According to the spokesperson of the Senate Commerce Committee, the executives of Twitter (NYSE:TWTR), Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), and Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) could be subpoenaed following their failure to testify on the legal shield protecting social media platforms from lawsuits.
Executives of social media tech giants to appear before the Senate Commerce committee
So far, the committee has summoned the CEOs to testify on October 1; although this seems to be a tight timeline for the panel, the members have stated that if the CEOs fail to appear before the committee, they will be subpoenaed. However, there is a possibility of other members objecting to the subpoenas. Washington Senator Maria Cantwell has called the threat of subpoenas a partisan effort coming just days before the November election. Cantwell stated that taking the step to issue subpoenas is an effort to chill the companies’ efforts in removing lies, intimidation, and harassment on their sites.
According to committee rules, when a ranking member refuses to agree to subpoena requests from the chairperson, the chairperson has the authority of calling the full committee for a vote on the issue. The panel wants to focus on measures of amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The Act allows social media platforms to avoid lawsuits regarding content posted by users. Early in July, a subcommittee held a hearing about the PACT Act, which is a compromise between more measured reformers and bias hawks, but the results were inconclusive.
Call for change of Section 230 by lawmakers
Over the past, the Senate Commerce Committee has investigated anticonservative bias on the Facebook platform with Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s CEO, grilled following the Cambridge Analytical scandal.
The legal shield in Section 230 has been criticized heavily in Washington, and recently the Justice Department unveiled a series of proposals for the overhaul of the Act. Also, the Federal Communications Commission wants to make changes to the Act through a rulemaking request from President Trump. Although both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have sought changes to Section 230, they have nevertheless differed in goals and approaches.