Democrats have long lamented the spread of misinformation by way of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and have hounded Google’s Pichai for what information the search engine chooses to show and promote when people are searching the web.
These complaints reached a precipice following the January 6 Capitol riots.
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone sent a memo on the hearing Monday where he said the platforms should be more vigilant on combating harmful content.
‘Facebook, Google, and Twitter operate some of the largest and most influential online
social media platforms reaching billions of users across the globe. As a result, they are among
the largest platforms for the dissemination of misinformation and extremist content,’ Pallone wrote.
He said that the algorithm they use to make money off of advertising also ‘amplifies disinformation and extremist content’ to users who ‘engage more with questionable or provocative content.’
During the hearing Thursday, Democrats are expected to focus on whether tech giants could have done more to check the growing presence of right-wing extremism online – including white supremacy and the QAnon movement.
They are also likely to bring up disinformation regarding the coronavirus pandemic and the anti-vaccination (anti-vaxx) movement.
Specifically, Democrats are looking for more answers following the Jan. 6 Capitol attack and the whether tech giants could have done more to check the growing presence of right-wing extremism online – including white supremacy and the QAnon movement
Republicans, on the other hand, will look to dive into whether tech giants are unfairly targeting conservative for censorship.
Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, along with other GOP lawmakers, sent letters to Zuckerberg, Dorsey and Pichai earlier this month detailing their concerns about these issues.
While the tech giants have appeared before congressional panels before to answer for their protocols and policies, this is the first time they will testify since the attack, which Democrats claim was exacerbated by a rise of disinformation and extremism on social media.
It will also be the first time Dorsey appears before Congress after indefinitely booting Donald Trump from Twitter in claiming he was inciting more violence and misinformation through his posts following the Capitol attack.
Trump’s accounts were also suspended from Facebook and YouTube. The former president’s appeal of his Facebook suspension is currently before the platform’s oversight board.
While Democrats are more concerned with hammering the tech giants on their respective platforms’ policies on disinformation and potential spread of extremism on their sites, Republicans continue to focus on political biases.
Conservative lawmakers are pushing back on tech giants for censorship and ‘deplatforming’ of right-leaning voices – including Trump’s.
Also during the hearing, both sides are expected to do a lot of talking about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which gives social media companies certain protections against liability for what their users post to their platforms.
Despite a series of hearings featuring these tech executives, no sizable regulatory changes have resulted from the congressional efforts.
While both sides have their own motives and agenda for the hearing, they are united in their concern of the growing power of Big Tech and what Congress’ role should be in reigning that in.