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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The influence of the internet – and in particular, social media – has become paramount in our culture. And just like any other communication medium, free expression of our First Amendment rights – free and unfettered by censorship – is vital, but keeping the law in-step with rapidly-evolving technology to ensure free speech always represents a continuous problem.
In an era where the majority of people utilize social media not only to communicate with others, but also to procure news, maintaining an environment where a free and clear exchange of ideas and information needs to be maintained at all costs. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, with censorship in various forms – especially when it comes to political ideologies – which tend to creep in with alarming frequency.
In an ongoing effort to address this problem, the heads of several social media giants – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai – met to testify before a Senate committee today, Wednesday, October 28 on free expression on the internet, and in particular how the Communications Decency Act of 1996 currently protects their companies.
The main aspect of those protections as it relates to the Communications Decency Act is how it interprets Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934 to say that operators of Internet services are not to be construed as publishers, and thus are not legally liable for the words of third parties who use their services. There have been calls to repeal those specific protections by many parities looking to hold internet service providers liable for the actions of their users, which could result in free speech on the internet soon becoming a thing of the past.
The Senate hearing took place virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The October 28 meeting represents the second time this year that the leadership of Big Tech firms have testified before Congress; this summer, the heads of Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook attended a hearing held by the House antitrust subcommittee.