Show an ad over header. AMP

I am the FIRST

Congress to tech CEOs: New laws are coming after you

Lawmakers at Thursday's hearing on misinformation were less interested in getting answers from the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google than in warning the social media giants that a legislative hammer is about to land on them.

Driving the news: In a gruelingly long session conducted entirely by videoconference, members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee told the CEOs their businesses prioritize ad revenue and engagement over rooting out misinformation and content that harms users, especially children.

Why it matters: The relatively consistent lines of questioning, sometimes crossing party lines, displayed a new unity among members of Congress in their concern about the companies — and a stronger likelihood that they might pass punitive laws.

  • "Your products amplify extremism," said Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) when questioning the CEOs. "Your business models of targeted ads allow misinformation to thrive because you chase user engagement at a great cost to our society."
  • "You're not passive bystanders," said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), chairman of the committee. "When you spread misinformation, actively promoting and amplifying it, you do it because you make more money."
  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg repeatedly disputed these claims. "While it may be true that people might be more likely to click on it in the short term, it's not good for our business or our product or our community for this content to be there," he said. "It's not what people want, and we run the company for the long term."

What's happening: Many members are readying policy proposals targeting the underpinnings of the platforms' businesses — for example, the algorithms that recommend content to users and the companies' Section 230 liability protection for hosting user-generated content.

Where it stands: Modifying Section 230, the foundational law that allowed platforms like YouTube and Facebook to grow in the first place, is the most likely goal for Democrats this year. Pallone has made clear that he wants to amend the law to hold the platforms more accountable for amplifying false, harmful or illegal content.

  • Yes, but: Thursday's hearing also made it clear that lawmakers' anger at the companies is wide-ranging and will lead in a variety of legislative directions. These include broad proposals to ban "surveillance advertising" or regulate algorithms, as well as more narrowly tailored efforts targeting the sale of illegal drugs and content designed to keep children hooked.

Meanwhile: The CEOs defended their companies' records of detecting and removing blatantly illegal and false videos and posts, and their willingness to work with advocates and law enforcement to reduce other harmful-but-not-illegal behavior on their sites, such as bullying.

  • Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey acknowledged their content moderation efforts are imperfect and that they've made mistakes.

Between the lines: During the 5-and-a-half hour hearing, most lawmakers used their 5-minute slots to demand yes-or-no responses to complex questions, then pivoted to lecturing the CEOs.

  • The yes-or-no tactic was likely designed to make the CEOs appear as if they were deflecting and hedging, but it also showed how little the members were interested in hearing what the executives had to say.

What they're saying: Questions zeroed in on racist posts against Asians and other people of color, COVID-19 vaccine misinformation, social-media addiction and the lack of diversity among tech employees.

  • The tech giants were likened to the tobacco industry more than once. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) said, "Big Tech is handing kids a lit cigarette, and hoping they get addicted for life."

Republicans shifted gears from previous hearings, devoting less time to their complaint that tech platforms censor conservatives and more to the idea that tech is harmful to children.

  • Some lawmakers especially took issue with reports that Facebook is preparing an Instagram for people under age 13, which Zuckerberg said would be a good way for younger people to connect with friends.
  • Democrats also raised concerns about children's use of the services, with Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) saying, "This committee is ready to legislate to protect our children from your ambition."

Our thought bubble: "Save the children" is a message both parties can get behind, but agreeing on what to do about it will be harder.

China makes history with successful Mars landing

A Chinese lander carrying a rover successfully touched down on Mars for the first time, state media reports.

Why it matters: This is the first time China has landed a spacecraft on another planet, and it launches the nation into an elite club of only a few space agencies to successfully make it to the Martian surface.

Keep reading... Show less

UN: 10,000 Palestinians flee homes in Gaza as Israel-Hamas fighting escalates

The United Nations warned Friday that ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas "has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis," in not only the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel, but "the region as a whole."

The big picture: More than 125 Palestinians, including 31 children have been killed in Gaza since fighting began Monday, per the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Seven people, including one child, have been killed in Israel, according to Israeli authorities.

Keep reading... Show less

Bernie Sanders: The U.S. must recognize that "Palestinian rights matter"

The United States must encourage an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East and adopt an "evenhanded approach" that recognizes Palestinians and Israelis have a right to "live in peace and security," Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) wrote in a New York Times opinion on Friday.

Driving the news: Violence escalated this week after Israelis intensified efforts to evict Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem. Hamas fired rockets and Israel massed troops, leaving more than 125 Palestinians and seven people in Israel dead.

Keep reading... Show less

Uber launches new anti-racism efforts, hires new inclusive design lead

Eager to show progress on the pledge to make its platform and business anti-racist, Uber on Friday announced new anti-racism driver and rider campaigns, as well as fresh internal hiring practices, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Uber is one of the biggest ride hailing companies in the world. Its decisions impact the millions that use the platform, where drivers and riders alike say they have experienced racism.

Keep reading... Show less

Ex-Gaetz associate admits to sex trafficking, agrees to cooperate with federal prosecutors

Joel Greenberg, a former associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), agreed to cooperate with federal investigators and admitted to a variety of federal charges including sex trafficking a minor, New York Times reported Friday citing court papers.

Why it matters: Investigators believe Greenberg introduced women to Gaetz for paid sex and are looking into the Florida congressman's alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. Greenberg could be a key witness as federal prosecutors decide whether to charge Gaetz.

Keep reading... Show less

White House: User fees for infrastructure deal would "violate" Biden's tax pledge

The White House on Friday said that Republicans' idea to impose user fees for infrastructure spending would "violate" President Biden's promise not to raise taxes on Americans making less than $400,000 annually.

What they're saying: "The president's pledge and his commitment, his line in the sand, his red line, whatever you want to call it, is that he will not raise taxes for people making less than $400,000 a year," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. "User fees that have been proposed out there would violate that."

Keep reading... Show less

City of Columbus, Andre Hill's family agree to $10M settlement over the fatal police shooting

Columbus, Ohio, on Friday reached a $10 million settlement with the family of Andre Hill, an unarmed Black man who was fatally shot by police as he walked out of a garage while holding a cellphone.

What they're saying: "We understand that because of this former officer's actions, the Hill family will never be whole," City Attorney Zach Klein said in a statement. "No amount of money will ever bring Andre Hill back to his family, but we believe this is an important and necessary step in the right direction."

Keep reading... Show less

"Mass Effect": Gaming's biggest space opera returns

The iconic spacefaring adventure "Mass Effect" is back today with "Mass Effect: Legendary Edition," a single, remastered version of all three games.

Why it matters: There is no series like "Mass Effect" — even when it comes to BioWare's other choice-driven RPGs like "Dragon Age." "Mass Effect" is a big ol' space adventure first and foremost, but it’s also about loyalty, love, and tough calls.

Keep reading... Show less



Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories