The CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google will tell US lawmakers on Wednesday that a federal law that's helped internet platforms flourish encourages free expression and allows the companies to moderate content.
The law, known as Section 230, shields internet companies from liability for content posted by their users. Both Republicans and Democrats have targeted the law as the social networks crack down on misinformation and other content. Republicans allege the tech firms censor conservative speech and therefore shouldn't have the protections. The companies have repeatedly denied the allegations. Democrats say the companies aren't doing enough to curb the spread of misinformation and hate speech.
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"We should also be mindful that undermining Section 230 will result in far more removal of online speech and impose severe limitations on our collective ability to address harmful content and protect people online," Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said in prepared testimony to the Senate Commerce Committee.
Twitter released Dorsey's remarks on Tuesday, the day before he's scheduled to appear beside Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai to testify about the law, which is considered foundational to free expression on the internet. Dorsey said Americans want to trust the services they use but don't want less free speech.
Regulation, Dorsey said in the testimony, "can further entrench companies that have large market shares and can easily afford to scale up additional resources to comply."
Zuckerberg has a different view on regulation and has said before that he supports rules, including some around content moderation. The debate about Section 230, he said in his prepared remarks, "shows that people of all political persuasions are unhappy with the status quo."
"Section 230 made it possible for every major internet service to be built and ensured important values like free expression and openness were part of how platforms operate," Zuckerberg's remarks say, according to a copy Facebook provided to CNET. "Changing it is a significant decision. However, I believe Congress should update the law to make sure it's working as intended."
Google CEO Sundar Pichai will tell the committee that the internet is one of the "word's most important equalizers" but will say there are trade-offs that come with its power. "Information can be shared — and knowledge can flow — from anyone, to anywhere," Pichai will say in prepared testimony, according to a copy provided to CNET. "But the same low barriers to entry also make it possible for bad actors to cause harm."
Pichai will argue that Section 230 is "foundational" to America's leadership in the tech industry.
"As you think about how to shape policy in this important area, I would urge the Committee to be very thoughtful about any changes to Section 230 and to be very aware of the consequences those changes might have on businesses and consumers," his remarks say.
The hearing is scheduled to start Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT.