Republican Senator Ted Cruz attacked Jack Dorsey on Wednesday during a hearing about Big Tech's handling of politics on their platforms when he beat up the Twitter CEO for censoring tweets linked to the New York Post story and the Hunter Biden's damaged hard drive contents revealed.
& # 39; Lord. Dorsey, who the hell chose you and made you responsible for what the media can report and what the American people can hear? And why do you continue to behave like a democratic super-PAC that silences views that contradict your political beliefs? & # 39; Cruz yelled as he remotely joined a hearing on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The law allows tech platforms not to be sued for what their users post.
The hearing was scheduled by Republican senators after Twitter stopped tweets referencing the story about Hunter Biden and Facebook restricted its users' ability to post it. It was titled, "Does Section 230's Comprehensive Immunity Enable Bad Technical Conduct?"
Republicans say conservative viewpoints are being censored by major tech platforms, and called on Dorsey, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Sundar Pichai for a hearing – according to Democrats, campaigning was intended to increase claims about Joe Biden's association with corruption.
At the start of the hearing, Dorsey admitted that conservatives do not believe that Twitter is "acting in good faith," and said he wanted to be more transparent about how they felt.
As the hearing resumed, Donald Trump live tweeted his response, accusing "Big Tech" of "failing to cover the corruption in Biden" and demanding "repeal of section 230".
That move would turn the internet upside down, according to tech CEOs, as Google's Pichai warns its protection is "fundamental" and Dorsey said repeal would "end free speech" rather than end censorship.
Republicans have increasingly turned their anger on Twitter and, to a lesser extent, Facebook over the platforms' handling of Trump's tweets, some of which have been deemed misinformation and have even been completely removed.
They also beat up Google for "demonizing" the conservative website The Federalist, while the Democrats have raised concerns about all three platforms that allow conspiracy theories, especially QAnon, to flourish and fail to stop foreign election interference.
However, the hearing was briefly interrupted at the beginning when Zuckerberg was unable to register. It was adjourned shortly after Republican Chairman Roger Wicker said, “Members should be advised that we cannot contact Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook staff tell us that he is alone and is trying to contact this hearing. & # 39; He connected a minute later.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted Wednesday that conservatives "do not trust us to act in good faith" as Republicans said "conservative voices" were disproportionately censored and suppressed by big tech
Confrontation: Ted Cruz went after Jack Dorsey and accused him of running his company as the "Democratic Super PAC" for censoring Hunter Biden's emails
Dorsey, along with Facebook's Mark Zuckrberg (left) and Google CEO Sundar Pichai (right), was called to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to hear how they deal with political content on their websites, arguing that Section 230 of the The Crucial Communications Decency Act is to allow free speech on the Internet
Live Tweeting: Donald Trump made live commentary on the hearing as it played out on Twitter, claiming it was censoring a Fox News interview with a former Hunter Biden business partner Tony Bobulisnki who claimed Joe Biden was himself aware of corruption.
TED CRUZ TO JACK DORSEY: "YOUR ANSWERS ARE ABSURB"
Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas and a staunch ally of Donald Trump, claimed Dorsey and the other tech CEOs were trying to monitor what Americans read and post online and influence the election result.
The New York Post story revealed something of what was found on Hunter Biden's intercepted hard drive, which he left in a computer repair shop.
Censored: The New York Post story about Hunter Biden was not circulated by Twitter
Facebook also restricted the sharing of the story, citing its policy of slowing the spread of potential "misinformation". It was said to be under review, although after more than two weeks no such review was made public. The newspaper remains banned from its Twitter account.
Twitter took a more aggressive stance towards users who tweeted the article, and suspended the accounts of those who shared the link until they deleted the tweet with the post article.
Cruz noted in a tweet that he couldn't attempt to tweet the link until Wednesday afternoon without receiving an error message from Twitter claiming the tweet could not be sent because it contained a link that was labeled "potentially harmful." "was classified.
The link can now be posted on Twitter.
The Post reported earlier this month that emails showed Hunter Biden arranging meetings between his then-vice president and executives of a Ukrainian energy company.
It also contained a variety of other information that could be considered detrimental to Biden's electoral chances. Following stories
Dorsey said the Post's Twitter account ban will be lifted if they delete their original tweet, which contained private information – an obvious reference to the email address included in the original article.
When Cruz Dorsey urged whether he believed his social media site was influencing the election in any way, the Twitter CEO defended Section 230's protection.
& # 39; Lord. Dorsey, does Twitter have the ability to influence elections? & # 39; Asked Cruz.
"No, we are part of a spectrum of communication channels that people have," countered Dorsey.
"You are now testifying to this committee that if Twitter silences people, if it censors people, if it blocks political speech – it will not affect elections," Cruz chuckled sarcastically.
"People have a choice between other communication channels," argued Dorsey.
"Not if they don't hear information, if you don't believe you have the power to influence elections, then why are you blocking something?" said the senator.
& # 39; Well we have guidelines aimed at making sure more votes are possible on the platform. We see a lot of abuse and harassment. & # 39;
"Okay, Mr. Dorsey, I find your opening answers absurd on your face," Cruz said before continuing.
We throttled Hunter's emails because the FBI warned against Russian disinfection, says ZUCKERBERG
When asked about Facebook, which also narrows the reach of the New York Post story about Hunter and Joe Biden, Zuckerberg announced that an FBI warning contributed to the decision.
The Facebook chief told lawmakers the FBI warned of hack-and-leak operations ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election – and Zuckerberg climbed Russia, Iran and China to try the social media platform for the operation to use disinformation campaigns.
"One of the threats the FBI made our companies aware of was the possibility of a hack-and-leak operation in the days or weeks leading up to this election," Zuckerberg said.
“So you both had public statements from the FBI (inaudible) in private meeting notices that were at least directed at our company. I am also starting from the others who indicated that we are on the highest alert and sensitivity, even if a lot of documents appear to be viewed with suspicion that it may be part of a foreign tampering attempt, ”he continued away.
Facebook argued it wanted to limit the spread of disinformation as some of the claims in the article were unfounded – even though the Post quoted direct from the hard drive.
Facebook restricted distribution of the post's main story, which included multiple offshoot stories, while the outside fact-checkers verified the claims made in the article, spokesman Andy Stone said when the article was published two weeks ago.
This meant that during the review, Facebook's algorithms would not place posts associated with the story heavily in people's newsfeeds, greatly reducing the number of users who saw them during that time.
The review did little to limit the circulation of the article as the article was liked, shared, or commented on nearly 600,000 times on Facebook on the same day it was published.
WE DON'T BAN HOLOCAUST, SAYS DORSEY
Trump's tweets have been labeled "misleading" by Twitter on several occasions, but Republican Senator Cory Gardner urged Dorsey not to censor Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's tweets, which include denial of the Holocaust and demand for the "eradication" of Israel belong.
"Do you think the Holocaust really happened?" Gardner asked Dorsey, to which he replied, "Yes."
“So you would agree that someone who says the Holocaust may not have happened is spreading disinformation? Yes or no, ”urged the Colorado Republican.
"Uh – yes," said Dorsey.
"I appreciate your answers on this subject, but they surprise me," Gardner said. After all, the Iranian Ayatollah did just that – to question the Holocaust. And yet his tweets on the Twitter platform remain unchanged. & # 39;
Dorsey argued that tweets will only be flagged if they contain "misinformation" or "misleading" information about three different categories: "manipulated media"; public health, especially COVID; and civic integrity, electoral influence and electoral suppression. & # 39;
"We don't have guidelines or enforcement measures for any other type of misleading information you mention," Dorsey said.
Dorsey also drew fire for allowing the ayatollah's threatening statements about Israel to remain on the site while Republicans shot at him for announcing some of Trump's comments.
Republican Senator Cory Gardner urged Dorsey why his website was not censoring tweets from the Iranian leader who denied the Holocaust and called for Israel to be "eliminated".
Why is that ok? The Republicans followed up on Twitter for allowing the top Iranian leader to attack Israel and, in other tweets, to deny the Holocaust
He distinguished this from how statements from US leaders would be treated.
"Speaking against our own people or the citizens of a country is different from our point of view and can cause more immediate damage," he said.
Dorsey was asked about tweets from the Iranian leader by Mississippi Republican Senator Roger Wicker, who chairs the hearing's subcommittee.
“We will support and support any nation or group that opposes and opposes the Zionist regime, and we do not hesitate to say so. #FlyTheFlag & # 39; Ali Khamenei wrote on Twitter in May.
The Ayatollahs' Twitter account sent excerpts from his speech on Quds Day in Tehran. Al-Quds is the Arabic and Pesian word for Jerusalem.
Another tweet said, “The Zionist regime is a lethal, cancerous growth and a disadvantage for this region. It will undoubtedly be uprooted and destroyed. Then shame will fall on those who put their institutions at the service of normalizing relations with this regime.
Wicker pressed Dorsey on why his company had posted warning signs on President Trump's tweets about election fraud, but allowed tweets from Iran and the Chinese regime to stay awake.
“You routinely restrict the President of the United States. How does a Chinese communist claim that the U.S. military is responsible for COVID stand for two months without fact-checking and the president's tweet about the security of postal ballot papers is immediately labeled? & # 39; he asked.
"The goal of our labeling is to provide more context and connect the dots together so people can have more information and make decisions for themselves," he said.
"THEY HAVE LOST OUR FAITH," DORSEY SAYS TO THE CONSERVATIVES
Dorsey admitted during the hearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and Internet that Conservatives "do not trust us to act in good faith".
In his opening speech, which he also posted as a thread on Twitter, Dorsey said, “Section 230 gave Internet services two important tools. The first provides immunity from liability for the user's content. The second provides "good Samaritan" protection for moderation and removal of content, even constitutional language, as long as it is done "in good faith".
"Section 230 gave Internet services two important tools," said Dorsey in his opening speech, which he published in part as part of a Twitter thread. & # 39; The first provides immunity from liability for the user's content. The second provides "good Samaritan" protection for moderation and removal of content, even constitutional language, as long as it is done "in good faith".
& # 39; This concept of & # 39; 'Good faith' is being challenged by many of you today. Some of you do not trust us to act in good faith, ”he continued.
"This is the problem I want to focus on solving," Dorsey vowed. & # 39; How do services like Twitter earn your trust? How do we ensure more choice in the market when we don't? & # 39;
Republican Senator Roger Wicker, chairman of the committee, said it was important to protect companies from liability without giving them the ability to censor content they dislike.
"It is time for this free pass to end," he said.
A mostly empty room gathered – as many senators and the three video witnesses – in front of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet
Dorsey, who attended the hearing remotely like the other CEOs, argued that tweets are only flagged if they contain "misinformation" about "manipulated media". public health, especially COVID; and civil integrity, electoral influence and electoral suppression "
“You're spreading a lie that I strangled my neighbor's dog. IT IS VOTER SUPPRESSION! & # 39; GOP & # 39; S RON JOHNSON LASHES DORSEY ABOUT LIES
Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson also pushed Dorsey on Twitter, being selective about what should be censored. He insisted on being a victim of voter suppression.
The claim comes after a tweet was posted in which the user, admittedly lying, said Johnson strangled her dog.
& # 39; Lord. Dorsey, you discussed your disinformation policy and you will block misinformation when it comes to civil integrity, electoral interference or voter suppression. Let me give you a tweet that was posted on Twitter, ”he said, reading the tweet.
Sen Ron Johnson is my neighbor and strangled our dog Buttons right in front of my 4 year old son and 3 year old daughter. The police refuse to investigate. This is a complete lie, but important to retweet and determine that more of my lies are to come, ”read a tweet from a user named Mary T. Hagan.
Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson urged Dorsey on why Twitter hadn't removed a viral tweet where a woman claimed the Senator strangled her dog – she admitted in the tweet it was a lie
& # 39; We contacted Twitter and asked them to remove it. And here is the answer: “Thank you for getting in touch. We passed this on to our support team for review and determined that this is not a violation of our guidelines. & # 39; So, Mr. Dorsey, how could a complete lie be – admittedly, it is a lie. How does that not affect civil integrity, how can you not see it as an electoral impairment? & # 39; he said.
& # 39; That could affect my ability to be re-elected. How could that not be a violation of voter suppression? & # 39; asked the Wisconsin Senator. “If people think I'm strangling my neighbor's dog, they may not show up in the polls. That would be a suppression of the voters. & # 39;
“Why didn't Twitter get rid of that? By the way, this tweet has been retweeted about 17,000 times and viewed and loved, commented on and cherished by over 50,000 people. How is that not voter suppression or polluting? How does that not affect civil integrity? & # 39;
"We need to investigate our enforcement or not the enforcement of the tweet on this case," Dorsey replied. "We can come back to you with more context."
The Senator moved on but continued his aggressive questioning of Dorsey.
CLASHES OVER & # 39; FOUNDATIONAL & # 39; PROTECTION TECH GETS FROM SECTION 230 (WITH LIVE TWEETS FROM THE PRESIDENT)
In his opening address, Senator Wicker said that while Section 230's liability protection has protected companies from “potentially ruinous lawsuits”, it has also allowed Big Tech to “suffocate” users they disagree with.
& # 39; But it has also given these internet platforms the ability to control, suppress and even censor content in any way that meets their respective standards. It is time for this free ticket to end, ”said the chairman's opening speech.
Republicans argue that if these sites censor content and monitor what their users can post, that protections should be void for big tech.
As a result of the president's attacks, Republican lawmakers' calls for Section 230 reform increased ahead of the November 3 election.
But the tech bosses pushed back.
In their prepared testimony, Dorsey, Zuckerberg and Pichai discussed proposed amendments to a provision of a 1996 law that served as the basis for an unqualified speech on the Internet. Critics of both parties say the Section 230 immunity allows social media companies to relinquish their responsibility for impartially moderating content.
Zuckerberg acknowledged that Congress "should update the law to ensure that it works as intended".
Dorsey and Pichai cautioned when making changes. "Undermining Section 230 will result in far greater removal of online speech and severely limit our collective ability to target harmful content and protect people online," said Dorsey.
Pichai appealed to lawmakers "to be very thoughtful about changes to Section 230 and to be aware of the consequences these changes could have for businesses and consumers".
Pichai said Google operates without political prejudice and that doing so would be against its business interests. He has called
The committee was unable to contact Zuckerberg from Facebook Inc. and declared a brief pause. Shortly afterwards he appeared and said, "I was having a hard time connecting."
Zuckerberg said he supported a change in the law but also warned that tech platforms are likely to censor more to avoid legal risk if Section 230 is repealed.
All three CEOs agreed that if the platforms act as publishers, the companies should be held liable – at first glance an admission, but in reality a repetition of their position that they are not publishers.
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 act – 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: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service may be treated as the 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 they have been hurt 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 couple of decades later when the commercial internet started 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 exception to Section 230 for material that "promotes or facilitates prostitution". Craigslist quickly removed its "Personals" section, which wasn't 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.
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