WASHINGTON (AP) – A Senate committee has convened Facebook and Twitter executives to defend their handling of misinformation in the 2020 election between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden. But senators are deeply divided by parties on the integrity and results of the election myself.
The Senate Justice Committee held a hearing Tuesday to question Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter about the actions of their companies around the highly contested election. The two social media executives are expected to testify via video.
Prominent Republican senators ̵
Graham, a close ally of Trump, publicly called: “Don’t back down, Mr. President. Fight hard. ”
Zuckerberg and Dorsey promised lawmakers last month that they would aggressively guard their platforms from being manipulated by foreign governments or used to incite violence over the election results – and they followed with high steps that angered Trump and his supporters.
Twitter and Facebook have hit a label for misinformation on some content from Trump, most notably his allegations linking the postal vote to fraud. On Monday, Twitter tweeted Trump, announcing “I won the election! with this note: “Official sources called these elections differently.”
Facebook also took action two days after the election to ban a large group called Stop Theft which Trump supporters used to organize protests against the vote count. The group of 350,000 members reiterated Trump’s baseless allegations of fraudulent elections that invalidate the results.
Days after the election, while the vote count continued, Stop the Steal groups were easily found on Facebook. As of Monday, Facebook appears to have made them harder to find, although it is still possible to find them, including some groups of thousands of members.
By carefully watching how companies have the power to filter their speech and ideas, Trump and Republicans accuse social media companies of anti-conservative bias. Democrats also criticize them, albeit for various reasons. As a result, both sides are interested in removing some of the protections that protect technology companies from legal liability for what people post on their platforms. Biden heartily approved of such an action.
But the actions taken by companies around the election are likely to be the dominant focus of Tuesday’s hearing.
The Republican majority in the Judiciary Committee threatened Zuckerberg and Dorsey with subpoenas last month if they did not agree to voluntarily testify at Tuesday’s hearing. Republicans in the Senate Trade Committee put the two executives and Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, to a hearing last month as they said it was a model of silencing conservative views while giving freedom to political actors from countries like China and Iran.
Despite security concerns on the eve of Nov. 3 and social media companies preparing for the worst, the election turned out to be the safest in U.S. history, federal and state officials from both parties said, dismissing Trump’s baseless allegations of fraud. .
Facebook insists it has learned its lesson from the 2016 election and is no longer a channel for misinformation, voter repression and election interruptions. This fall, Facebook said it had removed a small network of accounts and pages linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency, a “troll factory” that uses social media accounts to sow political discord in the United States since the 2016 election. Twitter stopped five linked accounts.
But critical outsiders, as well as some of Facebook’s own employees, say the company’s efforts to strengthen its safeguards remain insufficient, even though it has spent billions.
“Facebook only acts if it senses a threat to their reputation or their ultimate position,” said Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the Center for Combating Digital Hate. The organization had pressured Facebook to remove the Stop the Steal group.
There is no evidence that social media giants are biased towards conservative news, publications or other material, or that they prefer one side of the political debate to another, the researchers found. But criticism of companies’ policies and their treatment of election-related misinformation has come from both Democrats and Republicans.
Democrats have focused their criticism mainly on hate speech, misinformation and other content that could incite violence, prevent people from voting or spread lies about the coronavirus. They criticize technology executives for failing to contain police content, and accuse platforms of playing a role in hate crimes and the rise of white nationalism in the United States.
AP technology author Barbara Ortutai of Oakland, California, contributed to this report.
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