At the Senate Judiciary Committee’s four-plus-hour hearing Tuesday with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, the two social-media CEOs faced attacks from Republicans and Democrats alike about their policies.
GOP lawmakers accused Facebook and Twitter, as they have repeatedly, of censoring conservative viewpoints while Democrats (as they have done previously as well) blasted the companies for not doing enough to curb hate speech and disinformation.
Among the questions that came up at the hearing was how Facebook and Twitter will treat the posts of President Trump — who is still refusing to concede he lost the election and has been cited a major source of misinformation on the platforms — after he leaves the White House in January 2021 and president-elect Joe Biden takes office.
Both Facebook and Twitter have flagged numerous posts from Trump, both before and after the election, after he has insisted without evidence that the 2020 election was “rigged” or subject to fraud.
At the hearing, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) pointedly asked both of the CEOs, “After [Trump] stops being president, will he still deemed ‘newsworthy’ and will he still get to use your platforms to spread misinformation?”
Dorsey said Trump would no longer get a special exemption from Twitter after he leaves office. “If an account [holder] suddenly… is not a world leader anymore, that particular policy goes away,” Dorsey said.
For political figures like Trump, Twitter’s policy is to leave in place tweets that would be violations for regular users but which the company considers to be in the “public interest.” Twitter adopted that policy in June 2019. Such posts are hidden behind a warning label that requires users to click through to view them; in addition, such tweets cannot be liked or commented on.
Facebook, meanwhile, said it doesn’t have any “newsworthiness” standard for how it treats content posted by politicians, Zuckerberg said.
“In terms of President Trump and moving forward, there are a small number of policies where we have exceptions for politicians under the principle that people should be able to hear what their elected officials are saying,” he said. But for the most part, there’s no exception for how Facebook applies its policies to political leaders, Zuckerberg said.
“If the president — or anyone else — is spreading hate speech or inciting violence or posting content that delegitimizes the election… those will receive the same treatment as anyone else saying those things, and that will continue to be the case,” Zuckerberg said.
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