Tech CEO’s to defend key law in front of US Senate panel

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The CEO’s of Twitter, Facebook and Alphabet will inform US lawmakers in a hearing on Wednesday that a federal law protecting internet companies is essential to free expression on the internet, based on written testimonies in the companies seen by journalists.

Section 230, a provision of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, shields technology companies from liability to user-generated content and lets them eliminate lawful but objectionable articles. It has come under significant criticism from Republican President Donald Trump and both Democratic and Republican lawmakers who’ve been worried about Big Tech’s content-moderation conclusions.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will inform the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday that eroding the foundation of Section 230 “could collapse how we communicate on the Internet, leaving only a small number of giant and well-funded technology companies.”

Dorsey urged “thoughtfulness and restraint when it comes to broad regulatory solutions to address content moderation issues and warned that “sweeping regulations can further entrench businesses which have large market shares.”

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Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said, “Section 230 made it feasible for every significant internet support to be assembled” but added he believes “Congress needs to update the legislation to be certain it’s working as intended. We support the ideas around transparency and business collaboration that are being discussed in some of the current bipartisan proposals.”

Mark Zuckerberg also said without the law, tech companies could face liability for doing even basic moderation, such as removing hate speech and harassment.

“I would urge the committee to be very considerate about any adjustments to Section 230 and also to be somewhat attentive to the impacts those changes might have on businesses and consumers,” Pichai’s written testimony says.

In addition to discussions on reforming the law, the hearing will bring up issues about consumer privacy and media consolidation.

Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai, who said this month he would pursue a rulemaking to clarify the meaning of Section 230, declined to say Tuesday when he might proceed.

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“We are not talking about imposing regulations on social networking firms,” Pai said. “We are talking about distributing an immunity provision.”

Pai also said he didn’t sense pressure from the White House to act.

On Tuesday, Senator Maria Cantwell, the leading Democrat on the Senate Commerce panel, published a report on how big tech businesses have decimated the local news business, such as papers and broadcasters.

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by David Shepardson and Nandita Bose. Editing by Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Oatis.

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