clashed Tuesday at a contentious hearing over claims that
social media platforms and tech companies are biased against
on the House Judiciary Committee said the hearing addressed
a serious issue. But Democrats said the hearing, coming one
interference in the 2016 presidential election during a
press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, was
a waste of time.
“This committee has oversight of the Department of Justice,”
said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.). “Our president also disparaged
the Department of Justice. Are we having a hearing on that?
Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), the panel's top Democrat, tried to
end the hearing early by introducing a motion to end
discussion of alleged bias and instead move to an executive
session on Russian election interference.
largely symbolic motion was voted down 12-10.
Democrats, such as Reps.Jamie
Cicilline(R.I.) joined Nadler and Lieu in
railing against conservatives for not putting enough focus
on Trump and Russia.
called the conservative fears about bias a “fantasy.”
Republicans pressed ahead with the hearing over how
platforms handle conservative content, grilling three
Silicon Valley executives: Facebook’s head of global policy,
Monika Bickert; Twitter’s senior policy strategist, Nick
Pickles; and YouTube’s head of policy, Juniper Downs.
lawmakers cited high-profile examples of conservative posts
being censored, including one incident when a video for Rep.Marsha
Blackburn's (R-Tenn.) Senate bid
accusing Planned Parenthood of selling "baby body parts" wastaken
downas a campaign ad on Twitter.
didn’t speak during the hearing, but she told The Hill
before that the “subjective manipulation of algorithms is of
tremendous concern for us.”
addressed it and we plan on keeping the pressure on big
tech,” she added.
pressed Google on an incident where search results claimedNazism was
an ideology of the California Republican Party. The mistake
happened because of an incorrect entry on a Wikipedia page
that Google used to auto-populate search information boxes.
you absorb content, aren’t you absorbing the
responsibility?” Issa asked. He asked if major tech
companies should now be held to the same standards as media
the hearing, Rep.Steve
Facebook on why it had allegedly shown content from Gateway
Pundit, when content from other users had been blocked.
Gateway Pundit is a far-right website that has promoted hoax
stories in the past.
asked if lawmakers should review legal safeguards that allow
companies to avoid liability for much of the user-generated
content that is posted on their platforms.
this gets further out of hand, it appears to me that Section
230 needs to be reviewed,” King said, referring to part of
the Communications Decency Act of 1996.
provision has widely been seen as pivotal in allowing the
growth of web companies by protecting them from frivolous
lawsuits over content created by users.
YouTube's Downs and the other executives said that they
shouldn't be held to the same standards as media companies.
They said online platforms don't edit users' copy or make
editorial judgments in the same way newspapers do.
the hearing, they stressed that social media platforms are
different from publishers and shouldn't be held to the same
also raised their own concerns about social media, in
particular claims that companies have been slow to take down
users who promote conspiracy theories or hoax stories.
asked Bickert why InfoWars was still on Facebook, despite
apparently violating the company's policies by repeatedly
posting false stories. InfoWars is a website that has
promoted conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook Elementary
School shooting, among others.
told him that Facebook had removed content from Infowars but
that they “have not reached the threshold” for removal yet.
on what that red line was, Bickert said only that it
has cited free speech concerns in response to such criticism
in the past.
see Pages on both the left and the right pumping out what
they consider opinion or analysis — but others call fake
news," the company said last week. "We believe banning these
Pages would be contrary to the basic principles of free
trading barbs though, both Republicans and Democrats made it
clear they intend to keep a close eye on how social media
companies police their content going further.
actions around these issues are essential to making sure
that your platforms aren’t misused to the detriment of
Jayapal(D-Wash.) told the
fine expected this week could put Google’s corrupt
business model at stake
regulators are expected to hit Google with a
multibillion fine on Tuesday or Wednesday, an
announcement that’s being closely watched not
because of the anticipated size of the penalty —
Google basically prints money at this point, so it
will be able to easily absorb the blow. What’s
really at stake is whether the EU uses the fine to
force changes in the way the search giant does
penalty coming this week is a product of Google’s
longstanding policy of requiring Android device
makers to set Google’s own search and web browsers
as the default offerings. European regulators could
fine Google as much as $11 billion if they wanted
to, but while the fine is not expected to be that
high, it is expected to top last year’s $2.72
billion antitrust penalty against Google for
unfairly ranking its comparison-shopping service
over similar offerings from rivals in search
reason this week’s fine will likely surpass that
amount is because the the probe that brought
regulators to this point was much more expansive. At
issue are the rules Google binds phone makers to if
they want to use the company’s Android operating
system, and how far European regulators might want
to go in possibly forcing Google to level the
playing field. Making it easier for smartphone
makers, in other words, to choose what apps they
want to pre-install on devices.
post, Google general counsel Kent Walker
defended the company’s position by explaining that
distributing products like Google Search together
with its Google Play app store “permits us to offer
our entire suite for free — as opposed to, for
example, charging upfront licensing fees. This free
distribution is an efficient solution for everyone —
it lowers prices for phone makers and consumers,
while still letting us sustain our substantial
investment in Android and Play.”
out today, meanwhile, speculates that anyone hoping
regulators use this week as a chance to take Google
down a peg may end up disappointed. Specifically
because, well, it’s probably too late at this point.
piece quotes Richard Windsor, an analyst at research
company Radio Free Mobile. Google is too entrenched,
he explains, a reference to realities like Android
boasting a more than 75 percent market share in four
of Europe’s five biggest regions, according toKantar
means, Windsor continues, that users in Europe are
now “completely accustomed” to using Google services
— and even prefer them.
I think separating Google Play from the rest of
Google’s Digital Life services would have very
little impact as users would simply download and
install them from the store,” Windsor said.