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According to the lawmakers, Zuckerberg, Dorsey, and Pichai violated the rules of operating social media companies and overstepped Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
On Thursday, the chief executives of tech giants were interrogated by lawmakers who accused them of spreading COVID-19 misinformation, hate speech, harassment, and extremism. In particular, Facebook Inc.‘s (NASDAQ: FB) Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter Inc.‘s (NYSE: TWTR) Jack Dorsey, and Alphabet Inc.‘s (NASDAQ: GOOGL) Sundar Pichai were summoned for a five-hour hearing for weakening the liability shield of online platforms.
Zuckerberg, Dorsey, Pichai On the Line
During the hearing, the politicians attempted to impel the CEOs to answer either “yes” or “no”. Otherwise, they cut Zuckerberg, Dorsey, and Pichai off from responding. The questions varied from whether their platforms were responsible for the riot in January to if they understood the difference between the two words.
Notably, Jack Dorsey posted a poll during the hearing asking users to vote “yes” or “no”. The poll had more than 71,000 votes.
— jack (@jack) March 25, 2021
Mike Doyle, the Representative of Democrats on a House Energy and Commerce panel, stated:
“The power of this technology is awesome and terrifying, and each of you has failed to protect your users and the world from the worst consequences of your creations.”
Doyle has also highlighted that nearly 550,000 Americans had lost their lives because of COVID-19. According to an independent study, Facebook users in five countries received false information about coronavirus 3.8 billion times.
Mike Doyle stated:
“My staff found content on YouTube telling people not to get vaccines, and was recommended to similar videos. The same was true on Instagram, where it was not only easy to find vaccine disinformation, but platforms recommended similar posts. The same thing happened on Facebook, except they also had anti-vax groups to suggest, as well. And Twitter was no different.”
“You can take this content down, you can reduce the vision, you can fix this, but you choose not to.”
US Social Media Regulations
According to the lawmakers, Zuckerberg, Dorsey, and Pichai violated the rules of operating social media companies. Both the Democrats and Republicans agreed on reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that gives social-media platforms legal protections. In general, Section 230 provides immunity for website platforms from third-party content. In essence, Section 230 protects from liability for providers and users of an “interactive computer service” who publish information provided by third-party users.
As lawmakers stated, Facebook, Twitter, and Google overstepped the law. Besides, they made Zuckerberg, Dorsey, and Pichai testify on cyberbullying, triggering social media addiction, and making money on advertising to children. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act prohibits companies from collecting the data of children under 13 or targeting them with personalized advertising.
Democrat Representative Kathy Castor said:
“Of course, every parent knows that kids under the age of 13 are on Facebook and Instagram. The problem is that you know it. And you know that the brain and social development is still evolving at a young age. There are reasons in the law that we said that cutoff is at 13.”
At present, the regulators are considering amending Section 230 to remove tech companies’ protections from lawsuits when their algorithms provoke offline violence.