CEOs of Facebook, Google and Twitter subpoenaed by US Senate Committee

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on October 02, 2020 Published on October 02, 2020

The CEOs are likely to be questioned about controversies related to privacy, hate speech and misinformation

The United States Senate Committee has unanimously voted to subpoena the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of three big tech companies — Facebook, Google and Twitter.

The committee at a hearing on Thursday unanimously approved authorisations through voice votes to issue subpoenas “to compel the testimony of Jack Dorsey, Chief Executive Officer, Twitter; Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive Officer, Alphabet Inc., Google; and Mark Zuckerberg, Chief Executive Officer, Facebook.”

The three CEOs had previously been asked to testify voluntarily on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. However, they had agreed to after repeated requests to testify before the Committee, it said in an official release.

The vote which initially appeared to be a Republican-led effort to hold the companies accountable for the companies leveraging Section 230 to silence conservative viewpoints gained bipartisan support.

Aggregation of power

“Technology companies argue that their broad liability shield should remain in place,” said US Senator Roger Wicker. “However, they disproportionately suppress and censor conservative views online. Public testimony from these CEOs is critical as the Committee considers several proposals to reform the Communications Decency Act.”

The focus however shifted towards the “power” that the companies enjoy. The legal proceedings moving forward are likely to focus on the legal protections enjoyed by the tech companies along with their role in limiting misinformation and ensuring privacy.

“There has never been such an aggregation of power in the history of humankind as big tech enjoys today, with money and monopoly, power and the hubris that comes with the unchecked use of power,” said Republican Senator Ted Cruz said after the vote.

Also read: Google to block ads related to US elections after polls close on November 3: Report

These CEOs are likely to be questioned about controversies related to privacy, hate speech and misinformation.

The fresh subpoenas follow an earlier July hearing where CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google had testified in front of a US Senate Committee in an antitrust hearing related to competition and bias.

Section 230

The new hearing comes along the heels of the committee considering a new Bill from Senator Linday Graham focussed on limiting the scope of Section 230. US President Donald Trump earlier this year had also argued in favour of scrapping the section which currently provides certain amount of protection to these companies.

Also read: US Justice Department proposes changes to internet platforms’ immunity

The section currently does not hold the companies liable if problematic posts by users are taken down from platforms once notified, unlike traditional newspaper publishers.

The agenda was passed on Thursday during the hearing after the Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Committee had objected to the subpoenas last week.

“With more than 150,000 people employed by Facebook, Google, and Twitter to manage daily operations, these CEOs can make time to spend a few hours with this committee. Their participation is required to reveal the extent of influence that their companies have over American speech during a critical time in our democratic process,” Wicker had said in his statement.

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

Published on October 02, 2020