‘Who the hell elected you?’ U.S. Senate tech hearing becomes political tussle
A U.S. Senate hearing to reform an internet law and hold tech companies accountable for how they moderate content quickly turned into a political scuffle as lawmakers not only went after the companies but also attacked each other.
Lawmakers are split on ways to hold Big Tech accountable under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act – which protects companies from liability over content posted by users but also lets the firms shape political discourse.
The chief executives of Twitter Inc, Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google called the law crucial to free expression on the internet.
A little over an hour into the hearing, the conversation turned into a heated exchange between senators of both parties.
Senator Ted Cruz went after Twitter’s Jack Dorsey after the CEO said Twitter has no influence over elections.
“Who the hell elected you and put you in charge of what the media are allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to hear,” Cruz said. Ahead of the hearing, the senator released a picture on Twitter titled “Free Speech showdown Cruz vs Dorsey” that showed him and Twitter’s Dorsey pitted against each other.
Democratic Senator Brian Schatz said he did not have any questions, calling the hearing “nonsense”.
“This is bullying and it is for electoral purposes,” he said.
Top Democrat on the panel, Senator Maria Cantwell, said the hearing would have been better if held in January after the Nov. 3 election. The law has little chance of being acted upon by Congress this year.
President Donald Trump, who alleges the companies’ stifle conservative voices, and Republican lawmakers sent a flurry of tweets as the hearing continued. “Repeal Section 230!” Trump tweeted. Separately, Senator Josh Hawley took a jab at Twitter’s Dorsey. “This level of idiocy confirms the widespread impression that Jack’s primary food source is weed.”
Twitter’s global vice president of communications Brandon Borrman said: “There’s nothing in the (Hawley) tweet that deserves a response.”
Twitter’s Dorsey warned the committee that eroding the foundation of Section 230 could significantly hurt how people communicate online. Pichai said Google operates without political bias and that doing otherwise would be against its business interests.