Facebook and Twitter CEOs back in the Congressional hot seat after US election | News from the United States and Canada


Facebook and Twitter CEOs are called before the US Congress to defend their handling of disinformation in the 2020 presidential election, even as lawmakers questioning them are deeply divided over the integrity and results of the election .Prominent Republican senators have refused to disavow President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations of voting irregularities and fraud, even as misinformation disputing Democrat Joe Biden’s victory flourished online.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a close ally of Trump who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee where CEOs will testify on Tuesday, publicly urged, “Don’t concede, Mr. Chairman. Fight hard. ”

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey promised lawmakers last month that they would aggressively protect their platforms from manipulation by foreign governments or used to incite violence around election results – and they’ve followed through to high-profile measures that angered Trump and his supporters. .

Facebook shut down a ‘Stop the Steal’ group that Trump supporters were using to stage protests against continuous vote counting [File: Evan Vucci/AP Photo]

Twitter and Facebook have both slapped a disinformation tag on some of Trump’s content, including his claims linking mail voting to fraud.

On Monday, Twitter reported Trump’s tweet proclaiming “I won the election!” With this note: “Official sources called this election differently.” ”

Facebook also asked two days after the election to ban a large group called “Stop the Steal” that Trump supporters were using to stage protests against the vote count. The 350,000-member group echoed Trump’s baseless claims that a rigged election made the results invalid.

For days after the election, as the vote count continued, “Stop the Steal” copycat groups were easily found on Facebook, with close to 12,000 members last week.

But from Monday they seemed to have been demolished; a search for the term did not return any results for these groups.

Watching suspiciously how companies exercise their power to filter speech and ideas, Trump and Republicans accuse social media companies of anti-conservative bias.

Democrats criticize them too, but for different reasons. The result is that both sides want to remove some of the protections that have shielded tech companies from legal liability for what people post on their platforms. Biden warmly endorsed such action.

But it is the actions companies took around the election that should be the focus of concerns during Tuesday’s hearing.

The GOP majority on the judicial panel threatened Zuckerberg and Dorsey with subpoenas last month if they did not agree to voluntarily testify for Tuesday’s hearing.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey (left), Google CEO Sundar Pichai (center) and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before the Senate Trade Committee a few weeks ago. [File: Jose Luis Magana, LM Otero, Jens Meyer/AP Photo]

Republicans on the Senate Trade Committee lambasted the two CEOs and Google chief executive Sundar Pichai during a hearing last month for what they said was a tendency to silence conservative views while giving free rein for political actors in countries like China and Iran.

Despite security fears ahead of the November 3 election and social media companies bracing for the worst, the election turned out to be the safest in U.S. history, federal and state officials say of both parties – rejecting unsubstantiated fraud claims.

Facebook insists it learned the lesson from the 2016 election and is no longer a vehicle for disinformation, voter suppression and election disruption.

This fall, Facebook announced that it had removed a small network of accounts and pages linked to the Russian Internet Research Agency, the “troll factory” that uses social media accounts to sow political discord in the United States. since the 2016 election. Twitter has suspended five associated accounts.

But critical third parties, as well as some of Facebook’s own employees, say the company’s efforts to strengthen its guarantees remain insufficient, despite having spent billions.

“Facebook only acts if they feel there is a threat to their reputation or their bottom line,” said Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate. The organization had urged Facebook to remove the “Stop the Steal” group.

There is no evidence that social media giants are biased against conservative news, posts or other documents, or that they favor one side of the political debate over another, researchers have found.

But criticism of corporate policies and their handling of election-related misinformation have come from Democrats and Republicans alike.

Democrats have mainly focused their criticism on hate speech, disinformation and other content that may incite violence, prevent people from voting, or spread lies about the coronavirus.

They criticize tech CEOs for not controlling content, accusing the platforms of playing a role in hate crimes and the rise of white nationalism in the United States. And that criticism extended to their efforts to stamp out false information related to the election.

“If you thought Facebook disinformation was a problem when we were elected, wait and see how it destroys the fabric of our democracy in the days that follow,” Biden spokesman Bill Russo tweeted.


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