Lawmakers from both parties attacked online platforms for causing offline harm to children, public health and democracy at a House hearing with the CEOs of Facebook, Google and Twitter testifying virtually on Thursday.
The big picture: The hearing is focused on social media's role in spreading misinformation and extremism, with the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and false information about the pandemic top of mind for Democratic lawmakers who have pledged to pursue legislation.
Where it stands: Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), chair of the House Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, said misinformation about the pandemic and the 2020 election led to lives being lost.
- "The witnesses here today have demonstrated time and time again that self-regulation has not work," Schakowsky said. "They must be held accountable for allowing disinformation and misinformation to spread."
Meanwhile, Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis, the ranking Republican on the consumer protection subcommittee, said he's heard from constituents about online bullying and said the committee can come together to force changes on the platforms.
- "What I do want to hear is what you will do to bring our country back from the fringes and stop the poisonous practices that drive depression, isolation, and suicide," Bilirakis said. "Our kids are being lost, while you say you will try to better, as we've heard countless times already."
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the ranking Republican on the House Energy & Commerce Committee, told the CEOs their platforms are her "biggest fear" as a parent.
- "Do you know what has convinced me Big Tech is a destructive force? It’s how you’ve abused your power to manipulate and harm our children," Rodgers said.
What they're saying: In written testimony, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg suggested legislation could require online platforms to have systems in place for identifying and removing unlawful content in order to receive key liability protection.
- Google CEO Sundar Pichai instead focused on improving transparency for how content moderation decisions are made, while Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey focused his written testimony on algorithmic choice.
This story is developing. Check back for more hearing updates.