They're back. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Google CEO Sundar Pichai are scheduled to appear before federal lawmakers on Wednesday for a hearing into the protection their companies receive under a nearly 25-year-old law.
The Senate hearing, which will take place virtually because of the Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, a law many experts consider foundational to protecting free expression on the internet., concerns possible changes to
Section 230 prevents internet providers, such as Verizon and Comcast, and social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter (which weren't founded until the 2000s), from lawsuits over posts made by people on their services. It allows the companies to moderate potentially harmful content without facing repercussions.
The provisions of Section 230 have come under fire in recent months, and politicians on both sides of the aisle have called for changes to it. Democrats are troubled by a seemingly endless flow of hate speech and disinformation, including interference by foreign countries in the 2020 US presidential election. Republicans, led by President Donald Trump, say social media sites censor their speech. There is little evidence to support those allegations, and the social media companies deny such claims.
The hearing before the US Senate Commerce Committee is called "Does Section 230's Sweeping Immunity Enable Big Tech Bad Behavior?" Here's what you need to know.
It's set to begin Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT.
What to expect
Republicans on the committee, such as Ted Cruz of Texas and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, will likely blast the Facebook and Twitter executives for New York Post article regarding the son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.of posts about a recent
Democrats, such as ranking member Maria Cantwell of Washington and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, will also ask tough questions. But they will likely focus on revisions to Section 230 that would allow for more aggressive efforts to stop disinformation and election interference from foreign adversaries, like Russia and China.
Zuckerberg has said his social network isn't opposed to more regulation. He'll likely push for a more standardized approach to tacking harmful content.
Dorsey may argue that eliminating Section 230 would make it tougher for social networks to police harmful content. "If we didn't have that protection, we would not be able to do anything around harassment or to improve the safety or health of the conversation around the platform," he told Politico in 2018.
Pichai will likely field questions about YouTube, the massive video platform the search giant owns. YouTube, which gets more than 2 billion visitors each month, has been criticized for its role in spreading misinformation about the pandemic and voting.
When asked about Section 230 last year, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki defended the legal protection. "If we were held liable for every single piece of content that we recommended, we would have to review it," Wojcicki told 60 Minutes. "That would mean there'd be a much smaller set of information that people would be finding."
CNET reporters Marguerite Reardon, Queenie Wong and Richard Nieva contributed to this report.