The technology sector will be on display this week as lawmakers begin holding hearings to look into concerns about antitrust issues. It comes amid a backlash against the tech titans for allowing fake news to spread on their platforms.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the hearing slated for Wednesday at the Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to include Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and a Google representative. Later that day, the House Commerce Committee will interview Dorsey and Twitter, which has been raising the ire of lots of Republicans. In October a Senate Judiciary subcommittee will hold hearings focused on antitrust concerns, with a large portion of it focused on the dominance of a small number of internet companies. In addition to all that, lawmakers will be looking at the midterm elections in November and how the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter will protect their platforms from manipulation.
In the past, the huge popularity of tech companies insulated them from lawmakers — but that support is waning as data scandals emerge and fake news continues to spread. Senator John Thune, a Republican and the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, told the Wall Street Journal that the tech companies don’t have that widespread support and that an “understanding of public frustrations outside Silicon Valley often seems to escape them.” He said the tech companies will have to answer hard questions during the hearings. It doesn’t help that President Donald Trump in recent days has launched a campaign against the tech companies on Twitter, even vowing to launch investigations into their practices. “Social Media is totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices,” the president tweeted in mid-August, according to the Wall Street Journal. “They are closing down the opinions of many people on the RIGHT, while at the same time doing nothing to others.” The tech companies deny there is any bias, but conservatives worry that as the internet companies move to stamp out fake news and hate speech, they are preventing legitimate conversations from moving forward. If Republicans maintain control of the House and Senate after the mid-term elections, the paper noted, it could mean steeper consequences for the tech companies.