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Google, Facebook and Twitter under fire from critics in Congress

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                Heard in the US Senate on Thursday, the bosses of Facebook, Twitter and Google were faced with strong criticism from elected officials, who hold these platforms responsible for the rise of extremism and infox.  If the three leaders had to demonstrate their commitment against disinformation and hatred online, they refused too strict control of the content disseminated on social networks. 

                                    <p>The bosses of Facebook, Twitter and Google have once again defended, Thursday, March 25, before the United States Congress their efforts to fight against online disinformation.  This hearing was held after a disputed US presidential election, riots on Capitol Hill and the coming to power of the government of Joe Biden, apparently determined to do battle with Big Tech.

It was the fourth hearing before parliamentarians since July, by interposed camera, of Mark Zuckerberg (CEO of Facebook) and Jack Dorsey (boss of Twitter), and the third for Sundar Pichai (boss of Google).

Large technology companies are in the crosshairs of elected officials, both Republicans and Democrats, because of their economic and political power.

>> See also: Gafa: “Companies will become more powerful than States”

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The questions mainly focused on their role in the spread of false rumors about Covid-19 vaccines or false claims about massive electoral fraud during the November 2020 poll.

“The time has come to hold online platforms accountable for their role in the rise of disinformation and extremism,” said Democrat Frank Pallone, chairman of the House of Representatives committee on Energy and Trade.

Social networks singled out in the assault on the Capitol

The attack on the Capitol, on January 6, was thus “motivated, started and nourished by your platforms”, denounced the elected Mike Doyle. Extremist supporters of Donald Trump, convinced that the election had been “stolen” from their hero, had invaded the seat of Congress, interrupting the certification of the victory of Joe Biden. This assault left five dead and shocked the country.

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The former US president and his allies had been cultivating the myth of massive electoral fraud for months, especially on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube (Google).

The three leaders defended the unprecedented arsenal of measures taken to curb disinformation, calls for violence or racist comments. “Our content monitoring process is set to constantly evolve,” said Jack Dorsey, who said Twitter focuses on media manipulation, public health and civic integrity.

Sundar Pichai pointed out that YouTube had “deleted 850,000 videos and blocked nearly 100 million advertisements linked to Covid-19 in 2020”.

If the three bosses assured of their commitment against disinformation, they underlined the threat of too strict content control on freedom of expression. “No one wants a world where you can only say things that private companies have deemed to be the truth, where every text, email, video and comment has to be checked” before it is sent, said Mark Zuckerberg .

The “Section 230” law called into question

At the heart of this debate is “Section 230”, a 1996 law that protects Internet hosts from lawsuits related to content posted by third parties, the cornerstone of social networks. Many parliamentarians want to reform it to facilitate legal action against the platforms.

Mark Zuckerberg said he was open to changes, however advocating the establishment of a system to identify illegal content and remove it, without the platforms being held responsible for any publication that passes through the cracks.

“It’s reasonable to expect large corporations to have effective surveillance systems, but not reasonable to expect them to never make mistakes,” he said. Any reform that abolishes immunity “could harm” small platforms, he warned.

Jack Dorsey insisted on the need to restore trust with users, including giving them more control over more transparent algorithms.

Joe Biden surrounded by personalities hostile to GAFA monopolies

Outside Congress, demonstrators had portrayed effigies of Capitol Hill rioters with the faces of the three big bosses to denounce the role of networks in the violence.

Joe Biden sent clear signals to GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple) by surrounding himself with personalities known for their harsh approach.

Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia University and advocate for tougher antitrust laws, has joined the prestigious White House National Economic Council.

And the president confirmed this week his intention to appoint lawyer Lina Khan, another Columbia professor hostile to tech giant monopolies, as head of the US competition agency (FTC).

With AFP


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