Social Media Executives Advocate Against More Government Regulation

October 29, 2020 by Tom Ramstack
Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg addresses students at Georgetown University. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — The chief executive officers of the world’s largest social media companies assured a skeptical U.S. Senate committee Wednesday they try to remain neutral in deciding which Internet content they block.

They also advocated against government regulation that could interfere with free speech on the Internet.

“We don’t always get it right, but we try to be fair and consistent,” Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg told the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

The Senate is considering legislation to modify Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. It provides legal immunity for website publishers — such as Facebook, Twitter and Google — for information posted by third parties.

It also protects the social media companies from liability for removing or moderating content posted by other parties they decide is obscene, threatening or offensive. The right to remove or modify content falls under the “Good Samaritan” protection of Section 230.

Some Republicans say the social media companies use their Good Samaritan protection to censor content from conservative groups. They say the alleged censorship is hurting the presidential campaign of Donald Trump but helping his Democratic opponent Joe Biden.

Zuckerberg and the other chief executives denied any intentional bias against conservatives.

“Democrats say we don’t remove enough content, Republicans say we remove too much,” Zuckerberg said.

If any regulatory changes are needed, they should require greater transparency by social media companies about how they control content, he said.

New regulations should not create a disincentive for free speech, which currently is protected by Section 230, he said. The risk is that American social media companies lose their leadership on the Internet.

“It’s important that we don’t prevent the next generation of ideas from being built,” Zuckerberg said.

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., who chairs the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said the social media companies appear to follow a “double standard.”

They advocate for free speech but also suppress content they dislike, he said. The result is “censorship and suppression of conservative voices on the Internet,” Wicker said.

The formerly small companies that used Section 230 protections to thrive have now grown into some of the world’s largest corporations, who use the immunity from liability to advance their own political viewpoints, he said.

“The time has come for that free pass to end,” Wicker said.

Democrats at the Senate hearing generally had milder criticisms for Facebook, Twitter and Google that fell short of a call for tougher regulations.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., was concerned that the social media companies have gained dominance over much of the news industry, particularly newspapers. Thousands of journalists have lost their jobs as their employers lose advertising revenue to their social media competitors.

“We want to have a very healthy and dynamic news media across the United States,” Cantwell said. She did not suggest specific alternatives.

She also wanted assurances that Facebook and Twitter could no longer be used by foreign governments like Russia, China and Iran to spread disinformation that might alter the results of U.S. elections.

Jack Dorsey, chief executive officer of Twitter, denied a liberal bias that favored Biden or other Democrats.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. said Twitter has censored 65 tweets by Trump but none by Biden.

“We haven’t censored the U.S president,” Dorsey said.

“Oh yes you have,” Blackburn replied.

Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Alphabet Inc./Google, said he knew of his company’s power in the Internet but tried to use it responsibly for the information it blocks or posts.

“Google is deeply aware of both the opportunities and risks the Internet creates,” Pichai said.

Social Media

Facebook Notifications Are Not Akin to Robocalls
Social Media
Facebook Notifications Are Not Akin to Robocalls
April 1, 2021
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - A unanimous Supreme Court sided with Facebook on Thursday, ruling that a notification system the social media giant employs to alert users to suspicious logins does not run afoul of a federal law aimed at curbing robocalls and automated text messages. The case revolved... Read More

Event Looks at Free Expression in the Digital Age
Event Looks at Free Expression in the Digital Age
March 30, 2021
by Victoria Turner

David Freiheit began his presentation at the American Enterprise Institute event on the values and consequences of free expression in the digital age by pointing to the response of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., to Amazon’s “snotty tweets.” Warren has repeatedly vowed to break up the Big... Read More

Posting Vaccine Cards Online Could Attract Scammers
Posting Vaccine Cards Online Could Attract Scammers
March 29, 2021
by Alexa Hornbeck

As vaccine eligibility expands to those 16 and over in many states, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning those getting shots against posting photos of their vaccine cards online.  “I’ve seen people wanting to be proud and show off that they got their first vaccine,... Read More

Can Online Platforms Properly Police Themselves?
Social Media
Can Online Platforms Properly Police Themselves?
March 26, 2021
by Victoria Turner

WASHINGTON - In 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized to a U.S. House committee when presented with active drug trafficking posts on his site, admitting social media platforms need better “policing” of such content.  Three years later, despite Facebook having “cleaned up its act,” the problem... Read More

Social Media Platforms’ Self-Regulation Era is Over
Social Media
Social Media Platforms’ Self-Regulation Era is Over
March 25, 2021
by Victoria Turner

WASHINGTON - Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers, R-Wash., said at a congressional hearing today that as a parent of three school-aged children, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are her “biggest fear.”  After spikes in teenage suicides in her community, everyone she reached out to “[raised] the alarm about... Read More

Judge Holds Off on Approval of TikTok Settlement
Social Media
Judge Holds Off on Approval of TikTok Settlement
March 2, 2021
by Sara Wilkerson

CHICAGO - A federal judge on Tuesday put off approval of a proposed $92 million class-action settlement by the social media app TikTok, wanting to give attorneys at least 21 days to address his questions about the proposal. U.S. District Judge John Lee gave the attorneys... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top