Tuesday, 24 Nov 2020

Facebook accused of co-ordinating censorship with Google & Twitter as CEOs ripped for 'SILENCING Republicans'

FACEBOOK was accused of colluding with Google and Twitter to "censor" users as the CEOs were ripped for supposedly "silencing Republicans."

The Senate Judiciary Committee's virtual hearing kicked off on Tuesday morning and saw senators question Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about their practices.



While Democratic senators decried the spread of misinformation about the 2020 vote and coronavirus, Republicans claimed conservative views were being silenced online.

Pro-Trump Senator Ted Cruz quizzed Dorsey about "censoring" the New York Post's "Ukraine, crack, and sex" scandal about Hunter Biden and silencing GOP members.

Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii pointed out that President Donald Trump and other GOP members had "lied" about baseless claims of voter fraud and the election being "rigged" online.

After raising the issues of "silencing" and "tracking users" during the hearing, Senator Josh Hawley reiterated these claims on Fox Business after tweeting a screenshot of the tracking tool Facebook uses.

He alleged that a company whistleblower told his office about "internal platform called Tasks that Facebook uses to coordinate projects, including censorship."


"The platform reflects censorship input from Google and Twitter, as well," he claimed.

"Facebook censorship teams communicate with their counterparts at Twitter and Google and then enter those companies' suggestions for censorship onto the Task platform so that Facebook can follow up with them and effectively coordinate their censorship efforts."

During the hearing, Hawley asked Zuckerberg if the Big Tech companies coordinated "individuals, websites, hashtags [or] phrases to ban."

Zuckerberg replied that they "do not coordinate our policies" but added that he "would expect that some level of communication."


But Hawley claimed Facebook used Centra "to track its users, not just on Facebook, but across the entire internet."

After he said he couldn't remember the name of the tracking tool Hawley, was referring to, the Missouri senator accused Zuckerberg of feigning "amnesia."

Facebook told Fox Business that the company used Tasks as a to-do-list while Google and Twitter have yet to comment. The company also said they used Centra to aid probes into complex subjects.

Earlier, Cruz said Big Tech enjoyed the benefits of America's internet speech laws laid out in Section 230 but still "engaged in publishing decisions."


"You put up a page that says, 'Voter fraud of any kind is exceedingly rare,'" Cruz said, telling Dorsey: "you don't get to pretend you're not a publisher."

"That's not linking to a broader conversation, that's taking a disputed policy position and you're a publisher when you're doing that," he continued.

"I don’t think it’s useful to get into hypotheticals," Dorsey replied when Cruz demanded to know what would happen if he tweeted something Twitter had previously flagged.

The GOP senator been particularly hard on Dorsey during the October 28 hearing over their actions relating to the Post's Hunter Biden article.

"Mr Dorsey, who the hell elected you and put you in charge of what the media are allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to hear?" he raged.

You don't get to pretend you're not a publisher.

Today, Zuckerberg and Dorsey were both asked by Republican Senator Lindsay if they had watched the Social Dilemma on Netflix.

The docudrama features tech experts who warn against against the perils of social media and data mining.

Zuckerberg said he was "familiar with it" while Dorsey admitted that "no, I have not."

"I would encourage both of you to see it," Lindsay told them during the tense exchange, which went on for over three hours.


Senators Coons and Dick Durbin also quizzed Zuckerberg about armed militias showing up in Kenosha.

The violent clash between armed counter protesters and demonstrators culminated in Kyle Rittenberg, 15, allegedly killing two protesters and injuring a third.

Democratic senators criticized the "call to arms" which emerged on a Facebook page beforehand.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, who proposed the Honest Ad Act, flagged with Zuckerberg that there was an on his platform, claiming ballots for Trump had been thrown out in "three battleground states."

The former Democratic presidential nominee said this American Action News advertisement ran from September 29 to October and made 200,000 impressions.


Zuckerberg said he "didnt know if that specific ad violated our policies" and outlined their review process, admitting that not all ads were reviewed by human beings.

Both tech moguls were told that their defense was similar to that of the tobacco industry when the harms of smoking emerged and repeatedly asked if they knew their products were addictive.

Though Zuckerberg was evasive, Dorsey acknowledged that Twitter could be addictive and vowed to promote "better patterns of usage."

Senator Richard Blumenthal also highlighted that Donald Trump's former aide Steve Bannon had called for the beheading of Dr Anthony Fauci in a video.

Blumenthal asked Zuckerberg if he told employees that Bannon had not violated enough policies to be banned.


"The content in question did violate our policies and we took it down," Zuckerberg said, saying it varied on the type of offense.

"For other things, it's multiple," he continued, adding that he wouldn't commit to taking down Bannon's account, however.

Blumenthal told Zuckerberg was concerned that Facebook seemed to have a record of "caving" to conservative pressure and claimed Trump "exert[ed] pressure on you and others in this industry."

He acknowledged that Facebook and Twitters attempts to quell disinformation during the election were constructive, noting: “You’ve tried to slow its spread. That’s not censorship."


However, Senator Hirono pointed out that Trumps repeated "lies" about voter fraud, saying "the truth is Joe Biden won" and accused Facebook of "bending over backwards" for conservatives.

"If the president or anyone else is spreading hate speech or inciting violence… those will receive the same treatment as anyone else," Zuckerberg said.

If the president or anyone else is spreading hate speech or inciting violence… those will receive the same treatment as anyone else.

Dorsey said they leave up flagged tweets but "a lot of the sharing is disabled."

Earlier, Graham had told Zuckerberg and Dorsey that he felt large social media companies should be subject to "judgements about their judgements."

Blumenthal vowed to bring "aggressive reform" to Section 230 but cautioned against being members of the "speech police."

"Harms have been caused by big tech because you have failed in your responsibility as have others in this industry," he said. "Your platforms have … weaponized white supremacists.


"You have set back consumers in competitions making that kind of anti-trust action very important," he added. "I look forward to an opportunity of real change."

Dorsey addressed the committee and acknowledged that Twitter was there for blocking users from sharing the Post's article.

"We admitted this action was wrong and corrected it within 24 hours," he said, explaining that the organization thought the contents of Hunter Bidens laptop were obtained through hacking.

"We acknowledge there are still concerns around how we moderate content," he continued, before discussing the election.

Dorsey said they incorporated product changes and updated their policy to prevent posts which would confuse people about voting.

He said they flagged over 300,000 tweets from late October until November 11.

Zuckerberg then had the floor, citing Facebooks efforts to protect the 2020 election and said the company helped around 4.5 million people register to vote.

He said he and his wife Priscilla donated $400 million dollars to help election workers around the country.

"I'm proud of the work we've done," Zuckerberg said during his address.

Graham asked Dorsey how he felt about his and Blumenthal's statement and the Twitter exec replied that it seemed like they were "facing something that feel impossible."

Zuckerberg said he heard that there were issues around content and updating rules of the internet.


"There may be now enough common ground on views that real progress can be made here," Facebook's boss said.

Dorsey said that he didn't agree with the government setting a regularity scheme online, while Zuckerberg said perhaps, if it was something like terrorism.

"Should we leave it up to the industry … to moderate content?" Graham asked, which is when Dorsey brought up the issue of algorithms.

Zuckerberg agreed there was a role for regulation in the process, such as regulation for transparency.

He said Facebook releases a transparency report flagging violating content like terrorism to child exploitation and said a policy team sets their standards.


Zuckerberg claimed they didn't design their product to be addictive when Graham cited growing evidence that social media was addictive.

"We don't want our products to be addictive – we want people to use them because they're meaningful," Zuckerberg said, claiming they don't intend to make the newsfeed addictive.

Graham asked both bosses if they had watched the documentary The Social Dilemma and Dorsey said "no."

Zuckerberg and Dorsey said they did agree with making changes to the country's internet legislation.


Blumenthal said there was content aimed at de-legitimizing the election in January and asked that they be entered into the record.

He said he wanted to know within a week what additional steps they were taking to stop the spread of disinformation ahead of the Georgia runoff.

He also asked the businessman if Facebook used the Onavo Protect data to mine people's WhatsApp data.

Meanwhile, GOP Senator John Cornyn III said he was concerned that big tech could regulate online speech.

He too quizzed Dorsey about the Hunter Biden "Ukraine, sex, and crack" scandal, who admitted it was a "mistake" to disallow people from sharing it.

He said initially, they thought it was in violation of their terms of service regarding hacked materials.

When Senator Feinstein asked how long it took for misinformation about voting or the election to be flagged, Dorsey said anywhere from five to 30 minutes.

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