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Republicans Blast Social Media C.E.O.s While Democrats Deride Hearing

  • October 28, 2020

“I don’t know what changes could be made that would satisfy everyone,” said Jeff Kosseff, an assistant professor of cybersecurity law in the United States Naval Academy. “You’re seeing two very, very different worldviews.”

Wednesday’s hearing came together after months of protest by President Trump and Republican lawmakers over actions by the tech companies to label, remove and limit the reach of posts. Twitter started labeling posts by Mr. Trump in May for being inaccurate and for glorifying violence. Mr. Trump retaliated that month with an executive order aimed at stripping social media companies of the Section 230 legal shield.

His allies in Congress have since piled on, with the Senate Commerce Committee’s Republican leadership threatening to subpoena Mr. Dorsey, Mr. Zuckerberg and Mr. Pichai to discuss Section 230. Democrats, who have been angered at the companies for allowing hate speech and political misinformation to spread, also agreed to the hearing.

Conservative claims of censorship online are based largely on anecdotal examples of right-wing commentators or lawmakers whose content was moderated by social media platforms. But many conservative personalities have built enormous audiences on the platforms, and lawmakers did not offer evidence that systemic bias was built into the companies’ products.

For the tech executives, appearing on Capitol Hill has become routine. Wednesday’s hearing was Mr. Zuckerberg’s fifth time testifying in front of Congress since April 2018; it was the third time for Mr. Pichai and Mr. Dorsey. All three testified over video feeds because of the pandemic, with Mr. Zuckerberg briefly experiencing a technical glitch at the start of the event.

Mr. Dorsey bore the brunt of questions, with Republicans asking him almost four dozen times about alleged “censorship” of conservative politicians and media outlets. He was asked 58 questions in total, more than the 49 for Mr. Zuckerberg and 22 for Mr. Pichai, according to the Times tally.

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