Chris Garaffa Profile picture
28 Oct, 59 tweets, 8 min read
Twitter's Jack Dorsey, Google's Sundar Pichai and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg are about to testify in front of the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on Section 230.

This is going to be an absolute disaster.…
Wicker opening up, talking about keeping the Internet a free and open space, but also saying that's because of regulation.

That's not what 230 is about.
I'm expecting a lot of talk about supposed censorship of conservative voices, but also a full misrepresentation of what Section 230 actually does: Protect online platforms from intervention due to (legal) user-posted content.
Wicker is right that social media companies aren't startups anymore, but that's not the question. They shouldn't be deciding what's true and what's not, and revoking 230 would actually make the situation worse.
Was the NY Post story bullshit?

Should Facebook & Twitter decide what's true and what's not?
Absolutely not.
YouTube, Google, etc are guilty of censoring non-US & alternative media, like Common Dreams, RT, Venezuela Analysis & others. But that never gets talked about, because they're too "left" or "objectionable" to the Democrats. So Republicans own that part of the conversation
Sen. Cantwell is up, representing Washington state.

Talks about "harnessing the Information Age to work for us" -- but who is "us" in Cantwell's analysis?
Cantwell talking about misinformation, of course as a Dem going right to Russia in 2016 -- thousands of dollars vs the millions spent by the candidates & PACs, that didn't impact the election.
Citing Chertoff? Yikes. And apparently he didn't answer the question about whether the US interferes in elections.

Now, usual platitudes about Democracy and American "greatness." Yawn.
It's pretty clear already, the Dems will use this Section 230 hearing to continue their anti-Russia nonsense.

Republicans will use it to complain about conservative censorship.

And the rest of us will lose.
"Freedom of information and freedom of the press"

I have one thing to say to that: #FreeAssange
Strapping in for the next 3 hours and 42 minutes, apparently. I'll try to keep covering as much as possible of this, but also have work to do.
Dorsey's up first. Pretty decent overview of Section 230 protections so far.

But is Twitter "acting in good faith?" Good faith for who? For the people who are not heard, or for the system?
OK, requiring a service's process to be published... that's a bit of transparency. Not a bad thing. But where's the oversight?

Turning off the home timeline algorithm really doesn't get to the crux of the algorithmic issue. Wolfram is a brilliant person but this doesn't fix...
Dorsey can't talk about "independent developers." Twitter screwed developers a couple years ago by making significant changes to its API to prevent alternative clients.
Pichai now.

People can reach others... unless Google doesn't like your content, in which case they can just shut own your YouTube channel, like Telesur's. Or demonetize it, as with many LGBTQ people.
Pichai claims we get thousands of dollars of services for free from Google, but that doesn't take into account how much Google makes from our data and ad targeting. Very much not representing the real situation.
So tired of hearing about "free access to information" when these companies will censor at will.
Laughing at Zuckerberg having technical trouble.

5-minute recess.
A recess that was shorter than expected? Must be a first.

Zuckerberg up, talking about disagreements in the policies around online speech.
Zuckerberg calls for more accountability.

Who will hold them accountable for their decisions? If it's not the users, then the accountability process doesn't represent us.

When a company calls for regulation of itself, you know that regulation will not really address the issue.
The threat to the integrity of the election aren't Russia, Iran or China. It's US capital, which spends billions upon billions to influence us.
When Zuckerberg or a politician says America will emerge stronger, that's the state and business, not us.

Going into questioning. I have to get some other work done but will post highlights.
Wicker's going right in with the anti-China campaign.

And then talking about the campaign against mail-in voting, that he happens to agree with.
Summary of Wicker's questioning: FREE SPEECH! Except for China.
Wicker's going in on Iran for its support of Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation.

Twitter considers it sabre-rattling.
Senator Peters up next. Asking about right-wing radicalization and how censorship moves them to other platforms, which is a good point.
Sounds good, right? Facebook should provide ways out of radicalization.

What happens as revolutionary & radical progressive movements take off? Will Facebook do the same? It's very likely. Note that Peters is on Senate Homeland Security committee.
The recommendation algorithm problem is real, though. YouTube has the same issue. It's part of the push to get you to spend more time on social media, giving them more data to show you ads.
Zuckerberg talks about working with outside researchers and academics, but the company just asked NYU's Ad Observatory to stop looking into its practices.…
Condemn Holocaust denial, absolutely. No question about that.

But Sen. Gardner is pushing this as a way to attack Iran, not defend against Holocaust denial.
Algorithmic transparency as discussed by Thune will show us how the services censor, but Congress won't actually care about much of the censorship of left-wing or non-US/alternative news media.
Thune's current line of questioning recalls a question from over the summer, asking Google (I believe) about diversity of political opinion in their moderation staff. But of course, the diversity is very limited - Republicans and Democrats.
Pichai says "liberal, Republican, libertarian" - so center, right and hard right.

What's missing? The left, which actually poses a challenge to corporate power.
How does Blumenthal get on all these panels? He's awful. Don't forget he's a co-sponsor of the very dangerous EARN-IT act.…
Going to be in and out for a while, folks. Sorry about that - work calls.
Cruz vs Dorsey. Wow. They're both awful.

Preventing "hacked material" is a threat to freedom of press, in any case.
OK, Brian Schatz is making some decent points about what the Republicans are doing here by having this 6 days before Election Day.

They're clearly setting themselves up to question election results they don't like, up and down ticket.
Senator Fischer's asking if the witnesses have direct influence on content moderation, which misses the point for me. It's not about the individual - another CEO would have similar policies. It's the system, not the person.
Zuckerberg: "Only the US government" can push back against Russia, China.

Wow. That's some warmongering right there, Mark.
Next, Zuckerberg claims that these countries are hiring domestic operatives to spread their messages. This is going to be a massive witch hunt in the US.
Back from break. This is kind of exhausting, I'll see how much I can keep up.
How many people work, including contractors, in content moderation?
Zuckerberg: More than 35,000 people in content & safety review, $3+ billion/year
Pichai: 10,000 people and also AI. $1+ billion/year
Dorsey: Doesn't have numbers.
Zuckerberg says a new policy will be like Sarbanes-Oxley regulation, but neglects to mention that there have been very few SOX presecutions.
Sen Blackburn lives in some fantasy land where none of the thousands of content moderators who work for Facebook, Twitter or Google are conservatives...
And now Blackburn is asking about an individual Google employee (maybe former) who said bad things about her?

Many of these Senators have no knowledge of what they're talking about, but I feel stupider after listening to her.
Moving to Udall, a Democrat. Russia, Russia, Russia!
Very much more of the same at this point. Lee is asking if Facebook has ever censored liberals.
It's really important to recognize by 'liberals' they mean Democrats. That's their concern. No the left, not progressives.
OK, one mention of Google censorship against a socialist organization.
Lee: You have the right to censor people, but I don't like how you're doing it.
Duckworth coming up, more condemnation of the fact that hearings are happening - but because they're "weakening national security and coming to the aid of our adversaries."

If these Democrats actually thought these hearings were bad - for any reason - they would have boycotted.
Russia, Russia, Russia!
Sen Johnson again asking about the political leanings of Google/FB/Twitter employees.

This is getting a little tiring.
And none of them mention the awful conditions that contract moderators in the US and Philippines, for example, face.……
Sen Johnson just doesn't like the fact that someone posted a Tweet saying he killed a dog, and literally says in the tweet, "This is a complete lie but important to retweet and note that there are more of my lies to come."

Senator Tester rambles for a bit but then asks if they'd all just come back next year. Everyone says yes.

This means I'll have more livetweeting to do. Sigh.
Sen Rick Scott's message seems to be, "other people can share 'violence' so you should let Trump do it too."
OK. Actually have a bunch of work to do. Here's a summary of today:

R: Censorship of conservative voices!
D: You're letting Russia win!
R: We hate Iran and China!
D: These hearings are ridiculous. Also, you're letting Russia win!
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