It seems like every time the CEO of a big tech firm is summoned to appear before the US Congress, the hearings do not result in much. Unfortunately, the same has happened this week, as neither Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey or Sundar Pichai were able to provide definitive yes or no answers to questions posed to them by members of Congress on an array of subjects regarding Facebook, Twitter and Google respectively.
Both democrats and republicans pushed for answers, with the former focusing on misinformation and extremism and the latter concerned with online child safety, but the hearing yield next to no tangible information or resolution.
Naturally the US Capitol riots at the beginning of the year got a lot of attention during the hearing. While the role former President Donald Trump played in inciting violence was not touched on, how the riots were coordinated online was.
“That attack and the movement that motivated it started and was nourished on your platforms,” Rep. Mike Doyle noted in his opening statement. “Your platforms suggested groups for people to join, videos they should view and posts they should like — driving this movement forward with terrifying speed and efficiency,” he put forward.
As Engadget reports, the representatives tried to get the big tech CEOs to acquiesce to the fact that their respective platforms bear some of the blame for the events that led up to and transpired that day on 6th January 2021. Only Dorsey acknowledged the point, with Zuckerberg and Pichai choosing to talk around it and failing to shoulder any burden.
One of the more notable exchanges during the hearing involved Mark Zuckerberg and Rep. Anna Eshoo of California during the dedicated yes or no portion, which you can watch in the tweet below.
“I think it’s irritating all of us and that is, no one seems to know the word yes or the word no, which one is it,” Eshoo said of the big tech CEOs’ unwillingness to give direct answers.
“Congresswoman, these are nuanced issues,” Zuckerberg replied, after which Eshoo quickly remarked, “Okay, that’s a no.”
These companies are not doing enough to protect their users and our democracy. They must be held accountable. pic.twitter.com/YyNDoBDkS0
— Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (@RepAnnaEshoo) March 25, 2021
The exchange summed up what has happened at past hearings and a distinct desire from big tech companies to distance themselves from these kinds of issues. This despite developing policies, especially in the past year, that focused on limiting misinformation and incitement of violence from flourishing on their platforms.
As such, it may be that these Congress hearings are not the best venue for which to hold these kinds of discussions, as the same lack of ownership will happen again and again.
As the United States government continues its push to regulate big tech, a better solution must be found to get all parties in discourse with one another and tangibly tackle issues that effect citizens not only in the US, but across the globe. If not, we’ll continue to go around in circles.