Jack Dorsey said Tuesday that Twitter flagged 300,000 tweets to tackle disinformation related to this year's presidential election.
& # 39; More than a year ago the public asked us to provide additional context to make potentially misleading information more apartment. We did just that, putting labels on over 300,000 tweets from October 27 to November 11, which is about 0.2 percent of the tweets voted in the US, ”Dorsey said during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
Of the marked tweets, 456 were also covered by a warning message and restricted in their release functions. Approximately 74 percent of people who viewed these Tweets were only able to view them if they chose to after a label or warning was posted.
"We put labels on to broaden the context and limit the risk of harmful electoral misinformation being spread without important context because the public told us to take these steps," he added in his opening address.
Dorsey preemptively addressed questions that were sure to come up on Twitter, flagging dozens of tweets from President Donald Trump related to the election – especially those questioning the results.
Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, announced Tuesday that the platform had reported more than 300,000 tweets related to the 2020 presidential election
Dorsey shared this information when he was joining a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to answer questions about his social media platform
Dorsey and Mark Zuckberg, CEO of Facebook, attended another hearing related to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which prevents their companies from being held responsible for their users' contributions
Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in his inaugural address, "Section 230 as it exists today must give" and added, "Changes will come."
In Chairman Lindsey Graham's opening address, he featured a tweet from Trump's former Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, questioning the validity of postal ballot papers that Twitter had flagged as misleading.
It also featured a tweet by Iranian leader Ayatollah Khamenei denying the Holocaust, which was unmarked.
The biggest social media giants traveled again – practically – to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to testify and ask questions about Section 230, while Republicans lament Facebook and Twitter for selectively censoring conservative voices.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter's Jack Dorsey faced verbal assaults from lawmakers as Democrats focused on amplifying misinformation on their platforms and Republicans focused on suppressing some of their biggest voices – including President Trump.
"Section 230 as it exists today has to exist," said Graham, adding, "a change is coming."
Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who virtually attended the hearing, agreed that the view of social media in the eyes of the law needs to be revised.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter from being held responsible for what their users post – and instead acts as a third party for the publication of speeches.
However, these tech giants have implemented guidelines in which they will moderate what content is allowed and review certain posts even if they do not contain threatening jargon.
Zuckerberg insisted that Facebook's steps to stop the spread of misinformation didn't go as far as some Democrats want because it doesn't want to argue the truth – and further distances itself from protecting Section 230 to lose.
"We created this independent fact-checking program where we partnered with 80+ partners around the world to support fact-checking as people in our community have told us they don't want to see misinformation , But also not." I don't want us to decide what is true and what is wrong, "said Zuckerberg during his questioning of Dianne Feinstein, a member of the judiciary's ranking.
The senators are deeply divided from the party over the integrity and results of the election itself.
Prominent Republican senators have refused to put down Trump's claims of electoral irregularities and fraud as misinformation denying Biden's victory flourished online.
Twitter has reported dozens of Trump's tweets related to the election, including his claim that he actually won Joe Biden – which most of the media claimed for the Democrat earlier this month
Trump said he won Pennsylvania because ballots were banned. Twitter pointed out, "Several sources called this election differently."
They marked other tweets from Trump claiming "widespread electoral fraud" with, "This claim of electoral fraud is controversial."
Graham, a close ally of Trump, has publicly urged, “Don't admit it, Mr. President. Fight hard. & # 39;
Zuckerberg and Dorsey promised lawmakers last month to aggressively protect their platforms from tampering by foreign governments or incite violence against election results – and they followed with high-profile moves that angered Trump and his supporters.
Twitter and Facebook have both mislabeled some of Trump's information, particularly his claims linking the email voting to fraud.
On Monday, Twitter reported Trump's tweet saying "I won the election!" with the note: "Official sources called this election differently."
Facebook has also taken steps to stop the spread of election-related misinformation, including banning the Stop the Steal group, which has grown to 350,000 users in less than a day.
The group included Trump supporters organizing protests against continued vote counting, which extended Biden's lead in the days after the election.
The large group, organized through Facebook, reiterated Trump's allegations of a rigged election that invalidated the results.
While the group was being shut down, copycat groups & # 39; Stop the Steal & # 39; on Facebook, and as of Monday, the social media platform seemed to have made it harder to find.
DEMOCRATS SLAM REPUBLICANS FOR & # 39; POLITICAL SIDESHOW & # 39;
Senator Richard Blumenthal, who gave opening speeches on behalf of the Democrats on Tuesday, criticized the hearing as a "political sideshow" and claimed it was not "serious" and more of a distraction from real issues.
"Their immunity," said Blumenthal of technology companies, "is way too broad and victims of their harm deserve a day in court."
"But this hearing is certainly not the serious process we need," he continued. "It can be a political sideline, a public tar and feather."
"The fact is that the purpose of today's hearing seems to be to bully or beat you, Mr. Zuckerberg and Mr. Dorsey, as well, to act more responsibly by threatening to cut Section 230."
During the hearing, Republicans focused heavily on the disproportionate censorship of conservative votes by Twitter and Facebook, while Democrats focused on spreading misinformation on the platforms.
Republican senators also used their time to question Zuckerberg and Dorsey to complain that their claims of "stealing" the elections are being suppressed.
Democrats, on the other hand, kept repeating that Trump's election-related claims were false – and seemed to toss in the face at Republicans that their candidate had lost re-election.
Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who virtually joined, accused Republicans of calling the hearing for a "political sideshow" instead of actually having a real talk about the repeal of Section 230
Blumenthal is a big critic of big tech companies and the Democratic Party's advocate for privacy and security on the Internet. He is particularly critical of Section 230, claiming that these platforms offer too much protection.
"A series of big tech hearings on antitrust issues, privacy concerns and Section 230 are long overdue. I have indeed called for a separation from tech giants because they have abused their size and power," said Blumenthal.
He suggested separating Facebook from its WhatsApp and Instagram subsidiaries and giving consumers more protection over their data – as well as reforming Section 230, which extends to complete repeal.
"My colleagues seem to want to ignore the disinformation campaigns abroad that are supposed to encroach on our democracy," said Blumenthal, and attacked his Republican colleagues for not asking Zuckerberg and Dorsey questions about Russian interference in support of Trump's campaign.
"What we have seen here is fighting words and hate speech that certainly do not deserve protection for freedom of expression," he continued.
ONLY ORDERED TWO REFERENCES OF HUNTER'S LAPTOP AFTER HEARING ABOUT YOU
Surprisingly, Republicans only raised twice the case where Twitter and Facebook censored a New York Post story revealing malicious information about Joe Biden's son Hunter.
Chairman Lindsey Graham said the platforms acted as the "ultimate publisher" by restricting circulation, flagging the article and even preventing people from posting it or risking being banned from their account. He claimed their editors prove that Facebook and Twitter should no longer be protected under Section 230.
"What I want to find out is if you're not a newspaper on Twitter or Facebook, why do you have editorial control over the New York Post?" Graham asked early in the hearing. "You decided, and perhaps for good reason, I don't know, that the New York Post articles about Hunter Biden had to be flagged, excluded from distribution, or difficult to find."
"It seems to me you are the ultimate editor," said the Republican from South Carolina. "The New York Post's editorial decision to publish the story has been overridden in various ways by Twitter and Facebook to prevent it from being circulated."
"Well, if that's not an editorial decision, I don't know what would be," said Graham.
The second mention of the Hunter Biden story came during a questioning Republican Senator John Cornyn told Dorsey on Twitter.
"We don't want Twitter to become a distribution point for hacked materials," said Dorsey.
In his opening speech, Dorsey said the article was originally banned from being published because Twitter judged that it contained information obtained through a hack, which is against its rules.
He admitted they were wrong in their assessment after it became clear that Jäger's laptop had been turned over to the FBI and the Republicans, who then passed the information on to the Post.
"Well, you know that by writing this story you have probably given more notoriety and visibility than would have been if you had left her alone," Cornyn said.
& # 39; We recognize that. And we recognize it as a mistake we made with both the intent of the directive and the enforcement measure of not allowing people to share it publicly or privately, which is why we corrected them within 24 hours, ”defended Dorsey.
SECTION 230: THE LAW AT THE CENTER OF BIG TECH SHOWDOWN
26 words contained in a 1996 Telecommunications Revision Act enabled companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google to grow into the giants they are today.
Under US law, internet companies are generally exempt from liability for the material users posted on their networks. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 – itself part of a broader telecommunications law – provides Internet companies with a legal “safe haven”.
But Republicans are increasingly arguing that Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms have abused this protection and should lose their immunity – or at least have to earn it by meeting government-set requirements.
Section 230 is unlikely to be easily dismantled. But if it were, the internet as we know it might cease to exist.
What is Section 230?
If a news site falsely describes you as a scammer, you can sue the publisher for defamation. But if someone posts this on Facebook, you can't sue the company – only the person who posted it.
This is thanks to section 230, which states that "no provider or user of an interactive computer service may be treated as a publisher or speaker of information provided by any other information content provider".
This legal phrase protects companies that can host trillions of messages from being forgotten by someone who feels harmed by something wrong – whether their complaint is legitimate or not.
According to Section 230, social platforms can also moderate their services by removing posts that are, for example, obscene or violate the services' own standards, provided they act in “good faith”.
Where did section 230 come from?
The history of the measure dates back to the 1950s when bookstore owners were held liable for "profanity" sales of books that were not protected by the first amendment. One case eventually reached the Supreme Court which found that it created a "chilling effect" to hold someone responsible for someone else's content.
That meant plaintiffs had to prove that the booksellers knew they were selling obscene books, said Jeff Kosseff, author of "The Twenty-Six Words That Made the Internet," a book on Section 230.
A few decades later, when the commercial internet was on the rise with services like CompuServe and Prodigy. Both offered online forums, but CompuServe chose not to moderate this, while Prodigy, seeking a family-friendly image, did.
CompuServe was sued and the case dismissed. However, Prodigy ran into trouble. The judge in their case ruled that "they exercised editorial control – so you are more of a newspaper than a newspaper kiosk," said Kosseff.
That didn't go well with politicians, who feared the outcome would deter internet startups from moderating at all. And Section 230 was born.
"Today it protects against liability for user contributions as well as liability for mussels for moderating content," said Kosseff.
What if section 230 is limited or goes away?
"I don't think any of the social media companies would exist in their current form without Section 230," said Kosseff. "They designed their business models to be large platforms for user content."
There are two possible outcomes. Platforms could become more cautious, as Craigslist did after the passage of a sex trafficking bill in 2018 that carved out an exemption from Section 230 for material that "promotes or facilitates prostitution." Craigslist quickly removed its "Personals" section, which was not intended to make sex work easier. But the company didn't want to take any chances.
Indeed, this result could harm none other than the president himself, who routinely attacks individuals, entertains conspiracy theories and accuses others of the crimes.
"If platforms weren't legally immune, they wouldn't risk the legal liability that might come with accepting Donald Trump's lies, defamation, and threats," said Kate Ruane, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.
Another possibility: Facebook, Twitter and other platforms could give up moderation entirely and let the lower common denominator predominate.
Such unsupervised services could easily be dominated by trolls like 8chan, which is notorious for graphic and extremist content, said Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University. Undoing section 230 would be an "existential threat to the Internet," he said.