Home featured What to Expect as Zuckerberg and Dorsey Take the Stand

What to Expect as Zuckerberg and Dorsey Take the Stand

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Facebook’s C.E.O., Mark Zuckerberg, speaking remotely at a Senate hearing last month. Mr. Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey of Twitter will again testify on Tuesday.
Credit…Pool photo by Michael Reynolds

WASHINGTON — Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, and Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief, will appear before members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday morning to defend actions by their companies to moderate speech. It is the second time in two months that the two C.E.O.s are testifying but this will probably have more fireworks than their last appearance as their companies took a central role during the recent election.

They will probably face many questions about how their social networks handled vote-related posts, videos and photos. Both companies increased their labeling of election misinformation, including posts by President Trump, while false and misleading content surged.

Here is what else to know:

The hearing starts at 10 a.m. Eastern. Mr. Zuckerberg and Mr. Dorsey will appear via videoconference. They will get questions from the 22 members on the committee, some of whom will be in the committee’s meeting room in the Capitol, and others who will also be appearing via videoconference.

The committee chairman, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, called the hearing in October after Twitter and Facebook labeled or limited the reach of a New York Post article about Hunter Biden, the son of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., because of information that was leaked and misleading.

The executives, who have each appeared before Congress several times in recent years about data privacy, disinformation in the 2016 election and content moderation, will probably get numerous repeat questions about how their companies have improved efforts to protect consumers and moderate content without stifling speech. But they will also face new questions, including whether a continued ban on political ads could jeopardize the Senate runoffs in Georgia and why hateful content is still allowed on their sites.

President Trump and his Republican allies have balked at actions by Twitter and Facebook to repeatedly label and hide the president’s posts for violations of policies against spreading false and misleading information about the election. Twitter was particularly active in labeling Mr. Trump’s tweets on the day of the election and days after. Members like Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri are expected to blast Mr. Dorsey and Mr. Zuckerberg for what they describe as censorship of conservatives, claims that are not founded.

Democrats are expected to direct their anger more toward Facebook for acting only during the election to mark Mr. Trump’s misinformation about voter fraud and his false claims of victory. Democrats say Facebook and Twitter have been too lax on disinformation and hate speech, allowing figures like Steve Bannon, who recently called for Dr. Anthony Fauci’s beheading, to maintain his Facebook account. They also will point to a rise in anti-Muslim content on Facebook and a rise in hate content across social media.

The hearing could yield new insights into the postelection temperature of Washington and provide clues for a legislative agenda next year, expected to include new restraints to the power of tech companies. Republicans and Democrats have called for reforms to the 1996 law called Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides legal immunity to online platforms for third-party content.

Other issues could include competition and data privacy. Several members of the committee have expressed concern about the concentration of power among tech giants like Facebook, Google and Amazon, and some have called for some reforms to antitrust laws. Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, for instance, has proposed changes to update competition laws to better address the tech sector.

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