US legislators on the Senate Commerce Committee convened a gathering of chief executives of Facebook, Google and Twitter chiefly to discuss a controversial, decades-old law referred to as Section 230 that spares social media sites from being held liable for the way they govern their platforms.
Section 230 states that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
Under the US law, Internet firms are typically exempt from liability for content that users post on platforms.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Sundar Pichai and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, all appeared virtually and faced tough questions about the way they have handled hate speech, extremist content and election disinformation, including the most controversial online comments from President Trump.
Section 230 makes it possible for Google to provide access to a wide range of information — including high-quality local journalism — while responsibly protecting people from harm and keeping their information private, Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai said.
“I would urge the Committee to be very thoughtful about any changes to Section 230 and to be very aware of the consequences those changes might have on businesses and customers,” he added.
Pichai said that Google is deeply conscious of both the opportunities and risks the internet creates.
“I’m proud that Google’s information services like Search, Gmail, Maps, and Photos provide thousands of dollars a year in value to the average American — for free,” he said in his remarks.
“We’ve also taken many steps to raise up high-quality journalism, from sending 24 billion visits to news websites globally every month, to our recent $1 billion investment in partnerships with news publishers.”
Pichai stressed: “Let me be clear: We approach our work without political bias, full stop. To do otherwise would be contrary to both our business interests and our mission, which compels us to make information accessible to every type of person, no matter where they live or what they believe.”
It was only last week, US govt, filed anti-trust against Google, for example, and Sundar Pichai’s testimony on Wednesday before the commerce committee marked the first opportunity for members of Congress to ask him about allegations that the search giant violated federal competition law. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is also on a similar hot seat with the US legislators.
Senate lawmakers concluded their hearing with Facebook, Google and Twitter after nearly four hours of highly aggressive questioning of Zuckerberg, Pichai and Dorsey.