Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey and Sundar Pichai will be quizzed about their content policies
The men at the top of three of the world’s most powerful companies have been subpoenaed by the US Senate Commerce Committee, meaning they’ll be asked some probing questions about their content publishing by the USA’s government and lawmakers.
The bosses are likely to be asked a lot about user privacy, data use, and the spread of misinformation across social media. The law currently states that social media platforms themselves are not responsible for the content hosted on the platforms, if they remove inappropriate content after being notified of it. This law doesn’t apply to more traditional content publishers like digital newspapers and magazines, and both the Democrats and the Republicans are expected to have problems with this, but for different reasons. It’s thought that the Democrats will be concerned by how easily Facebook, Twitter and YouTube can be used to spread false information that hasn’t been properly researched or fact-checked (anyone remember the story about Facebook and the 2016 presidential election?)
The Republicans are expected to be concerned with the platforms ‘censoring’ of conservative views – which will likely bring the discussions back around to the rapid spreading of false information. Republican Senator Ted Cruz said “Big Tech, I believe, poses the single greatest threat to free speech in our day, and the single greatest threat to democracy in our day,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) told the committee. “It should speak volumes that every member of our committee just voted to issue these subpoenas,” while the Republicans and the Democrats voted unanimously to summon the CEOs.
Top Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell said that she hopes it will be “a long and thoughtful process. Not sure a long and thoughtful process will happen before the election, but I understand my colleagues’ desires here today.
“What I don’t want to see is a chilling effect on individuals who are in a process of trying to crack down on hate speech or misinformation about Covid during a pandemic.”
We’ve all seen how quickly content can go viral across social media platforms, and it’s becoming more of a struggle than ever to ensure that the content being posted onto the platforms in the first place is truthful and un-harmful. Opinions, of course, can have just as strong an impact as alleged facts, and many people now think it’s up to the CEOs of the biggest social platforms (don’t forget Facebook owns WhatsApp and Instagram, too) to make sure the content posted on their platforms is legit.
What a strange and fascinating time to be alive.