The CEOs of technology giants Facebook, Google and Twitter are expected to testify for an Oct. 28 Senate hearing on tech companies’ control over hate speech and misinformation on their platforms.
The Senate Commerce Committee voted last week to authorize subpoenas for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai of Google and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey to force them to testify if they didn’t agree to do so voluntarily. Spokespeople for the companies said Monday that the CEOs will cooperate.
The hearing “must be constructive and focused on what matters most to the American people: how we work together to protect elections,” Twitter said in a tweet in its policy channel.
The hearing will come less than a week before Election Day. It marks a new bipartisan initiative against Big Tech companies, which have been under increasing scrutiny in Washington and from state attorneys general over issues of competition, consumer privacy and hate speech.
The executives’ testimony is needed “to reveal the extent of influence that their companies have over American speech during a critical time in our democratic process,” said Sen. Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican who heads the Commerce Committee.
Facebook, meanwhile, is expanding restrictions on political advertising, including new bans on messages claiming widespread voter fraud. The new prohibitions laid out in a blog post came days after President Donald Trump raised the prospect of mass fraud in the vote-by-mail process during a debate last week with Democratic rival Joe Biden.
With Trump leading the
Less than a week before the 2020 presidential election, three of the biggest names in tech—Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey—will testify before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation about a longstanding law that protects websites from liability for user-generated content.
The committee unanimously voted to subpoena the men on Thursday. They’re scheduled to testify on Oct. 28, according to committee aides who spoke with Politico on Friday on the condition of anonymity. While the subpoenas are ready to go out, they will not be formally issued because the CEOs have voluntarily agreed to appear before the committee, one aide told the outlet.
Their testimony will address Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a key legal shield that protects tech companies both large and small from liability for most of the content their users post online. Codified more than 20 years ago, Section 230 has become a flashpoint over the last few years for both political parties, with Republicans, including President Donald Trump, contending without evidence that major tech companies quietly censor conservative content and Democrats arguing that websites should lose their Section 230 protections entirely for hosting misleading political ads, among other offenses. According to Politico, the hearing will also touch on “data privacy and media consolidation.”
The hearing date, which falls just six days before November’s contentious presidential election, was reached after lengthy deliberations, a committee aide said. The tech CEOs originally pushed for a more far-off date, but after Republican committee members refused, they agreed to testify voluntarily if the subpoena authorization vote passed.
“On the eve of a momentous and
Lawmakers have sought to convene the hearing to explore social-media sites’ content-management practices and the future of a federal law, known as Section 230, that spares tech giants from being held liable for the way they police their sites and services.
GOP lawmakers have ramped up their attacks in recent months as tech companies take a more aggressive stand against controversial tweets and posts from President Trump, including his widely debunked comments that seek to cast doubt over the 2020 election. Democrats, meanwhile, widely reject the claims of bias — instead, they fault Facebook, Google and Twitter for failing to crack down against harmful or abusive posts, photos and videos, including viral election disinformation.
A spokesman for Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.), the Republican chairman of the Commerce Committee, did not respond to a request for comment. The hearing is set to occur virtually, with the tech executives testifying from the west coast.
Facebook confirmed Zuckerberg would attend, and Google did not comment. Twitter confirmed Dorsey’s attendance in a tweet late Friday that urged lawmakers to be “constructive & focused on what matters most to the American people: how we work together to protect elections.”
“Alleged ‘political bias’ remains an unsubstantiated allegation that we have refuted on many occasions to Congress,” the company added. “It has also been widely disproven by independent research. We do not enforce our policies on the basis of political ideology.”
Lawmakers’ hearing also comes as federal regulators continue to scrutinize Facebook and Google for their expansive corporate footprints. The Justice Department could file an antitrust lawsuit against Google as soon as next week, putting Pichai in the congressional hot seat over the government’s findings at the end of October.
By David Shepardson and Nandita Rose | Reuters
WASHINGTON – The chief executives of Facebook <FB.O, Twitter and Alphabet-owned Google have agreed to voluntarily testify at a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee on Oct. 28 about a key law protecting internet companies.
Facebook and Twitter confirmed on Friday that their CEOs, Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, respectively, will appear, while a source said that Google’s Sundar Pichai will appear. That came a day after the committee unanimously voted to approve a plan to subpoena the three CEOs to appear before the panel.
Twitter’s Dorsey tweeted on Friday that the hearing “must be constructive & focused on what matters most to the American people: how we work together to protect elections.”
The CEOs are to appear virtually.
In addition to discussions on reforming the law called Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects internet companies from liability over content posted by users, the hearing will bring up issues about consumer privacy and media consolidation.
Republican President Donald Trump has made holding tech companies accountable for allegedly stifling conservative voices a theme of his administration. As a result, calls for a reform of Section 230 have been intensifying ahead of the Nov. 3 elections, but there is little chance of approval by Congress this year.
Last week Trump met with nine Republican state attorneys general to discuss the fate of Section 230 after the Justice Department unveiled a legislative proposal aimed at reforming the law.
The chief executives of Google, Facebook, Apple Inc and Amazon.com Inc recently testified before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel. The panel, which is investigating how the companies’ practices hurt rivals, is expected to release its report as early as next Monday.
- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google parent Alphabet, have agreed to testify before Congress on October 28.
- Twitter said in a tweet Friday that Dorsey had “voluntarily agreed to testify,” while calling for “reasoned and productive debate” over “reactionary and politicized attempts to erode #Section230.”
- The Washington Post reporter Tony Romm earlier reported that Zuckerberg and Pichai had agreed to appear as well, while a Facebook spokesperson confirmed Zuckerberg’s appearance with Business Insider.
- The Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee is holding the hearing, where lawmakers will question the executives over Section 230, a legal protection for internet companies that has come under fire from both sides of the aisle.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The heads of Facebook, Google, and Twitter have all agreed to testify before Congress about social media regulation on October 28, just days before the US presidential election.
Twitter announced CEO Jack Dorsey’s appearance in a tweet Friday, while The Washington Post reporter Tony Romm tweeted Friday that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google parent company Alphabet, had agreed to testify as well. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed Zuckerberg’s appearance to Business Insider.
Their decisions to testify voluntarily avoids a subpoena process that lawmakers had voted on Thursday to invoke to compel them to appear. Sources told Romm that “subpoenas did not have to be sent.”
The Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee is holding the hearing, where lawmakers plan to question the executives about concerns over Section 230, a legal provision that shields social media companies from being held liable for the content of users’ posts and gives them authority to develop their own content moderation rules.
Its advocates have called it “the most important law protecting internet speech,”