U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX) questioned the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, and Google in a House Energy and Commerce joint subcommittee hearing last week where she questioned them on identifying groups on social media that she alleged should be designated as domestic terrorist groups.
Fletcher started off by alluding to “disinformation” on social media: “I agree with my colleagues, there’s a broad consensus on a range of issues and I appreciate the discussion. As we’ve discussed extensively today, one of the big challenges of this rise of dangerous disinformation is that it denies us a basic set of shared facts to enable informed debate, like what we are having here today and it’s absolutely vital that we take charge and that we address this.”
She went on to speak about how countries whose interests do not align with ours have used social media to “amplify extremist content and disinformation from the COVID-19 pandemic to the January 6th insurrection.” She also spoke about transparency concerning online content.
Her most glaring exchange in connection with the labeling of pro-Trump activists as terrorists surfaced a few minutes into her remarks: “Well, thank you. So, I appreciate all of your willingness to work with us and to assist Congress in addressing this attack on our Capitol and our country.”
(Video Credit: Rep. Lizzie Fletcher)
“Another idea that I would like to touch base with you on in the time I have left, just over a minute, is the difference we see in how your platforms handle foreign extremist content versus domestic content. And by all accounts, your platforms do a better job of combating posts and information from foreign terrorist organizations or FTOs like ISIS or Al Qaeda and others where the posts are automatically removed depending on keywords and phrases, et cetera. The FTOs are designated by the State Department, there are rigorous criteria to identify groups that wish to cause harm to Americans,” Fletcher stated.
“Currently, there’s no legal mechanism or definition for doing the same for domestic terror and hate groups. Would a federal standard for defining a domestic terror organization similar to FTOs help your platforms better track and remove harmful content from your sites, Mr. Zuckerberg?” she asked the CEO of Facebook.
Mark Zuckerberg replied: “Congresswoman, I’m not sure. I think domestically, we do classify a number of white supremacist organizations and militias and conspiracy networks like QAnon as the same level of problematic as some of these other organizations that are able to take decisive action. I think where this ends up being more complicated is where…”
Fletcher proceeded to cut Zuckerberg short to make a point: “I hate to cut you off, but I’m gonna run out of time. So your answer was ‘I’m not sure.’ Can I just get a quick yes or no from Mr. Dorsey and Mr. Pichai…”
The moderator noted that it needed to be quick as the Congresswoman had run out of time.
Fletcher asked for an answer: “Mr. Pichai?”
“I think as domestic agencies focus on it, I think we are happy to work and cooperate there,” Google’s CEO Pichai alarmingly replied.
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