Senate Panel To Subpoena Twitter, Facebook, Google CEOs

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Subpoenas on the way after tech bosses refuse to appear on a voluntary basis before Senate panel on reform of Section 230 legal immunity

Big names from the industry are once again going to be subpoenaed to appear before more US politicians.

The last time this happened was in the summer when Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos and Sundar Pichai appeared virtually before a US committee to answer antitrust and anticompetitive allegations.

But now Reuters has reported that the US Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday unanimously voted to approve a plan to subpoena chief executives of Twitter, Alphabet’s Google and Facebook for a hearing.

Section 230

This hearing is reportedly likely to be held before the US president election on 3 November, and will focus on legal immunity enjoyed by internet companies.

Essentially the hearing will examine reforms of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which offers tech companies protection from liability over content posted by users.

It comes after US President Donald Trump earlier this year clashed publicly with Twitter, after it began applying a fact-checking warning to the President’s tweets for the first time, as part of its new policy on misleading information.

When Twitter refused to back down, President Trump signed an executive order against social networking firms.

Trump wants to “remove or change” section 230 that shields social media companies from liability for content posted by their users.

Section 230 protections have been criticised in the past by other lawmakers on both sides of the pond, who feel that it gives social networking firms a free pass on things like hate speech and content that supports terrorism.

But there is little chance this reform will be approval by Congress this year, with the Justice Department still formulating proposed changes.

Tech subpoenas

But now the US Senate Commerce Committee chaired by Republican Senator Roger Wicker is to subpoena tech CEOs about the matter.

According to Reuters, the panel’s top Democrat Maria Cantwell, who opposed the move last week, saying she was against using “the committee’s serious subpoena power for a partisan effort 40 days before an election,” changed her mind and voted to approve the move.

“I actually can’t wait to ask Mr. Zuckerberg further questions,” Cantwell reportedly said. “I welcome the debate about 230.”

Mark Zuckerberg it should be noted bore the lion share of hostile Congressional questioning in July.

The committee had originally asked the executives to come on 1 October on a voluntary basis.

But according to Senator Wicker, the tech CEOs did not agree to appear on a voluntary basis.

Wicker said Section 230’s “sweeping liability protections” are stifling diversity of political discourse on the internet.

“After extending an invite to these executives, I regret that they have again declined to participate and answer questions about issues that are so visible and urgent to the American people,” Wicker reportedly said.

So now the tech bosses will be summoned to appear.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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