Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey are becoming familiar faces on Capitol Hill. On Tuesday, the pair of social media bosses are scheduled to visit with senators to discuss how they make choices when monitoring content on their sites.
The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing was called after Republicans demanded the CEOs explain why they limited the spread of a New York Post article that suggested unproven improprieties involving President-elect Joe Biden’s son. (Biden representatives have challenged the article’s content.) The social networks’ actions raised questions about how they fact check political content.
The virtual hearing marks the second time Zuckerberg and Dorsey are to appear before lawmakers in less than a month. On Oct. 28, the executives, along with Google CEO Sundar Pichai, testified at a hearing on Section 230, a law that gives internet companies immunity for content posted by their users. That hearing strayed from its intended purpose, with senators challenging the trio on content moderation policies, including their responses to the New York Post story.
The new proceedings come as lawmakers ramp up scrutiny of Big Tech, a development that will likely continue under the Biden administration. Legislators and regulators are concerned over the power tech companies have and how it might ultimately harm consumers. Google faces a Department of Justice lawsuit that alleges the Alphabet subsidiary is a search monopoly. Rivals Apple, Amazon and Facebook are also the subjects of investigation. In July, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Zuckerberg and Pichai appeared virtually at a hearing before the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee. The subcommittee accused the tech giants of “abuses of monopoly power” in a 449-page report.
Tuesday’s hearing is called “Breaking the News: Censorship, Suppression, and the 2020 Election.” Here’s what you need to know:
It’s set to begin Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. ET/7:00 a.m. PT.
The hearing will stream live on the committee’s webpage. You can also watch on CNET’s YouTube channel here.
What to expect
Republicans on the committee, such as Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, will likely blast Twitter for limiting the spread of the New York Post article and subsequent posts about it. Cruz was particularly hard on Dorsey at the October hearing, demanding that the executive explain “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?”
The committee is chaired by Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who is a key ally of the president. Overall, expect Republicans to complain that Facebook and Twitter suppress conservative content, a frequent allegation the companies have denied.
An interesting wrinkle in the proceedings will be the presence of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, a California Democrat. Harris has close ties to Silicon Valley and is friendly with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Still, expect Harris, who has supported laws on digital privacy, online harassment and app-based gig worker protections, to go tough on the witnesses. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who is reportedly being considered for positions inside the Biden administration, will also ask hard questions.
The Democrats will almost certainly focus on what Facebook and Twitter are doing to stop hate speech, disinformation and interference in domestic affairs by foreign adversaries, like Russia and China.