The CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google parent company Alphabet will be in the hot seat once again during a Section 230 hearing Wednesday, when they are set to testify virtually before lawmakers in the Senate Commerce Committee.
Section 230 is a key provision under the Communications Decency Act, which shields online companies from being held liable for the content their users create.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is expected to tell the committee that the removal of the law could stifle freedom of expression and impede technological innovation.
"Without Section 230, platforms could potentially be held liable for everything people say," Zuckerberg's prepared testimony reads. "Platforms would likely censor more content to avoid legal risk and would be less likely to invest in technologies that enable people to express themselves in new ways."
In addition, he is expected to note that the safety and security of social media users could be put at risk by making platforms face liability for "basic moderation", including removing hate speech and harrassment.
"Facebook was built to enable people to express themselves and share, but we know that some people use their voice to cause harm by trying to organize violence, undermine elections, or otherwise hurt people," Zuckerberg notes. "We have a responsibility to address these risks, and Section 230 enables us to do this more effectively by removing the threat of constant litigation we might otherwise face."
According to Zuckerberg, Section 230's protections have allowed over 250 million pieces of content that violates Facebook and Instagram's policies to be removed in the first half of 2020, including almost 25 million pieces of content relating to terrorism and organized hate, almost 20 million pieces of content involving child nudity or sexual exploitation, and about 8.5 million pieces of content identified as bullying or harassment.
Rather than removing the law, Zuckerberg will advocate for Section 230 to be updated to make sure it is working as intended and will encourage that the federal government take a more active role in helping to regulate harmful content, privacy, elections and data portability information.
"We stand ready to work with Congress on what regulation could look like in these areas," Zuckerberg adds. "By updating the rules for the Internet, we can preserve what’s best about it—the freedom for people to express themselves and for entrepreneurs to build new things—while also protecting society from broader harms."
Meanwhile, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai will argue that while Section 230 has allowed the Internet to be one of the world's "most powerful equalizers," it has also allowed for potential harm from bad actors.
"Information can be shared—and knowledge can flow—from anyone, to anywhere. But the same low barriers to entry also make it possible for bad actors to cause harm," Pichai's prepared testimony reads.
However, he will stress that Google's information services have offered "thousands of dollars a year in value to the average American" for free, that the platform is committed to protecting the quality and integrity of information on its platforms, and that the company will support democracy and freedom of expression in a "non-partisan way."
"We recognize that people come to our services with a broad spectrum of perspectives, and we are dedicated to building products that are helpful to users of all backgrounds and viewpoints," Pichai says. "Let me be clear: We approach our work without political bias, full stop. To do otherwise would be contrary to both our business interests and our mission, which compels us to make information accessible to every type of person, no matter where they live or what they believe."
In addition, Pichai will highlight the existing legal framework established by Section 230 as "foundational" to US leadership in the tech sector, arguing the law "protects the freedom to create and to share content while supporting the ability of platforms and services of all sizes to responsibly address harmful content."
The hearing will begin starting at 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT. You can check out Zuckerberg's full remarks here and Pichai's full remarks here. You can follow along with live coverage of the hearing on FOX Business Network and get the latest updates on FoxBusiness.com