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Facebook, Twitter CEOs testify before U.S. Senate panel on content moderation decisions


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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Tech CEOs testify at U.S. Senate hearing about internet regulation

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By Nandita Bose and Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The chief executives of Facebook (O:) and Twitter (N:) testified before a congressional hearing on Tuesday that questioned their content moderation practices as Republicans accuse social media companies of censoring conservative speech.In October, Republican lawmakers on the U.S. Senate Judiciary committee voted unanimously to approve formal summons for Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey. Democrats on the panel did not vote on the subpoena.The subpoenas were approved right after the social media platforms decided to block stories from the New York Post that made claims about the son of then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

The hearing was expected to be highly political, as indicated in Chairman Lindsey Graham’s opening remarks. “What I want to try to find out is if you’re not a newspaper at Twitter or Facebook, then why do you have editorial control over the New York Post?”

He said he did not think articles on Hunter Biden, refuted by the Biden campaign, needed to be flagged or excluded from distribution.

Zuckerberg and Dorsey, along with Alphabet-owned Google (NASDAQ:)’s Sundar Pichai, also appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee in October for a hearing in which Republican lawmakers questioned the companies about their content moderation decisions. The hearing quickly turned into a political scuffle with lawmakers attacking each other. Upset over the companies’ decision on what to leave on the platform and what to take down, many Republican lawmakers and President Donald Trump have threatened to take away protections for internet companies under a federal law called Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The law protects companies from being sued over material users post on their platforms.

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Graham also said he hopes Section 230 is changed.

“When you have companies that have far more power than traditional media outlets, something has to give,” he said. President-elect Biden has also said he favors repealing Section 230. Congressional Democrats, however, prefer a more deliberate approach to reforming the law.

At the hearing in October, Twitter’s Dorsey said eroding Section 230 could significantly hurt how people communicate online. Zuckerberg said he supports changing the law but also said that tech platforms were likely to censor more to avoid legal risks if the law is repealed.

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