Capitol Hill violence stokes ire at Facebook, Google and Twitter

Capitol Hill violence stokes ire at Facebook, Google and Twitter

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JANUARY 08: The US Capitol Building is seen two days later when a pro-Trump mob broke into the US Capitol Building in Washington DC on January 08, 2021. Democratic congressional leaders threatened President Donald Trump to encourage crowds blowing up the Capitol Building. (Photo by Joe Radle / Getty Images)

Joe Rydal / Getty Images

Tech giants Facebook, Google and Twitter will likely face scrutiny for their role in the buildup to the deadly riots in the US Capitol this week. With Democrats now in control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, the focus is on regulation to reduce the reach and influence of social media platforms.

A crowd of supporters of President Donald Trump attacked American Capitol during voting for the presidential election. Twitter and Facebook had suspended Trump’s accounts for inflammatory comments following the riots, but some lawmakers said it was too little, too late.

“They bear the huge responsibility of fixing the red flags repeatedly and ignoring the demands of fixes,” Sen. Richard Demount, a Democrat from Conn., Told the Washington Post. The senator said companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter should have acted more quickly because the riots “unfolded instead of waiting until there was blood and glass in the halls of the Capitol.”

He said that “these events will renew the need to reform Congress and improve big technology”.

On Friday evening, Twitter took the unusual step of permanently suspending Trump’s account, saying the “risk of further escalation of violence” was too high. Company also on Accounts closed on friday Of General Michael Flynn, lawyer Sydney powell And a host of other supporters of the fake QAnon conspiracy theory were embraced by many of President Donald Trump’s most fond fans.

It all comes as Democrats won control of the Senate on Tuesday with a win in two runoff elections in Georgia. John Ossoff defeated Republican incumbent David Purdue and Rafael Warnock won his race against Republican Senator Kyle Loeffler and gave the Senate a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans. With Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote in the chamber, Democrats will now have more power to advance the law through committees in the Senate and get it to the floor for a vote.

This would give Democrats greater influence to pursue their current technology agendas, which already included doubts about the size and power of large tech companies. The horrific scene and the role that social media played in escalating violence and misinformation at the Capitol this week will likely lead to frustration, especially Democrats in action, especially Democrats.

“Pre-existing investigations are now being extended 10-fold,” said Gigi Sohan, a fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law and Policy.

Section 230

Lawmakers on both sides have called for changes to section 230 of the Communications Decision Act of 1996, which protects social media companies from lawsuits over content posted by users on their platforms. Interference by foreign countries in the 2020 US presidential election and a massive influx of foul language and disinformation on social media, including President Trump’s inflammatory post lying about the results of the election, have upset Democrats. And they want social media companies to put limits on these protections for social media companies to reduce false and inflammatory content.

Republicans led by Trump have also been critical of Section 230, but for various reasons. He claims that his speech is being censored by social media sites. Earlier this year, Trump issued an executive order to get the FCC to discuss how the agency can ensure that social media companies are not censoring content on their sites. To pay more attention to the issue, Trump vetoed an important Defense Money Bill because it did not include the repeal of Section 230.

With Democrats now in control of the Senate and the House, it is likely that violent, threatening or other dangerous content will be pushed afresh to try to keep large social media platforms accountable.

Rep. Frank Palone Jr., a Democrat from New Jersey who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said his committee was already looking for ways to “motivate all social media platforms to address disinfection, extremism and other online abuses” is.”

He said in a statement that, “The events of the last few days have driven the house how important and consequential we take it seriously.”

But the digital watchdog group Fight for the Future cautioned lawbreakers of overcrowding when it came to regulation of Section 230.

“Some Democrats have already taken the target to 230,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, who wrongly believes that the construction of the causeway into law allows web platforms to work on dangerous content and misinformation Would encourage. ” Op-ed for FastCompany published on Friday. “Section 230, which makes the speech possible for these private companies to suspend Trump’s account, while obviously dangerous, may not be technically illegal. And the change to 230 is almost certainly good. Will do more harm than good. “

Digital rights think tank Techfriedom has warned against Democrats saying they are going too far to try to make disturbing content online.

“You wish you could try to reform section 230, but there is still a First Amendment to the Constitution that protects free speech,” said Berry Sajoka, president and founder of TechFridom. “So whatever Democrats try to do to get platforms to deal with the terrible content, they have to be very narrow in their scope.”

As a result, Szoka said that amending section 230 alone would not solve the problem.

He said, “The debate around Section 230 begins with the assumption that this problem is fixed.” “And it’s not.”

Nevertheless, the largest tech companies say they are in the stream with some improvements. 230 – with a few cavites. At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing in October, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that social media platforms “have responsibilities, and it may make sense to have obligations for some of the content on the platform.”

At the same hearing, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey suggested rules that may require companies to make their moderation processes more transparent. He also said that companies can develop clear ways for users to appeal their decisions on content moderation and give users more choices in how algorithms sort their content.

Nevertheless, he cautioned MPs not to go too far in their reforms. And he warned that a heavy-handed approach could affect especially small startups.

“What we are most concerned about is making sure that we enable new companies to interact on the Internet and contribute to the conversation,” Dorsey said.

Antitrust and privacy regulation

The Section 230 reform is not the only regulation that these companies should fear. Democratic lawmakers have also looked into their data collection practices and how they use their users’ personal information. A report last year by the Democrats in the House of Representatives concluded that Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are embroiled in antichromatic practices and pose major antitrust concerns.

Google and Facebook are already facing numerous lawsuits from federal and state law enforcement as well as regulatory agencies. And things could get worse for these companies as Democrats adopted and resented the rebellion on the Capitol and could lead to more aggressive enforcement and changes to antitrust laws that would allow the federal government to bring cases against these companies or break them Will also make it easier. UP

Sohan said she expects Democrats to pursue privacy legislation that will limit what personal information these companies can collect on users and how they use their algorithms to target data online Can do.

“One of the external influences of these companies is that they have too big and too much personal information,” he said.

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