WASHINGTON D.C.: At a virtual hearing held by the two subcommittees of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, U.S. lawmakers asked the chief executives of Facebook, Google and Twitter “yes or no” whether their platforms bore some responsibility for the riot involving Trump supporters storming the U.S. Capitol.
In their first appearance before the Congress, only Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey replied “yes” to the question, but stressed the need to take the “broader ecosystem” into account.
Stating that Google feels a sense of responsibility, Sundar Pichai, CEO, said it was still a complex question.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his company was responsible for building “effective systems” and that the rioters and former President Donald Trump should be held accountable.
Social media has been under the scanner after it amplified calls to violence and spread misinformation that contributed to the Jan. 6 attempt to overturn the election results.
Lawmakers, too, criticized the platforms’ approach to false or dangerous content.
“We fled as a mob desecrated the Capitol, the House floor, and our democratic process,” said Democratic Representative Mike Doyle, who asked the CEOs about their responsibility. “That attack, and the movement that motivated it, started and was nourished on your platforms,” he added.
During the hearing, lawmakers also questioned the executives on the proliferation of COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation and raised concerns about the impact of social media on children.
“Your business model, itself, has become the problem and the time for self-regulation is over. It’s time we legislate to hold you accountable,” said Democratic Representative Frank Pallone, chair of the Energy and Commerce committee.
Some lawmakers are calling for the scrapping or rewriting of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields online platforms from liability over user content.
Republicans on the panel also criticized the tech giants for what they see as efforts to stifle conservative voices.