Justice Dept. to examine social media giants 'stifling' free speech

Larry Page Google

Larry Page Google

Dorsey, appearing before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on foreign influence campaigns on social media, said the messaging service was set up to function as a "public square" but failed to deal with "abuse, harassment, troll armies, propaganda through bots".

Senior company executives appeared before the Senate intelligence committee in Washington to address fears of misinformation campaigns being conducted in the USA midterm elections in November.

Dorsey testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday afternoon on the social media platform's policies related to alleged bias.

The Senate was followed by a House panel session on "transparency and accountability", where Dorsey rejected claims of political bias.

Dorsey acknowledged Twitter had made mistakes and said they corrected them.

Democratic Party Senator Mark Warner said that he was skeptical that Facebook and Twitter would be able to address the problems of manipulation on their own.

Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat, blasted the hearing and Republicans, saying there is no evidence that the algorithms of social networks or search results are biased against conservatives. "That's on us. This interference was completely unacceptable".

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But Mr Joe Barton, a Republican from Texas, told Mr Dorsey: "We wouldn't be having this discussion if there wasn't a general agreement that your company had discriminated against conservatives".

"The committee takes this issue very seriously, and we appreciate that Facebook and Twitter are represented here this morning with an equivalent and appropriate measure of seriousness", Senator Burr of North Carolina said.

The statement did not name Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc but the companies have been criticised for what some see as an effort to exclude conservative voices. "Over the past weeks, President Trump and many Republicans have peddled conspiracy theories about Twitter and other social media platforms to whip up their base and fundraise", he said.

"We did take way too many hours to act, and we are using that as a lesson to help improve our systems", Dorsey said.

Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said in his opening statement that Twitter took no political positions.

Facebook remains a leader in the digital advertising market with an estimated 20 percent share this year (second only to Google, which incidentally did not send a C-level exec to Wednesday's hearing). He contends top-down regulation doesn't make sense "as long as we're transparent around what's guiding our decisions and enforcement, that we show willingness to evolve the rules as circumstances evolve".

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