In a unanimous, bipartisan vote, a U.S. Senate Committee ordered the CEOs of Facebook, Google and Twitter to testify on Capitol Hill about a federal law that protects tech companies from liability on the removal of third-party content, CNBC reported.
The Senate Commerce Committee wants to hear from the executives on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the legal shield from lawsuits, according to the report.
While Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) initially opposed the subpoena introduced by Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), she reversed her vote when Republicans agreed to include language in the subpoena about privacy and "media domination," CNBC reported.
“What I don’t want to see is a chilling effect on individuals who are in a process of trying to crack down on hate speech or misinformation about COVID during a pandemic,” she said, according to CNBC. “I welcome the debate about [Section] 230. I think it should be a long and thoughtful process. Not sure a long and thoughtful process will happen before the election, but I understand my colleagues’ desires here today.”
The GOP has insisted Section 230 be amended over their concerns that social media companies prohibit conservative voices, CNBC reported. Facebook, Google and Twitter have denied the charge.
In remarks before the Senate, Wicker said President Donald Trump and his rival, Joe Biden, support reform to Section 230, CNBC reported.
“Even if you happen to agree with them on a particular issue right now, ceding the power to the star chamber of Silicon Valley is profoundly dangerous,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told reporters following the vote, referring to the tech companies., according to CNBC.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, said there should be a level playing field for small companies to compete but rejected the allegation that conservative views have been barred on social media.
“We are joining you with this subpoena, but you need to join us when it comes to taking on this major, major issue that Sen. Cruz has identified when it comes to monopolies,” Klobuchar said.
Representatives for Facebook and Twitter declined to comment to CNBC. A Google spokesperson did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.
In July, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Google’s Sundar Pichai testified before the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust issues.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is reportedly ramping up its efforts to cut legal protections for internet companies. The DOJ plans to propose that Congress force Google, Facebook and Twitter to take more responsibility for managing content on their sites.