Facebook, Twitter face congressional hearings on political bias, fake news

As Facebook, Twitter and Google officials prepare for a marathon day of congressional hearings on Wednesday to address concerns about fake news and political bias on their sites, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is set to defend his platform from allegations of censorship.

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“Twitter does not use political ideology to make any decisions, whether related to ranking content on our service or how we enforce our rules,” Dorsey said in prepared testimony obtained by Fox News. “We believe strongly in being impartial, and we strive to enforce our rules impartially.”

Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding efforts to identify and prevent efforts by foreign governments to spread false information on the platforms. The hearing is part of an ongoing effort to address evidence of Russian meddling during the 2016 election cycle.

The Twitter CEO will also make a solo appearance before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where Dorsey is expected to face tough questioning on allegations that the social platform has suppressed conservative voices. Critics have accused Twitter of “shadowbanning” Republicans, or rendering their posts virtually invisible to most users through the use of algorithms.

Top Google officials, including Larry Page, CEO of parent company Alphabet, and Sundar Pichai, CEO of the Google brand, declined invitations from congressional leaders to testify at the hearings. Senate leaders rejected Google’s offer to make Kent Walker, its senior vice president and chief legal officer, available for the hearings.

Google said Walker will be on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, adding that company officials first informed the Senate committee that Walker would be Google’s representative in July.

"Over the last 18 months we’ve met with dozens of Committee Members and briefed major Congressional Committees numerous times on our work to prevent foreign interference in US elections,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. “Our SVP of Global Affairs and Chief Legal Officer, who reports directly to our CEO and is responsible for our work in this area, will be in Washington, D.C. on September 5, where he will deliver written testimony, brief Members of Congress on our work, and answer any questions they have.”

As Facebook’s representative, Sandberg will guide lawmakers through Facebook’s effort to address misinformation on its platform without hampering free speech. Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s founder and CEO, faced tough questioning on the platform’s internal practices when he testified before Congress in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal.

President Trump has repeatedly criticized Google, Facebook and Twitter in recent days, bashing the companies in a series of tweets and press conferences for allegedly exhibiting political bias against conservatives.

“Google and Twitter and Facebook, they’re really treading on very, very troubled territory and they have to be careful. It’s not fair to large portions of the population,” Trump said at a press conference last week.