Big Tech Facebook, Google and Twitter along with their CEOs Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai and Jack Dorsey have been called on to answer for how their platforms monitor and remove content posted online.
Section 203 of the Communications Decency Act affirms: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider”, in other words Section 203 protects digital platforms that do not have criminal responsibility on what is said or done by third parties and on the posts published by third parties.
US President Trump expressed his desire to change this law; the Department of Commerce received the task to submit a petition to the FCC, Federal Communications Commission, in order to review and re-evaluate Section 203. Joe Biden also expressed his agreement to repeal the law.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee hearing took place via videoconference with the Republicans and Democrats, but it turned into a verbal dispute not only among lawmakers who inveigh against the three companies, but also among all the lawmakers who attacked each other.
Republican senators accuse social networks and the three companies of censoring conservative posts, thus influencing American citizens and their political choices.
Democrats for their part want companies to take more decisive and more effective measures in order to oppose disinformation and do not influence elections.
Zuckerberg, Pichai and Dorsey support the “criminal shield” and how important it is for the defence of freedom of expression on the web.
Jack Dorsey states that “Section 203 is the most important law protecting internet speech”, its abolition would change the way people communicate online and would compromise freedom of expression. Sundar Pichai says: “Of course, our ability to provide access to a wide range of information is only possible because of existing legal frameworks like Section 230”. Mark Zuckerberg affirms that if the law will be abrogated platforms will increase censorship to escape legal risks.
Republican Roger Wicker, who chairs the committee, said it is important to protect companies from liability, but also to make sure that companies do not censor content they dislike.