CEOs of three big tech communication firms to be probed soon

The CEOs of online media techs are set to testify to the Senate’s Committee on October 28. The hearing is scheduled just 6 days before the poll to elect the next American president. During the hearing, the tech bigwigs will speak to lawmakers on virtual platforms.

The CEOs of three big tech communication firms i.e Google, Facebook and Twitter have agreed to appear before a Senate panel later this month, where they’ll have to speak to lawmakers regarding legal liability, privacy and “media domination” for online platforms.

The CEOs of online media techs are set to testify to the Senate’s Committee on October 28. The hearing is scheduled just 6 days before the poll to elect the next American president. During the hearing, the tech bigwigs will speak to lawmakers on virtual platforms.

On Thursday Senate’s Commerce Committee voted unanimously and authorized subpoenas to force the executives to attend the hearing. The CEOs of three big tech communication firms already have admitted appearing voluntarily.

Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey and Sundar Pichai will each speak at the hearing, though so far only Twitter publicly acknowledged Dorsey’s participation. A Facebook spokesperson told media that Zuckerberg would take part but didn’t issue any statement yet.

Subject of Concern

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is the primary subject of concern at the hearing. This section provides shield to the companies from liability for what users post.

Republicans observed concerted efforts to censor conservative voices on social media platforms. They have the potential argument that companies are acting as “publishers” in their decisions to ban certain types of online material. Though Facebook and Twitter insist they do not target any particular viewpoint or ideology, however, critics argue the companies often disproportionately apply their policy of “hate speech” and “disinformation” against those on the right.

Senator Maria Cantwell, the Democrat on the GOP-chaired committee, initially resisted but changed her mind after Republicans introduced language stating that the three execs would testify about privacy issues and “media domination” in addition to Section 230.

“I welcome the debate about [Section] 230 … Not sure a long and thoughtful process will happen before the election, but I understand my colleagues’ desires here today,” Cantwell said on Thursday, but added, “what I don’t want to see is a chilling effect on individuals who are in a process of trying to crack down on hate speech or misinformation about COVID during a pandemic.”

Political Intervention

Republicans have urged to explore whether the tech firms attempted to intervene in the 2020 presidential race. They are also eager to press the executives, as per their observations, on prioritizing some specific search results over others. Previously, Google faced similar documented charges.

Three months before the CEOs of Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google appeared before the House, where they addressed the number of relevant issues but the focussed concern was their companies’ anti-competitive practices, control over online speech and their possible political interests.

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