Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg will testify before the Senate next week and are expected to be asked about President Donald Trump’s claims their social media companies are biased against conservatives.
They are also expected to be questioned about how Russians were able to use their various platforms to influence the 2016 election and what measures they are taking to safeguard the upcoming midterm contests.
Representatives of the big three companies – Facebook, Twitter and Google – have appeared before various Congressional committees several times to discuss these issues but the continued requests for appearances indicate lawmakers’ concerns about Silicon Valley’s influence in the political world.
The two tech executives will speak to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Sept. 5.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has defended his company against allegations of bias
Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg will join Dorsey on Sept. 5 before the Senate Intelligence Committee
Trump, especially, has been slamming social media hard, using Twitter to complain about bias in Google searches and that conservatives’ voices are being silenced.
He’s accused Google of ‘rigged’ search results and Twitter of ‘shadow banning.’
And, on Tuesday, he doubled down on claims that Google ‘rigged’ its results to show only bad news stories about him.
The tech firm categorically denied that politics play any role in the complex algorithms that determine what users are shown when they search a term.
Google said in a statement: ‘Search is not used to set a political agenda’ and that ‘we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.’
Trump wrote: ‘Google search results for ‘Trump News’ shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake New Media.
‘In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD. Fake CNN is prominent.
‘Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out. Illegal? 96% of results on ‘Trump News’ are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous.
‘Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good. They are controlling what we can & cannot see.
‘This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!’
Google uses a complex algorithm to decide what results users are presented with, though its exact workings remain a closely guarded corporate secret.
The firm has revealed that a user’s search history will affect the results, so it is possible that Trump’s focus on negative stories about himself skewed his search.
However, other right-wing figures have been arguing for months that their voices are being silenced online by the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Google and YouTube.
Dorsey told CNN last weekend that political ideology does not influence how Twitter determines what is and is not appropriate behavior.
“The real question behind the question is, ‘Are we doing something according to political ideology or viewpoints?’ And we are not. Period,” Dorsey said. “We do not look at content with regards to political viewpoint or ideology. We look at behavior.”
In July, Trump blasted Twitter for allegedly depressing the exposure of messages from its conservative users.
‘Twitter “SHADOW BANNING” prominent Republicans. Not good’ the president boomed, ironically on his Twitter account.
‘We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once! Many complaints.’
It’s unclear what the administration could do to challenge Twitter for sorting content and delivering it selectively to users based on a computer algorithm.
It’s also not obvious what law Trump believes the platform’s management might be violating.
Twitter has denied it shadow banned.
President Trump has been slamming social media hard, using Twitter to complain about bias in Google searches and that conservatives’ voices are being silenced
Donald Trump launched into an attack on Google on Tuesday morning, accusing the web giant of rigging its search results to make him look bad
Trump threatened to address what he called ‘a very serious situation’, though it is not clear how he intends to do this
Conservative bloggers Diamond and Silk accused Facebook of censoring their message after noticing dwindling audience figures earlier this year.
There already have been two Congressional hearings about the issue, with tech companies repeatedly denying that they promote or demote content based on its political content.
Trump’s complaints also come after right-wing talk show host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was banned from multiple social media platforms – including Facebook and Twitter – for violating hate-speech policies.
At a rally in West Virginia earlier in the week, Trump even suggested that censorship was worse than his old foe, the ‘fake news media’.
Trump said ‘social media censorship’ is ‘the new thing’ but he’d rather have ‘fake news’ over people being ‘stopped and censored.’
‘So we’ll live with fake news. I mean, I hate to say it,’ he said, ‘Because that’s by far the better alternative.’
It is not the first time that Trump has attacked tech giants, though on that occasion he accused the firms of suppressing bad news about others.
In October 2016, Trump accused Google, Facebook and Twitter of burying the news that Hillary Clinton was being investigated by the FBI over her emails – branding them ‘very dishonest media’.