US Department of Justice looks into social media firms over free speech

Sep 06, 2018, 13:47
US Department of Justice looks into social media firms over free speech

As the hearing began, social media stocks fell, with Twitter down 4.5 percent and Facebook around 1 percent lower. Shares of other tech companies, including Alphabet GOOGL.O and Snap SNAP.N , were also down.

Facebook and Twitter executives pledged on Wednesday to better protect their social media platforms in the 2018 elections and beyond, and told Congress of aggressive efforts to root out foreign intrusions aimed at sowing divisions in American democracy.

Senators scolded Google executives for not showing up to the hearings Wednesday.

While antitrust concerns against Google and Facebook are to be expected, Eric Goldman of the High-Tech Law Institute of Santa Clara University said it would be troublesome to use antitrust law as a guise for regulating speech.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee to answer questions about their platform's roles in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and any Russian interference in the democratic process via the social networks.

Sandberg said that Facebook was "too slow to spot" Russia's purported influence operation and "too slow to act".

Dorsey also acknowledged that his company had taken too long to respond to foreign intrusions and false data. We can't do this alone.

"Obviously the tech industry has had some criticism about its level of diversity, but I think it would be important to kind of get your feel for if you're gonna avoid group-think when you're creating algorithms, how do you recruit?" asked Bucshon.

Both testified that policy changes have caught and banned millions of malicious accounts over the past year.

Senate Intelligence has been looking into Russian efforts to influence US public opinion throughout Trump's presidency, after USA intelligence agencies concluded that Kremlin-backed entities sought to boost his chances of winning the White House in 2016.

Sandburg said, "In the first 3 months of 2018 alone, over 85 percent of the violent content we took down or added warning labels to was identified by our technology before it was reported".

"In the absence of substantive explanations, users have been left to wonder why search results look the way they do, or why some posts get removed and others don't", wrote Tarleton Gillespie in Techdirt.

Social media companies have always been accused of stifling conservative views on their platforms, most recently by Donald Trump.

Twitter chief Jack Dorsey rejected any suggestion of political bias in comments prepared for a House of Representatives hearing Wednesday.

While Dorsey admitted the company had made unintentional mistakes in the past, he insisted that Twitter is now impartial.

Dorsey replied that he wants to move Twitter "out of San Francisco" and more evenly distributed around the United States and the world.

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