“Big Tech” CEOs take tough questions from Congress about disinformation, extremism policies

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Stopping and flagging disinformation on social media was at the center of a discussion on Capitol Hill Thursday.

The heads of Facebook, Twitter, and Google faced tough questions about their policies for handling disinformation from lawmakers who say the companies are failing their users.

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Other leaders in Congress argued the opposite, saying the companies go too far to censor content.

“Each of you has failed to protect your users and the world from the worst consequence of your creations,” said Rep. Mike Doyle (D - Pennsylvania) during a joint House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing Thursday.

Republicans countered the arguments from the left with criticism of their own for the media giants.

“You censor political viewpoints you disagree with,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington).

Lawmakers questioned the companies about how they work to stop the spread of dangerous disinformation about issues like the coronavirus pandemic, the effectiveness of the vaccines, and the integrity of the 2020 elections.

“It’s a big challenge without easy answers,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said during the hearing.

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Each of the tech companies defended their policies.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pointed to a third-party fact checking system and the removal of certain content that could lead to imminent harm.

“It’s not possible to catch every piece of harmful content without fringing on people’s freedoms,” Zuckerberg said. “That I don’t think we’d be comfortable with as a society.”

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey warned against congress imposing over-reaching regulations.

“Forcing every business to behave the same reduces innovation and individual choice,” Dorsey argued.

Several lawmakers blamed the companies for not doing enough to stop extremist militia groups from using their platforms to organize and coordinate the January insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Zuckerberg again pointed to actions his company took in response to those events.

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“During and after the attack, we provided extensive support in identifying the insurrectionists and removed posts supporting violence.”

Wednesday’s hearing was the first time the CEOs testified before Congress since the insurrection.

They’re expected to face more panels in both the House and the Senate.