29 Oct 2020: US Senators grill CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, and Google
The CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, and Google were hammered by the United States Senate on Wednesday, in what qualifies as a chaotic hearing which diverted from the topic at hand several times.
At one point, Republican Senator Ted Cruz yelled, asking Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, "Who the hell elected you?"
Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg couldn't "connect" and remained unavailable briefly.
Here's what went down.
Hearing: Why were the bosses of tech giants summoned?
Dorsey, Zuckerberg, and Sundar Pichai of Google, were called for a discussion on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a law which protects tech giants from being liable for content posted on their platforms.
While Democrats opine this protection allows lies to be peddled on the platforms, Republicans believe tech giants moderate content they don't agree with, eventually taking editorial calls and not staying neutral.
Statements: Zuckerberg favors changes in law, Pichai doesn't
Surprisingly, Zuckerberg favored updating the law, saying that although this section helped create a free internet, "The internet has also evolved."
Pichai fiercely defended the law, saying, "Our ability to provide access to a wide range of information is only possible because of existing legal frameworks like Section 230."
Separately, Dorsey said abrogating the law "will remove speech from the internet."
Questions: They were asked 120+ questions, mostly not on the topic
For more than three and a half hours, the Senators pelted over 120 questions to tech giants' top executives.
But more often than not, the members of the Commerce Committee strayed far from the topic, asking questions through the lens of next week's polls.
Antitrust, misinformation about voting as well as election interference were discussed, and there was shouting too.
Exchange: Dorsey said Twitter can not influence elections
Just as the hearing started, Zuckerberg sort of vanished, "unable to connect." Republican Senator Roger Wicker called this the most interesting development.
Republicans seized the opportunity to charge Pichai, Zuckerberg, and Dorsey with allegations that they censor conservative views.
Cruz fumed at Dorsey, asking him why the content of the New York Post was restricted. He also asked if Twitter can influence elections, to which Dorsey replied in the negative.
What happened: "Who the hell elected you?"
Cruz asked, "Mr. Dorsey, 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, and why do you persist in behaving as a Democratic super PAC silencing views to the contrary of your political beliefs?"
Dorsey said Twitter wasn't working in a manner alleged by Cruz.
Question: References were drawn between posts of Iranian leader and Trump
Meanwhile, Republican Senator Cory Gardner found it strange that posts of Iranian Ali Khamenei remained as is, but tweets of US President Donald Trump were flagged.
During the hearing, Dorsey said the former's tweets did not violate the platform's policies.
Democrats, on the other hand, hit back at Republicans for using the hearing to pressurize the tech companies, merely days before the US elections.
Fact: This hearing is a sham: Democrat
Democratic Senator Brian Schatz said, "We have to call this hearing what it is: it's a sham. This play my colleagues are running did not start today, and it is not just happening here in the Senate; it is a coordinated action across the government."