Wednesday’s Big Tech Senate hearing—which convened the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, and Google to discuss Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act—quickly morphed into an opportunity for Congress to grill Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey on either their overzealous (if you ask Republicans) or underwhelming (per Democrats) content moderation on social media.
Dorsey took much of the heat from Republicans, with specific ire directed at Twitter’s decision to block a recent New York Post article alleging that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, profited from Chinese deals. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas led the charge, demanding to know of Mr. Dorsey, “Who the hell elected you and put you in charge of what the media are allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to hear?”
Under fire, Dorsey used denial as his shield. Twitter actually cannot impact matters such as elections, he said, because it is “one part of a spectrum of information channels that people have.” Forget the chatter of millions on Twitter, the United States’ third biggest social media platform. We’ve got choices!
Notably, it’s the same defense Zuckerberg threw up in 2016, in response to allegations that Russian-planted, pro-Trump propaganda shared on Facebook could have influenced the presidential election. That November, less than a week after voting day, Zuckerberg called it “crazy” that fake news could’ve changed the outcome.
But also notably, within less than a year, Facebook had revealed that 150 million Americans saw Russian-backed content during the election, and Zuckerberg had vowed not to let anyone “use our tools to undermine democracy.”
So while none of us can say what’s next for Twitter, Facebook, or the election, we’ll bet that failing to acknowledge the power of social media in our country’s collective consciousness is, probably, a losing tack.