#parent | #kids | Facebook Twitter And Google CEOs Testify At Congressional Disinformation Hearing


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Google CEO Sundar Pichai are testifying Thursday before House lawmakers in a hearing focused on disinformation and extremism online.

March 25, 2021 2:49 PM EST

Zuckerberg Doubles Down, Insists Facebook Wasn’t Primarily Used By Rioters To Coordinate Capitol Attack

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended the company’s content moderation policies when asked if Facebook allowed rioters coordinate the Capitol attack on the platform.

“There was content on our services from some of these folks and I think that was problematic. But by and large I also think that putting in place policies banning QAnon, banning militias, banning other conspiracy networks, we generally made our services inhospitable to a lot of these folks and that had the unfortunate consequence of having those folks not use Facebook and use other places as well,” Zuckerberg said.

March 25, 2021 2:02 PM EST

Both Parties Worry About Facebook and YouTube Apps For Kids

Lawmakers of both parties expressed concern that Facebook is creating a separate Instagram app specifically for children under 13. When asked if Instagram Kids will have endless scrolling or the ability to use filters, Zuckerberg said he doesn’t know because the app is still in development.

“Leading experts acknowledge that social media poses risks to young people,” said Rep. Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), who also criticized the YouTube Kids app for autoplaying the next video by default.

Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fl.) also asked Zuckerberg whether Instagram Kids was a way to monetize children and “get them addicted early.”

Earlier in the hearing, Zuckerberg said his children, who are five and three-years-old, only use Messenger Kids, the company’s messaging app for children.

March 25, 2021 12:53 PM EST

Dorsey subtweets lawmakers

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey isn’t happy with the hearing so far. While questions were still underway, Dorsey tweeted a question mark and a poll with two options: yes or no. The tweet appears to be a reference to the number of lawmakers asking yes or no questions, and then interrupting the CEOs when they don’t immediately answer or try to elaborate. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) used a moment of her time to ask Dorsey which option was winning the poll, saying that Dorsey’s multitasking skills are “impressive.

Dorsey also replied to a user who said lawmakers should have “a substantive discussion” on Twitter’s protocols. “Agreed,” Dorsey said.

March 25, 2021 12:26 PM EST

Steve Scalise grills Dorsey on blocked Hunter Biden story

GOP Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) questioned Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey about the company’s October decision to temporarily block a New York Post story about Hunter Biden. Scalise contrasted the treatment of the New York Post story with a Washington Post article about Trump’s phone call with an elections investigator in Georgia, which has since been corrected because it misquoted the former president.

Twitter has admitted on multiple occasions that it made a mistake with the New York Post story, which Dorsey reiterated. He also said Twitter doesn’t have a general misleading information policy, and instead only focuses on civic integrity, manipulated media and public health.

March 25, 2021 11:59 AM EST

Zuckerberg Says Trump, Rioters Are Primarily Responsible For The January 6 Capitol Attack

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the responsibility for the Capitol riot “lies with the people who took the actions to break the law and do the insurrection.”

“Secondarily, also with the people who spread that content, including the President but others as well, with repeated rhetoric over time, saying that the election was rigged and encouraging people to organize, I think that those people bear the primary responsibility as well,” Zuckerberg added.

When asked if they think platforms were responsible for the spread of the #StopTheSteal movement, which led to the attack, Zuckerberg did not answer yes or no, but said it is Facebook’s responsibility to build systems to combat misinformation.

March 25, 2021 11:39 AM EST

Zuckerberg Says Facebook Doesn’t Profit From The Spread Of Disinformation

When asked if Facebook makes money from disinformation, Zuckerberg said, “I don’t agree with that.”

“People don’t want to see disinformation on our services, and when we do (see disinformation) it hurts our long term business,” he added.

Facebook makes the bulk of its money from its behemoth advertising business. The company has come under fire for not fact-checking political ads, though it temporarily banned all political ads in the lead up to the 2020 election, and then allowed them back on March 4. Zuckerberg has previously said political ads only make up 0.5% of its total revenue.

And during the pandemic, Facebook is banning ads that make misleading medical claims about the pandemic or vaccines.

March 25, 2021 11:16 AM EST

Google Receptive To Section 230 Changes Suggested By Zuckerberg

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has proposed a series of reforms to Section 230, a decades old law that shields companies from being held liable for user-generated content. Zuckerberg only wants tech companies to be held liable if they don’t have systems in place for identifying and removing unlawful content. Those systems should “be proportionate to platform size and set by a third-party.” And he wants firms to be transparent about their content moderation policies.

Though Google CEO Sundar Pichai has generally been more reticent to endorse changes to Section 230, he said Facebook had some “good proposals” and would “certainly welcome legislative approaches in that area.” Dorsey was more hesitant. “We think the ideas around transparency are good,” but added  “it’s going to be very hard to determine what’s a large platform and what’s a small platform.”

Though lawmakers from both parties view Section 230 reform as a way to rein in Big Tech, concrete legislative proposals appear to be stalled in Congress.

March 25, 2021 10:44 AM EST

Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers Grills CEOs On How Social Media Harms Children And Teens

GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) did not focus her questions on free speech. Instead, she took aim at how social media harms children and teens, noting that the suicide rate in Spokane County, which she represents, more than doubled from 2013 to 2016.

“What’s left our kids with a deep sense of brokenness? Why do kids, including those we lost in middle school, feel so empty at such a young, vulnerable age? Well some studies are confirming what parents and my community already know, too much time on screens and social media is leading to loneliness and despair,” she said.

Zuckerberg responded that the “research we’ve seen is that using social apps to connect with other people can have positive mental health benefits.” He went on to say that passively viewing content by scrolling through an Instagram feed, for example, “doesn’t have those positive benefits to well-being, but isn’t necessary negative.” Zuckerberg also denied that Facebook’s mission and business model involves figuring out how to get users to spend as much time as possible on the platform.

March 25, 2021 10:21 AM EST

Zuckerberg Denies Social Networks Are Responsible For Polarizing Americans

Zuckerberg took aim at the idea that social media echo chambers are solely to blame for the deep political polarization in American society. He pointed to research finding that polarization was on the rise “long before” social networks, and that not all countries with social networks are polarized.

“I believe that the division that we see today is primarily the result of a political and media environment that drives Americans apart,” he said.

March 25, 2021 10:04 AM EST

Dorsey Says Twitter Is Partly To Blame For The Capitol Riots, Zuckerberg and Pichai Dodge Question

Rep. Mike Doyle asked each CEO whether they think their platforms were responsible for the spread of the #StopTheSteal movement, which led to the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Zuckerberg did not answer yes or no, but said it is Facebook’s responsibility to build systems to combat misinformation. Zuckerberg later said the responsibility “lies with the people who took the actions to break the law and do the insurrection.”

“Secondarily, also with the people who spread that content, including the President but others as well, with repeated rhetoric over time, saying that the election was rigged and encouraging people to organize, I think that those people bear the primary responsibility as well,” Zuckerberg added.

Pichai admitted it is a “complex” question and said the company made its most “substantial” effort to fight election misinformation. Dorsey, meanwhile, said, “Yes, but you also have to take into consideration the broader ecosystem. It’s not just about the technology platforms we use.”

March 25, 2021 9:45 AM EST

Democratic Lawmakers Focus On Vaccine Misinformation, While Republicans Decry ‘Censorship’

In their opening statements, Democratic lawmakers honed in on Covid-19 misinformation, specifically posts that cast doubt on vaccines. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) said his staff have easily found and were recommended anti-vaxx content on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. “You can fix this, but you choose not to,” Doyle said.

“You are picking engagement and profit over the health and safety of your users, our nation and our democracy,” he added.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have recently taken stronger action against vaccine misinformation. Facebook in particular made waves in February when it announced a policy removing posts and groups that link vaccines to autism, leading to the takedown of major anti-vaxx groups and users such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Still, lawmakers said the updates to their polices wasn’t enough.

Republicans took a different approach, excoriating Big Tech for “censoring” views they don’t agree with.

“I’m deeply concerned by your decisions to operate your companies in a vague and biased manner with little to no accountability,” Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) said.



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