US Senators take sharper aim at Twitter, Facebook

US Senators take sharper aim at Twitter, Facebook

Lawmakers on Tuesday drilled deeply into the companies’ practices for moderating content and outlined a legislative agenda that could restrain the platforms

It was the second time in three weeks that Zuckerberg and Dorsey testified before Congress. Credit: AFP Photo

US Senators took the chief executives of Facebook and Twitter to task on Tuesday for how the services handled misinformation around the election, showing bipartisan support for changing a law that protects the companies from lawsuits.

In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that lasted more than four hours, the lawmakers forced Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter to defend their companies’ efforts to limit the spread of false information about voting and the election results. Republicans accused the companies of censoring conservative voices while Democrats complained about a continued surge of hate and misinformation online.

It was the second time in three weeks that Zuckerberg and Dorsey testified before Congress. But in contrast to the earlier hearing, lawmakers on Tuesday drilled deeply into the companies’ practices for moderating content and outlined a legislative agenda that could restrain the platforms.

Also read — Twitter, Facebook defend election rules at heated US hearing

“I fully expect that Congress is going to act in the next Congress that we’re going to produce an outcome,” Sen. Tom Tillis, R-N.C., said.

Much of the discussion at the hearing focused on the minutiae of how Facebook and Twitter carry out the process of moderating the billions of pieces of content regularly posted to their networks.

Both Democrats and Republicans zeroed in on the issue.

The law that has legally shielded online platforms from liability for what their users post, known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, has long been mentioned by lawmakers as a potential target for reform.

Lawmakers began with a bipartisan call to change the “golden goose” legal shield, with a substantive focus on legislation that will probably take centre stage in the next Congress.

“You have built terrifying tools of persuasion and manipulation — with power far exceeding the robber barons of the last Gilded Age,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said. “You have made a huge amount of money by strip mining data about our private lives and promoting hate speech and voter suppression.”