A trio of Silicon Valley executives made their way to Capitol Hill on Tuesday for a hearing, and it turned into a rather contentious affair. Lawmakers were trying to determine if there’s anything to the claims that social media platforms and tech companies are biased against conservative viewpoints.
Facebook’s head of global policy, Monika Bickert, Twitter’s senior policy strategist, Nick Pickles, and YouTube’s head of policy, Juniper Downs, had a front row seat to witness democracy in action. Said another way, they were right in the middle of yet another hearing that devolved into sniping and partisan bickering.
Amidst all of the noise and grandstanding from the various politicos in attendance, there were actually some solid points made. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) had a question for the tech giants in regards to a recent controversy that arose over Google’s attribution of the ideology ‘nazism’ to the California Republican Party.
The tech giant claimed that it was the result of an auto-populate feature and they were unaware of what happened until it was brought to their attention. It appears as if that explanation is a little tough to take for Issa, and he wondered aloud if Google and other tech giants should be held to the same standards as media companies.
“When you absorb content, aren’t you absorbing the responsibility?” he asked.
For Rep. Steve King (R-IA), he wonders if it’s time to remove the built-in excuse that platforms are legally afforded by not being held accountable for user-generated content’
“If this gets further out of hand, it appears to me that Section 230 needs to be reviewed,” King said, in reference to part of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.
While nothing earth-shattering was accomplished at the hearing, it’s nonetheless encouraging to see that the tech giants of the world find themselves under the microscope. It’s rather simple: if the various outlets benefit from news being shared on their platforms via additional clicks and bumps in ad revenue, then they deserve to be called on the carpet when situations go south. Period.
The same applies for their proclivity for promoting specific viewpoints while shunning others. If the algorithms manage to flag one viewpoint over and over, then why on earth are outrageous talking points from other ideologies allowed to slip through with reckless abandon? Food for thought, and we’ll patiently wait for the social media behemoths to provide an answer that’s not downright laughable.
Read more: The Hill