That’s been a familiar theme for lawmakers over the past few years. But the pressure is even higher following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, the rise in COVID vaccine misinformation and united Democratic control of Congress and the White House. The latter could make legislative action more likely, although it remains far from a sure thing.
As malicious conspiracy theories continue to spread, lawmakers are pounding the social media companies over their market dominance, harvesting of user data and practices that some believe actually encourage the spread of engaging but potentially harmful misinformation. Some Republicans have also alleged, without proof, censorship and political bias against conservatives as another reason to rein in the enormous firms.
There’s increasing support in Congress for imposing new curbs on legal protections regarding speech posted on their platforms. Both Republicans and Democrats — including President Joe Biden as a candidate — have called for stripping away some of the protections under so-called Section 230 of a 25-year-old telecommunications law that shields internet companies from liability for what users post.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter chief Jack Dorsey and Google CEO Sundar Pichai — whose company owns YouTube — will testify in a virtual hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The session’s title leaves little doubt as to the majority Democrats’ stance: “Disinformation Nation: Social Media’s Role in Promoting Extremism and Misinformation.”
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