Twitter and Facebook CEOs are making the case to US lawmakers that their warning labels on Donald Trump’s false “I won” tweets served to expand “context” around the subject of misleading social posts, while they sidestepped the fundamental question of whether the warning labels are enough to protect the audience from the harm of the original falsity.
In parallel, both CEOs promised safeguards against social media poison arrows in two high stakes elections in Georgia which could determine US Senate control. The 100 member Senate is now 50-48 for the Republicans. They need to be at 51 to have real control because Democrats have the added advantage in 2021 of Kamala Harris being the tie-breaking vote. The Georgia Senate runoffs are in January.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg are testifying Tuesday at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing called to question their companies’ actions around the recently concluded US 2020 election.
Lawmakers came at the social platform CEOs with a predictable barrage of question marks and righteous anger. “We’ve got to up our game here,” “Were you acting as platform or publisher?”, “What is your policy on Edward Snowden’s leaks?” are dominating the already three-hour long hearing.
“You are engaged in publishing decisions, Mr. Dorsey!” boomed Ted Cruz, a solid Trump supporter. “You don’t get to pretend you’re not a publisher and point to Section 230 to get exemptions!” Cruz said, speaking generally for the overall Republican standpoint.
Both CEOs, now quite accustomed to US Congress grilling, kept a straight face and answered with carefully curated answers.
In introductory remarks, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told US Congress that the social platform flagged around 300,000 tweets as part of its efforts to combat disinformation during a crucial fortnight that covered the time before, during and after the US 2020 election.
Between October 27 and November 11, Dorsey said, about 300,000 tweets were labelled for content that was disputed and potentially misleading, representing 0.2 per cent of all US election-related tweets sent during the period. Of these, 456 were covered by a warning message and were limited in how they could be shared.
Trump and the Republicans have long accused social media companies of anti-conservative bias.
Both major political parties in the US are keen to edit some of the bedrock protections that have shielded tech companies from legal responsibility for what people post on their platforms.