Senate faces off with social media giants

The disaster disguised as a hearing

Left+to+Right%3A+Facebook+CEO+Mark+Zuckerberg%2C+Alphabet+CEO+Sundar+Pichai%2C+Twitter+CEO+Jack+Dorsey.

Harold Mendoza, Google, Wikipedia

Left to Right: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

A recent Section 230 hearing in the US Senate with the CEO’s of Twitter, Facebook, and Google, was supposedly about amending the protections granted to interactive computer services under the Communications decency act of 1996. To anyone who watched it or paid attention to the news from the hearing they will know that was far from the truth.

The questioning of the tech executives was very partisan, with Democrats asking what Big Tech is doing to rein in hate speech and voter suppression and Republicans demanding to know why the companies are reining in hate speech and voter suppression.”

— Kari Paul - The Guardian

The majority of the hearing and questioning was instead focused on either censorship, or the failure to censor, depending on which side of the aisle the question came from.

I think Kari Paul from the Guardian put it best; The questioning of the tech executives was very partisan, with Democrats asking what Big Tech is doing to rein in hate speech and voter suppression and Republicans demanding to know why the companies are reining in hate speech and voter suppression.

The senators did not come prepared for real discussion on the true topic at hand at this hearing, instead they used it as a confrontational battleground to help show voters what they are doing to take on the tech giants.

Ted Cruz was probably the biggest culprit of this, tweeting a graphic ahead of time that showed him as the “free speech champion” taking on Jack Dorsey, the “Czar of Censorship.”

 

 

One Democratic Senator, Sen. Brian Schatz, a very outspoken critic of big tech, even refused to ask questions because he recognized that the hearing was bogus and not focused on any real issues, stating, “What we are seeing today is an attempt to bully the CEOs of private companies into carrying out a hit job on a presidential candidate by making sure they push out foreign and domestic misinformation meant to influence the election”

Each side has something they want to get from this hearing and more regulation on these big tech companies in general. The problem with this is that each side wants the exact opposite of the other side which made the hearing essentially useless. If you are in the position of these companies you would be terrified to act in either direction.

If you give in to one side’s argument, the other side just gets angrier and louder in their disagreement. These companies are faced with a dilemma; however, much like with Hobson’s choice, they are presented with no choice at all and are simply caught up in the middle of the perpetual petty partisanship that is present-day politics.

So what will happen? Well, I don’t predict much; at least until the election is fully settled, which with the threat of legal action no matter the outcome, I don’t expect progress on these hearings to be made anytime soon. Hopefully things will proceed with caution and a reasonable solution that satisfies the desires of both sides can be reached, but we all know how politicians are when it comes to agreeing with each other.