US Department of Justice looks into social media firms over free speech

by Linda Olson September 6, 2018, 13:49
US Department of Justice looks into social media firms over free speech

The Justice Department raised the prospect of a possible investigation as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey concluded their testimony today before the Senate Intelligence Committee, where they addressed efforts to prevent foreign abuse of their platforms.

The Senate hearing focused primarily on the use of social media by Russian Federation and other foreign actors in the 2016 election, with executives promising to do more to combat such meddling in the future.

Social media companies are under pressure over foreign meddling in USA elections, the spread of disinformation, privacy and censorship.

DOJ spokesperson Devin O'Malley said in a statement Wednesday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions will meet later this month with various state attorneys general to examine the issue.

Dorsey was headed later Wednesday to a House committee focused on GOP complaints that social media companies have shown evidence of bias against conservatives.

"Let me be clear about one important and foundational fact: Twitter does not use political ideology to make any decisions, whether related to ranking content on our service or how we enforce our rules".

"We aren't proud of how that free and open exchange has been weaponized and used to distract and divide people, and our nation", he said, tweeting part of his statement.

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The announcement came after a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing involving top officials from Facebook and Twitter, and ahead of a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on alleged bias and lack of transparency, where Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testified. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence pointedly set up an empty chair to shame Google parent company Alphabet. "I'm not even sure it's trending in the right direction".

Facebook, Twitter and other technology firms have been on the defensive for many months over political influence activity on their sites as well as concerns over user privacy.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg faces questions about foreign interference in American elections.

Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg will also face questions, mainly surrounding what her company has done to crack down on abuse and other forms of content created to mislead. "That's why it is incredibly important for the public to understand how precisely the companies' machine-learning algorithms shape what we see online and who we engage with online".

Committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, and vice chairman Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, both expressed their "disappointment" that Google declined to send what they called an appropriately senior level official.

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones held a press conference outside the Senate hearing room as the testimony began to criticize the social media companies for banning him and his website Infowars from their platforms.

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