Partisan rancor set to flare as tech CEOs face Round 3 on Capitol Hill

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey are back on Capitol Hill on Tuesday morning — virtually, of course — for their latest grilling from lawmakers angry at alleged abuses by Silicon Valley’s giants.

But the lawmakers themselves remainly deeply divided. Republicans once again are largely focused on their accusations that big social media companies systematically censor conservatives, with Exhibit A being efforts by Facebook and Twitter to limit the spread of the New York Post’s pre-election reporting on President-elect Joe Biden’s son Hunter. Democrats, meanwhile, say the companies continue to let their platforms propagate falsehoods — including President Donald Trump’s claims to have won reelection.

These are some big moments from Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary hearing, which is also Zuckerberg’s third congressional appearance since July:

Democrats tear into Republicans for hosting hearing

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) plans to use his opening remarks to call on Facebook and Twitter to take more aggressive steps to crack down on misleading and harmful content on their sites, while ripping Republicans for dedicating the hearing to allegations of political bias.

While he’ll acknowledge that the companies have taken “baby steps” to confront a tide of misinformation and hate speech on their sites, his prepared remarks add that “destructive, violence-inciting misinformation is still a scourge on both your platforms. You must do much more.”

Blumenthal is slated to then turn his fire on Senate Republicans, who convened the hearing to drill into allegations that Silicon Valley is censoring conservative viewpoints online.

“This hearing is not a serious one. It is a political sideshow — a public tar and feathering,” Blumenthal says in his prepared statement.

Republicans panel leaders scheduled the hearing amid conservative outcry about steps Facebook and Twitter took to limit the reach of a disputed and unverified New York Post report alleging direct ties between Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s overseas business interests ahead of the election. Republican lawmakers have indicated they also plan to seize the session to accuse the companies of doing the Democratic Party’s bidding by labeling false and misleading posts by President Donald Trump and his allies.

Facebook, Twitter CEOs to voice openness to tweaking tech’s legal shield

The CEOs of Twitter and Facebook will again tell Senate lawmakers they are open to changing a key set of legal protections that shield online companies from lawsuits over the content they host.

Zuckerberg told the Senate Commerce Committee at a separate hearing last month he supports updating the quarter-century-old legal shield, provided by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. He says in his new written testimony that Facebook stands “ready to work with Congress on what regulation could look like,” including “Section 230 reform.”

Dorsey, likewise, in his written remarks urged Congress “to work with industry and civil society to build upon Section 230’s foundation, whether it be through additions to Section 230, industry-wide self-regulation best practices, or a new legislative framework."

But both also warn of the potential pitfalls of haphazardly paring back or even revoking the legal shield altogether, as Trump and Biden have both called for.

Dorsey wrote that “completely eliminating Section 230 or prescribing reactionary government speech mandates will neither address concerns nor align with the First Amendment.” And he cautions against targeted carve-outs to the law that could open social media companies up to lawsuits for hosting certain types of harmful content, as lawmakers have pushed for.

Dorsey wrote that “amending the law solely through carve-outs will inevitably favor large incumbents with vast resources who may willingly embrace such changes as it would leave only a small number of giant and well-funded technology companies.

He continued, “For innovation to thrive, we must not entrench the largest companies further.”

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