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Congress Again With the Big Tech Questions

The Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee this week tried again to get a handle on whether the nation’s big social media companies are some sort of threat to the greater good. They also tried again to figure out just what it is these companies, that so many of us use, actually do.

What, if anything, Congress or the government can and should do about the companies – and the extent of what exactly Congress is worried about – remained a bit unclear, though there were hints that efforts to impose some form of additional government regulations on the companies may be coming.

The “size and reach of your platforms demand that we, as policymakers, do our job, to ensure proper oversight, transparency and protections for American users and for our democratic institutions,” said Sen. Mark Warner in his opening statement to the Senate panel. But, Warner acknowledged, “where we go from here is an open question.”

Clearly, the revelations of efforts by Russians to use social media platforms to influence elections has been a concern for many members of Congress. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg acknowledged the company’s failure to prevent that, and said the company is determined to prevent a repeat.

“We were too slow to spot this and too slow to act,” Sandberg said in her opening statement. “That’s on us. This interference was completely unacceptable. It violated the values of our company and of the country we love.”

Sandberg said the company has outlined to Congress actions it has taken to avoid a similar occurrence.

While Twitter and Facebook testified, Google was criticized by some on the panel for declining to send its CEO, Larry Page.

Here’s a roundup of the detailed coverage of the hearings:

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill had no shortage of complaints for Facebook and Twitter at a hearing Wednesday. They decried the platforms’ vulnerability to foreign influence, their arcane handling of user data and the perception that they buried conservative voices.
When Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, it was the fourth such hearing held by the committee in the past year on how foreign actors are manipulating users on social platforms.
“Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey faced questions well beyond Russian interference and fake news in a day of hearings on Capitol Hill that swerved between Chinese government censorship, data privacy, Iranian trolls, misogyny, racism, “shadow banning,” and illegal drugs sold on their platforms.”

SF Chron:

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg promised to round up specifics later. Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey vowed improvement. And Google had an empty chair.

Bloviating conspiracy theorist Alex Jones whispered loudly in the front row with far-right media personality Jack Posobiec. Banned Twitter troll Chuck Johnson sat a few seats down giggling intermittently at who knows what. A man in a black shirt with the words “FBI used toddler for SEX” printed in red block print meandered in and out of the room. The internet’s biggest problems quite literally took a front-row seat at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Wednesday, where Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, updated lawmakers on how they’re addressing the issues of foreign influence and fake news that have plagued their platforms.

RELATED: Attorney General Sessions, AGs Think Private Companies Facebook, Twitter, Should Have to Be Unbiased. Politico


Facebook COO  Sheryl Sandberg Opening Statement

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Opening Statement

About David Royse

David Royse
David Royse is the Editor-in-Chief of Ledetree.com. He has been a professional journalist for more than 20 years, including stints with The Associated Press and The News Service of Florida. He enjoys writing about health and medical science, and hopeful stories about scientific breakthroughs and new technology.

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