The chief executive officers of Twitter and Facebook are taking the stand Tuesday to testify, again, about allegations of anti-conservative bias on their platforms.
Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey were subpoenaed in October to appear at Tuesday’s hearing with the Senate judiciary committee in order to “review the companies’ handling of the 2020 election”.
Republican lawmakers frequently allege censorship of conservative views, but this particular hearing was called in response to the companies’ handling of a New York Post article about Joe Biden.
When the story was published in October, Twitter took unprecedented steps to limit its circulation, blocking users from posting links or photos of the report. At the time, Twitter said the measures were taken due to “the origins of the materials” included in the article, which were allegedly pulled from a computer that had been left by Hunter Biden at a Delaware computer repair shop in April 2019. Twitter policies prohibit “directly distribut[ing] content obtained through hacking that contains private information”.
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The company later walked back on its response, tweeting that the communication around the actions on the article “was not great”. It also changed its hacked materials policies in response to the outcry. Facebook took a less aggressive stance, placing some limitations on the article due to questions about its validity.
There is no evidence that the social media giants are biased against conservative news, posts or other material, researchers have found.
Though Zuckerberg and Dorsey were called to speak at the hearing in advance of the election, how their companies handled misinformation over the last few weeks will likely be a dominant focus of questioning.
Twitter and Facebook have both slapped a misinformation label on some content from Donald Trump, most notably his baseless assertions linking voting by mail to fraud. On Monday, Twitter flagged Trump’s tweet proclaiming “I won the Election!” with this note: “Official sources called this election differently.”
Facebook also moved two days after the election to ban a large group called “Stop the Steal” that Trump supporters were using to organize protests against the vote count. The 350,000-member group echoed Trump’s baseless allegations of a rigged election.
For days after the election, as the vote counting went on, copycat “Stop the Steal” groups were easily found on Facebook, with one nearing 12,000 members as of last week. As of Monday, Facebook appeared to have made them harder to find, though it was still possible to locate them, including some groups with thousands of members.
The Associated Press contributed to this report