• Friday, Nov 27, 2020
  • Last Update : 04:54 pm

'Who the hell elected you?' US Senate tech hearing becomes political tussle

  • Published at 11:57 pm October 28th, 2020
Jack Dorsey
FILE PHOTO: Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and fin-tech firm Square, sits for a portrait during an interview with Reuters in London, Britain, June 11, 2019 REUTERS

Senator Ted Cruz went after Twitter's Jack Dorsey after the CEO said Twitter has no influence over elections

A US Senate hearing to reform an internet law and hold tech companies accountable for how they moderate content quickly turned into a political scuffle as lawmakers not only went after the companies but also attacked each other.

Lawmakers are split on ways to hold Big Tech accountable under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act - which protects companies from liability over content posted by users but also lets the firms shape political discourse.

The chief executives of Twitter Inc, Facebook Inc, and Alphabet Inc's Google called the law crucial to free expression on the internet.

A little over an hour into the hearing, the conversation turned into a heated exchange between senators of both parties.

Senator Ted Cruz went after Twitter's Jack Dorsey after the CEO said Twitter has no influence over elections.

"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," Cruz said. 

Ahead of the hearing, the senator released a picture on Twitter titled "Free Speech showdown Cruz vs Dorsey" that showed him and Twitter's Dorsey pitted against each other.


Also Read - The US presidential race, from A To Z


Democratic Senator Brian Schatz said he did not have any questions, calling the hearing "nonsense".

"This is bullying and it is for electoral purposes," he said.

Top Democrat on the panel, Senator Maria Cantwell, said the hearing would have been better if held in January after the November 3 election. The law has little chance of being acted upon by Congress this year.

President Donald Trump, who alleges the companies' stifle conservative voices, and Republican lawmakers sent a flurry of tweets as the hearing continued. "Repeal Section 230!" Trump tweeted. Separately, Senator Josh Hawley took a jab at Twitter's Dorsey. "This level of idiocy confirms the widespread impression that Jack’s primary food source is weed."

Twitter's global vice president of communications Brandon Borrman said: "There's nothing in the [Hawley] tweet that deserves a response."

Twitter's Dorsey warned the committee that eroding the foundation of Section 230 could significantly hurt how people communicate online. Pichai said Google operates without political bias and that doing otherwise would be against its business interests.

The committee was unable to establish contact with Facebook Inc's Zuckerberg and declared a short recess. He appeared shortly after and said: "I was having a hard time connecting myself."

Zuckerberg said he supports changing the law but also warned that tech platforms are likely to censor more to avoid legal risks if Section 230 is repealed.

All three CEOs agreed the companies should be held liable if the platforms act as a publisher.

No more "free pass"

Republican Senator Roger Wicker, who chairs the committee, said it was important to shield companies from liability without giving them the ability to censor content they dislike.

"The time has come for that free pass to end," he said.

Wicker also criticized the companies' decision to block stories from the New York Post that made claims about Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's son.

He and other senators such as Cory Gardner went after Twitter for not taking down tweets from world leaders that allegedly spread misinformation but going aggressively after Republican President Donald Trump's tweets. Biden has expressed support for revoking the law.

US lawmakers are not the only ones pushing for reform. The European Union's executive Commission is drafting a new Digital Services Act that, in addition to tackling market abuses by dominant platforms, would also address liability for harmful or illegal content. Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager is due to unveil her proposals on December 2.

52
51
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail