Despite the growing popularity of Facebook and Twitter, they are not excluded from the scrupulous eyes of lawmakers. They are currently being questioned about their internal processes as well as some sensitive online privacy issues that have affected the previous elections as well as the general safety of the public.
If Facebook and Twitter will not be able to justify their processes and actions, this might end their digital domination.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has invited Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey to answer some questions with regard to their respective social media platforms.
The End of Facebook and Twitter?
They were also questioned about the processes they are undergoing in order to take out bad users or users that cause online harassment as well as spreading hate.
And if it is really true, that these platforms are only targeting those conservative voices?
The hearing was done in two sessions. Eight hours each session. And during these sessions, members of the Congress firmly expressed their concern as well as frustrations on how these platforms are being used by the public.
Some of the critical issues that were raised pertaining to the use of these tech giants is their relations with foreign agencies.
It seems that these platforms are being used by foreign agencies and organizations to create campaigns that are putting risk to the country’s democracy. There are also organizations that are very aggressive in spreading hate and fake news using these platforms. And since these platforms are for public use, everyone is affected by the issues.
These attacks should not be taken lightly. And it should be the focus of discussion, according to Chair of Cybersecurity Saul Ewing.
Facebook and Twitter admitted that they are aware of these issues. And they admitted that their platforms are indeed being used by organizations to manipulate people. They confirmed that they are already working on the solutions on how to solve this problem. But it is not an easy problem to solve. They, however, assured the Congress that they are doing their best to resolve these issues as soon as possible.
If Facebook and Twitter will not be able to solve these issues, this might end their domination, according to Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner.
Congress is also putting these tech giants into tight scrutiny. They are questioning these tech giants about their internal processes. Facebook and Twitter are also being questioned on how they deal with the issues of election tampering, account user banning, and fake news spreading.
These are smart questions that these tech giants should answer with transparency. We should commend Congress for aligning their questions on these issues, who, unlike before having no idea about social media and how Americans consume technology.
Gone are the days were gray-haired senators are asking Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, basic questions like how Facebook is free. No more of that. Because legislators are into data privacy and election tampering issues.
With this, they plan to continue on scheduling more hearings with these tech giants.
They try to contact Google. But Alphabet CEO Larry Page or Google CEO Sundar Pichai failed to appear in Congress. That is why Congress is now planning to subpoena them.
If you are thinking that these hearings will create new tech laws and regulations. Not really. Georgetown Center for Business Project Director Larry Downes already mentioned that these hearings will not create bills or whatsoever.
So what can the public expect from these hearings? What are these for then?
Because of these hearings, lawmakers are thinking of doing an international audit on these tech companies. Jack Dorsey is firm to commit on a civil rights audit.
Behind the Congress Hall
Public might be thinking that they’ve seen all the actions on TV since the hearing was made public. But the real drama and controversial moments happen in the Congress hallway and on the audience.
Alex Jones, a conspiracy theories, was seen ranting about Facebook and Twitter while in the audience. He was also in a heated argument with a Republican senator. His actions while the hearings are happening has cost him his Twitter account. Because he was permanently banned from using Twitter. He was also banned by Apple for violating important community guidelines.
This is just one of the many theatrics happening behind the camera and between Congress hall.
Is it Too Late for These Tech Giants?
Facebook and Twitter have committed to do their best to solve these critical issues as fast as possible. But lawmakers are not convinced. They believe that this tech giant can do better. They can solve this faster as they are fast-moving innovators.
Also, if they are not fast at solving these issues, other problems will pile up. One is when Facebook discovered suspicious behavior of hundreds of pages and accounts. This issue was linked to the issue on the 2018 US election disruption.
Facebook already removed these suspicious pages and accounts, especially those that have a link to Russia and Iran. Twitter also did the same. They have blocked 284 accounts that have a tie to Iran. Google and YouTube also did the same.
Congress appreciated and applauded the move of these tech giants. However, some expert says that the integrity of the 2018 election is still questionable and is beyond saving.
For Alex Stamos, ex-Facebook Security chief, it might be too late for the 2018 election. But we can still prepare to defend American democracy in 2020.
So it is up to Facebook, Twitter, Google and other tech giants on how to solve these pressing issues, if not, this might be the end for them. They may be dominating our lives, they may be influencing our decisions, but if they fail to commit and deliver what they were asked to do, the public might say goodbye scrolling on their phones or computers.