US Senate Panel Votes to Subpoena Big Tech Executives

US Senate Panel Votes to Subpoena Big Tech Executives

( – The Senate Commerce Committee announced their decision to subpoena a number of Big Tech CEOs on Thursday, October 1. This relates to the ongoing examination of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. The controversial provision allows internet service providers immunity from legal penalties in relation to the content on their platforms.

A subpoena is a legal instrument that compels someone to testify in relation to a given matter. Here, the Commerce Committee is requiring Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai to provide insight on their policies (Alphabet is Google’s parent company).

“Good Faith” Attempts at Content Moderation

Section 230 does not explicitly provide that internet companies should not be responsible for the content on their sites. It states these firms should make “good faith” attempts to moderate what appears on their platforms. However, as long as they take down problematic content once notified about it, tech companies are immune from suit.

Anti-Conservative Bias

Online content has revolutionized the average person’s engagement with the media. While the increased accessibility that comes with online platforms is undoubtedly a good thing, users need to be aware the news they see isn’t always unbiased. Section 230 has allowed tech companies to discriminate against political content in various ways, often through censorship. Conservative voices seem to suffer more from this than their Liberal counterparts.

Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) mounted an initial attempt to revise Section 230 in September. The Online Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity Act, if passed, will limit the ability of tech firms to censor certain types of content at their own discretion. It would impose much more precise limitations on what kinds of content should and should not be allowed to remain online.

It’s not yet clear how the Senate Commerce Committee will propose to amend Section 230, or whether it will undergo amendment at all. While the aim of any review would be the promotion of freedom of speech, too great an interference could be offensive to this very right. The panel should share further information on their intended actions next week.

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