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Monday, August 2, 2021

Lawmakers vent frustration in first hearing with tech CEOs since Capitol riot

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The CEOs of Facebook, Google and Twitter on Thursday faced a congressional grilling over their platforms’ roles in the organization of January’s Capitol insurrection, but managed to give very few direct answers.

Mark ZuckerbergLawmakers vent frustration in first hearing with tech CEOs since Capitol riotMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: House lawmakers fired up for hearing with tech CEOs | Zuckerberg proposes conditional Section 230 reforms | Lawmakers reintroduce bill to secure internet-connected devices Facebook’s Zuckerberg proposes conditional Section 230 reforms The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden leans heavily into gun control MORE[2][3][4][5][6][1], Sundar Pichai and Jack Dorsey dodged and deflected a broad range of questions over the course of the five-and-a-half hour long hearing before two House Energy and Commerce subcommittees ostensibly focused on misinformation that ended up veering away from that topic for long segments.

The hearing was the first featuring the executives after the deadly insurrection at the Capitol, which was largely organized on social media.

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Near the beginning of the hearing, Rep. Mike DoyleLawmakers vent frustration in first hearing with tech CEOs since Capitol riotMichael (Mike) F. DoyleHouse lawmakers fired up for hearing with tech CEOs Lawmakers press federal agencies on scope of SolarWinds attack House Democrats press Facebook on role as a ‘breeding ground for polarization’ MORE[8][9][10][11][12][7] (D-Penn.) asked the CEOs whether they felt some responsibility for the attack after misinformation about the results of the presidential election and the #StopTheSteal movement proliferated on their platforms.

Zuckerberg declined to answer the question and was cut off, Pichai said his company “worked hard” around the election but also declined to provide a direct response, and Dorsey said yes before noting that the “broader ecosystem” should be taken into account.

When pressed by Doyle, Zuckerberg said he thinks “the responsibility lies with the people who took the actions to break the law and do the insurrection.”

Like many of the Big Tech hearings before it, Thursday’s event offered lawmakers a platform to raise several targeted concerns and yielded some important answers from the CEOs, but did not offer a clear path forward on legislation.

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“Yes or no” questions were a consistent theme throughout, at one point leading Dorsey to post a poll on Twitter[13] with a question mark and the choices “Yes” and “No.”

In addition to questions about the role of social media in encouraging the Jan. 6 riot, many Democratic lawmakers focused on the ways that the algorithms that decide what users see on social media platforms might be boosting disinformation.

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Full committee chair Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) accused the platforms of “actively amplifying and spreading” disinformation, during his opening remarks.

Rep. Anna EshooLawmakers vent frustration in first hearing with tech CEOs since Capitol riotAnna Georges EshooHouse lawmakers fired up for hearing with tech CEOs Lawmakers press federal agencies on scope of SolarWinds attack Biden can build on Pope Francis’s visit to Iraq MORE[15][16][17][18][19][14] (D-Calif.), who reintroduced legislation Wednesday seeking to remove liability protections from platforms if their algorithms boost dangerous content, said action is needed to treat the “underlying diseases” of automated amplification and targeted advertising.

“You chase user engagement at great cost to our society,” she said.

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Pichai and Zuckerberg pushed back on those arguments, saying, respectively, that engagement is not their primary goal and that users don’t want to see misinformation.

Doyle made clear that Democrats are ready to move on algorithmic issues.

“We will legislate to stop this, the stakes are too high,” he said.

Democrats also probed the CEOs about coronavirus misinformation, their investments in Spanish language content moderation and anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander racism online.

While Republicans on the panel did focus some questioning on unsubstantiated claims of anti-conservative bias, the lawmakers appeared to pivot the bulk of their strategy to issues around social media addiction and potential threats to younger Americans.

“Your platforms are my biggest fear as a parent,” Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersLawmakers vent frustration in first hearing with tech CEOs since Capitol riotCathy McMorris RodgersHouse lawmakers fired up for hearing with tech CEOs 1.3B Facebook posts removed between October and December, company says Hillicon Valley: Google ad report reveal | SolarWinds fallout raises pressure on Biden | UK Uber drivers get some solace MORE[21][22][23][24][25][20] (R-Wash.), ranking member of the committee, said. “Remember, our kids, the users, are the product. You – Big Tech – are not advocates for children. You exploit and profit off them.”

Republican lawmakers quizzed the CEOs on suicide statistics and on their own childrens’ online habits.

Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) pressed Zuckerberg on reports that Instagram is developing a version of its products for children under the age of 13.

“Between this and YouTube Kids, you and Mr. Pichai have obviously identified a business case for targeting this age bracket,” he said.

The Facebook CEO stressed that the idea is in the early stages of development and suggested that the service could be good for “staying connected with friends” and learning “about different types of content online.”

Democratic Rep. Lori TrahanLawmakers vent frustration in first hearing with tech CEOs since Capitol riotLori A. TrahanLawmakers call for action on first anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s death Ethics panel finds Massachusetts Democrat didn’t violate rules Democrats on House Armed Services panel ‘dismayed and gravely concerned’ with Esper MORE[27][28][29][30][31][26] (D-Mass.) also spent her questioning focused on children’s issues, including asking whether YouTube Kids autoplays videos and if the Instagram for children service will let users scroll infinitely, suggesting some bipartisan appetite for legislation on such topics.

References

  1. ^ Mark Zuckerberg (thehill.com)
  2. ^ Mark Elliot Zuckerberg (thehill.com)
  3. ^ Hillicon Valley: House lawmakers fired up for hearing with tech CEOs | Zuckerberg proposes conditional Section 230 reforms | Lawmakers reintroduce bill to secure internet-connected devices (thehill.com)
  4. ^ Facebook’s Zuckerberg proposes conditional Section 230 reforms (thehill.com)
  5. ^ The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden leans heavily into gun control (thehill.com)
  6. ^ MORE (thehill.com)
  7. ^ Mike Doyle (thehill.com)
  8. ^ Michael (Mike) F. Doyle (thehill.com)
  9. ^ House lawmakers fired up for hearing with tech CEOs (thehill.com)
  10. ^ Lawmakers press federal agencies on scope of SolarWinds attack (thehill.com)
  11. ^ House Democrats press Facebook on role as a ‘breeding ground for polarization’ (thehill.com)
  12. ^ MORE (thehill.com)
  13. ^ post a poll on Twitter (thehill.com)
  14. ^ Anna Eshoo (thehill.com)
  15. ^ Anna Georges Eshoo (thehill.com)
  16. ^ House lawmakers fired up for hearing with tech CEOs (thehill.com)
  17. ^ Lawmakers press federal agencies on scope of SolarWinds attack (thehill.com)
  18. ^ Biden can build on Pope Francis’s visit to Iraq (thehill.com)
  19. ^ MORE (thehill.com)
  20. ^ Cathy McMorris Rodgers (thehill.com)
  21. ^ Cathy McMorris Rodgers (thehill.com)
  22. ^ House lawmakers fired up for hearing with tech CEOs (thehill.com)
  23. ^ 1.3B Facebook posts removed between October and December, company says (thehill.com)
  24. ^ Hillicon Valley: Google ad report reveal | SolarWinds fallout raises pressure on Biden | UK Uber drivers get some solace (thehill.com)
  25. ^ MORE (thehill.com)
  26. ^ Lori Trahan (thehill.com)
  27. ^ Lori A. Trahan (thehill.com)
  28. ^ Lawmakers call for action on first anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s death (thehill.com)
  29. ^ Ethics panel finds Massachusetts Democrat didn’t violate rules (thehill.com)
  30. ^ Democrats on House Armed Services panel ‘dismayed and gravely concerned’ with Esper (thehill.com)
  31. ^ MORE (thehill.com)

[email protected] (Chris Mills Rodrigo)

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Lawmakers vent frustration in first hearing with tech CEOs since Capitol riot
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