Big Tech Heads Suggest Openness to Greater Transparency Rules

The CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google told Congress that new regulatory requirements could bolster user trust.

Testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said that they would be willing to submit to more extensive transparency rules on how their platforms moderate user-posted content.

Following a unanimous vote by the Committee, the three CEOs were called to testify virtually amid debate on a possible revision of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the decades-old federal laws that shield internet platforms from liability for the content that their users post.

The questioning of the CEOs largely fell along partisan lines, with Democratic senators voicing concerns over the proliferation of misinformation on their platforms and Republican senators accusing the executives of showing political bias in their moderation of content.

Dorsey suggested the imposition of rules to restore user confidence in internet platforms’ willingness to handle potentially controversial content in “good faith”. Among his suggestions were publishing the details of platforms’ moderation practices, letting users choose the algorithms that determine what they see on online platforms and allowing affected users to appeal moderation decisions.

“They could be expansions to Section 230, new legislative frameworks or a commitment to industrywide self-regulation best practices,” Dorsey said.

Pichai also said that Google, Alphabet’s subsidiary, would be willing to work with Congress on reforming Section 230, but urged caution in modifying the statute so that users would be able to post without restrictive government oversight and websites would not lose the legal protections that their business models rely upon.

Zuckerberg also agreed that “increasing transparency into the content moderation process would be an important step toward trust and accountability.”

In July, the House Antitrust Subcommittee grilled the chief executives of four of America’s largest tech giants in a televised hearing. The CEOs of Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon were grilled on their companies’ “monopoly power” over their respective industries and their ability to gate out challengers to their business models by controlling the content that gains priority on their established platforms.

Dorsey and Zuckerberg are scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on 17 November over what a press release described as “censorship and suppression of news articles” and platforms’ handling of election news.

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