Washington, D.C. – Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) joined Spicer & Co. to discuss online censorship by big tech companies and the need to change Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a 25-year-old law that provides these giants tremendous liability protections.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai are testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee today and before the Senate Judiciary Committee in November. Despite numerous calls by E&C Republicans to hold these big tech companies accountable, E&C Democrats continue to sit on the sidelines and refuse to protect our democracy.
Watch the full interview here and catch the highlights below.
What does the Senate want out of this hearing:
“I think the most important question they should get an answer to is ‘Are these big platforms now publishers?’ Because if they are publishers, then the twenty-five-year-old law called Section 230 that gives them exemption from liability shouldn’t apply to them anymore. When you’re making editorial decisions, when you blame it on your algorithms, you blame it on whatever, but when you’re actually censoring content, when you’re preventing information from coming up or being shared, then you’re taking on the role of a publisher. If you’re a publisher then we’re way away from how that law was written.”
Do you think Republicans and Democrats differ in their objectives?
“Well here’s what’s going to happen. Democrats kind of like the bias that’s going on right now, so they don’t want to cut them loose. After the elections, they share some of the same frustrations with the platforms, and I think there will be a vigorous debate and I hope an adjustment of this statute. It was never intended to be used for this purpose and grant this blanket immunity for publishers. You don’t get it on air. I didn’t get it as a radio broadcaster. Newspapers don’t get this kind of protection. And if these companies have now gotten to the point where they’re editing, they’re blocking, they’re censoring, and it sure appears that it happens a lot on the right. I don’t hear many stories about things getting blocked on the left. When I was chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee we had Mark Zuckerberg for five hours before the committee. We went through a lot of these things. We had Jack Dorsey before the committee. Unfortunately, the Democrats haven’t stepped up in the House to have a similar hearing and then move legislation. I think it’s overdue.”
What is the evidence there? How do you work across the aisle to make them see this is not just a one-sided issue and it benefits everyone?
“You look at what they did to John James, a Senate candidate in Michigan. The Detroit News endorsed him, and I think it was Twitter that flagged that […] and said headlines don’t tell the full story. I don’t see them doing that for any other publication. […] You know what the headline of that endorsement was? It was “Editorial: Our Pick for U.S. Senate.” […] And guess what? Twitter treats WinRed differently – you have to go through more steps – than they do ActBlue. Now, they blamed it on their algorithm and they probably fixed it. But every time during the hearing when someone on the Republican side raised an issue about something that’s censored, the response was “Oh, that was a mistake.” Or “Oh, that was the algorithm.” And you know what? These algorithms, they bias in really bad ways for the country. Social media platforms in many cases have facilitated a cancer on civility. And you’ve been a target of that. I’ve been a target of that. I don’t see them blocking the stuff that comes my way on my accounts, but it’s pretty vicious at times over the years. But boy they sure get sensitive when it’s on the other side.”