- Social media giants, Facebook, Google and Twitter, have been asked to come in for questioning over content censorship.
- Republicans are raising concerns over big tech companies’ attitude towards content moderation. Democrats state that these social media companies are misusing their power.
- The issue escalated after Twitter tried to suppress a news story related to Democrat nominee Joe Biden's son Hunter.
In Washington's latest attack on Big Tech, the United States Senate Commerce Committee unanimously voted to issue subpoenas to the CEOs of Facebook, Google and Twitter, that will compel them to testify in front of Congress
Facebook, Twitter and Google Chief Executives, Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey and Sundar Pichai respectively, will appear regarding discussions on reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1934.
The act protects social media platforms from any obligation over content posted by users. The tech bosses will also be questioned on privacy and competition concerns.
The Republicans argue that the law protects tech companies against the allegations they are facing on anti-conservative censorship of content. Democrats, on the other hand, argue that tech platforms have not been able to restrain the content under the law.
Republican Senator Roger Wicker, who chairs the Republican-dominated committee, had asked the executives to come for the questioning voluntarily.
He said Section 230's "sweeping liability protections" is suppressing the diverse political opinion on the internet. Wicker said that he regretted knowing that the executives have declined the invitation to participate and answer the questions which are extremely urgent and essential to the American people.
Sen. Roger Wicker, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, is from the Mississippi Republican constituency.
Big Tech in trouble ahead of elections
With just 9 days to go until the US election, the Senate Commerce Committee is expecting complete accountability from the heads of big tech companies on their practices related to content moderation.
Under Section 230, social media platforms can go scot-free for the content created by users. These websites and tech platforms are not held responsible as they are able to control their sites as per their internal strategies.
Social media platforms caught between political war?
As per media reports, the issue is largely taken up by the Republicans in order to give a broader push before the elections.
Lawmakers in the US have already introduced various bills to cancel the protection provided by the law. Last month, the Justice Department submitted a legislation draft to Congress in this matter.
The committee believes that they will hold hearings before the Election Day. The subpoena has been issued after the social media platforms came under scrutiny for controlling the reach of a New York Post article. The article exposed emails sent from Democrat nominee Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden's laptop.
The publication's Twitter account is still locked, and the tweets regarding the Hunter emails were deleted as well. Replying to the allegations, Twitter stating that they have removed the restrictions and users will be able to circulate the Biden story. Meanwhile, the Post will have to remove its original content in order to get the account unlocked.
Twitter and Facebook acted on spreading the story published by the conservative-leaning publication Post. The social media platform claims that the emails are unverified and spreading the news, which contains hacked information.
San Francisco-based Twitter banned its users from tweeting and retweeting the article links on its platform. The micro-blogging and social networking site issued a warning that the content violated the company's policy prohibiting hacked content.
After Twitter's decision to ban the news was widely criticised, it has now allowed the users to disseminate the information on its platform stating that the material in the article is widely available in the public domain which was once privately available.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey expressed regret this week over the controversy saying it was wrong on the company's part to block the story.
Matter of content moderation
No date is fixed for the hearing as the tech companies have given time to provide their reply on the subpoena.
Twelve Republican senators voted in favour of the subpoena, whereas Democrats boycotted it.
Both parties' political leaders have substantially assaulted Big Tech companies during their election rallies.
President Donald Trump's administration recently filed a controversial antitrust lawsuit against tech giant Google. Democrats have issued a report stating that the major tech firms are abusing their powers on social media. Trump, during his election rally, raised this topic many times on how big tech companies were suppressing the freedom of the press.
Republican senator Ted Cruz said that he wants Facebook and Twitter to explain their role in silencing the press.
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