More Topics

Twitter, Facebook, Google to tell Senate that new content rules would destroy expression on the internet

Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey warned in written testimony proposed changes to the Communications Decency Act could destroy free expression.
Written by Tiernan Ray, Senior Contributing Writer

The chief executives of Twitter, Facebook and Alphabet will tell Senators during a hearing on Wednesday that proposed changes to rules governing their networks could destroy people's ability to communicate on the internet, according to a report this evening by Reuters's David Shepardson and Nandita Bose, citing letters submitted by the executives.

Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Twitter, is to appear Wednesday before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, starting at 10 am, along with Alphabet chief Sundar Pichai and Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg.

Also: ZDNet readers find Google guilty of antitrust, but no consensus on remedies (Poll)

In written testimony submitted to the Committee, Dorsey stated that proposed changes to Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act "could collapse how we communicate on the internet, leaving only a small number of giant and well-funded technology companies."

Testimony submitted by Zuckerberg, the authors write, states that Section 230 is what made possible modern internet services and should be "updated" to "make sure it's working as intended," but that without it, Facebook and other companies couldn't properly moderate content.

Testimony by Pichai stated that lawmakers need to "be very aware of the consequences those changes might have on businesses and consumers," according to Shepardson and Bose.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr last month proposed reforming the 1996 Act that gives protection for companies such as Facebook by making them largely not responsible for the content on their platforms but still allowing them to restrict some content.

Among proposed changes, Barr urged changing the language governing when an online service provider should restrict content. The change would remove the term "otherwise objectionable" and instead use the term "unlawful" or "promotes terrorism."

Tomorrow's testimony comes amidst a rapid series of developments by Facebook and against the company in the past month or so. Facebook on Oct/ 7 said it will suspend US political advertisements in the US after the polls close on Nov. 3 for the US Presidential election.  That follows a prior decision in September by the site to refuse new political ads in the week leading up to the election.

And the head of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, has said he will push for reforms to the Communications Decency Act that governs the responsibility of Facebook and other platforms with respect to content.

That followed the decision two weeks ago by both Facebook and Twitter to block the circulation of a New York Post story about US Presidential candidate Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, which prompted an outcry from Republican lawmakers.

And earlier this month, the US House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee's anti-trust subcommittee issued a scathing report that accused Facebook, Apple, Google, and Αmazon of abusing their dominance in their respective markets. The chair of the subcommittee has said that separating Facebook's Instagram service from Facebook would be the right move for regulators.  

Editorial standards