senators alongside the CEOs of social media giants.
- Republican senators pressed Twitter’s Jack Dorsey after the company opted to block the publication of New York Post’s stories about Hunter Biden in their platform.
- Meanwhile, Democrat senators accused the Republican lawmakers of using the hearing to help President Donald Trump in his re-election bid.
A political showdown ━ That’s what happened between Democratic and Republican senators during a tech hearing with social media giants on Wednesday. GOP senators also grilled tech companies’ CEOs over their recent moderating practices in the country.
The hearing was held to reform an internet law under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a law that protects companies from getting a lawsuit for their monitoring and censorship of materials that are deemed illegal, offensive, indecent and the like.
Senators from both parties were divided on the issue as GOP lawmakers accused the tech giants of partisan censorship against conservative media content. Democrats, meanwhile, targeted the spread of misinformation that could dictate the election results.
According to the summoned CEOs ━ Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Jack Dorsey (Twiter), and Sundar Pichai (Google) ━ the law was an important component for virtual freedom of speech. Section 230, they said, levels the playing field between maintaining free speech and moderating content. They also appeared to be welcoming on reforming the law, but not on diminishing it.
In addition, the three CEOs collectively recognized that companies should be responsible if they would act as a publisher while opposing being a ‘political speech’ mediator. This statement, though, drew flak from some GOP lawmakers.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX.) pressed Dorsey following his statement that Twitter has no power to manipulate 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, citing the company’s decision to take down the New York Post stories about the Bidens alleged Ukrainian corruption dealings.
Senate committee chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS.) said that Section 230, which shields companies from liability over moderating contents they don’t agree with, should be revised.
“The time has come for that free pass to end,” Wicker said.
He also denounced Facebook’s move to restrict the New York Post stories on Hunter Biden and Twitter’s act to have them blocked.
Meanwhile, Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI.) called the hearing “nonsense,” adding that it was held to bully and serve “electoral purposes.”
Other Senate Democrats like Amy Klobuchar (MN.), Ed Markey (MA.) and Tammy Baldwin (WI.) claimed that the hearing was called as GOP’s move to aid President Donald Trump’s re-election bid.
Apart from US lawmakers, the European Union’s executive Commission is also working on a new Digital Services Act, a proposed law that would take action for litigations against illegal and harmful content.