Twitter CEO says ‘shadow ban’ not impartial

Joshua Bennett
September 6, 2018

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee to answer questions about their platform's roles in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and any Russian interference in the democratic process via the social networks.

Its statement did not specifically name Facebook and Twitter - but those companies have been harshly criticised by US President Donald Trump for what he sees as an effort to repress conservative voices.

One of the most interesting parts of the hearing was when Rep. McKinley (R-WV) showed Dorsey recent tweets that were illegally selling drugs, such as cocaine.

Meanwhile, senators are debating new laws to regulate social-media companies.

"Each of you have come a long way with respect to recognizing the threat", Senator Mark Warner, the committee's top-ranking Democrat, said.

Google was invited to attend the Senate hearing but declined to send its chief executive Sundar Pichai or Larry Page, the head of its parent firm Alphabet.

Google did not to send a representative to Capitol Hill in person, instead choosing to submit written testimony. An empty chair was left at the table next to Sandberg and Dorsey to signify Google's absence.

Warner said, "Our members have a series of hard questions about structural vulnerabilities on a number of Google's platforms that we will need answered". "I think that ambiguity has given rise to something of a convenient identity crisis, whereby judgments about what is and isn't allowable on social media are too episodic, too reactive, and too unstructured", he said. "It violated the values of our company and of the country we love". "For them Twitter has always been a source of joy, learning and connection to something bigger".

"We were too slow to spot this and too slow to act", Sandberg told the panel. "The faster we can collaborate, the faster we share those tips with each other, the stronger our collective defense will be".

"What we know is we must commit to a rigorous and independently vetted set of metrics to measure the health of public conversation on Twitter", Mr Dorsey said.

Jones, whose Infowars site has been praised by Trump, denounced what he called "a plan to deplatform conservatives, just like communist China", adding, "this is unsafe, authoritarianism".

Warner responded that social media companies that fail to do so should face sanctions.

"Given its size and influence, I would have thought the leadership at Google would want to demonstrate how seriously it takes these challenges and to lead this important public discussion", said Sen.

Sandberg and Dorsey highlighted their companies' detection and removal of accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency, a so-called troll farm with links to Russia's military intelligence unit. We're working on technology and investments in people making sure fake news is disseminated less on the platforms, transparency actions and taking down bad actors.

Dorsey said, "We acknowledge the real world, negative consequences of what happened and we take the full responsibility to fix".

This year, USA concern about political interference hasn't been limited to Russian Federation.

Rep. Diana Degette asked Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey during his testimony on Wednesday, September 5 (September 6, PH time), what the platform was doing to protect women from harassment and threats on Twitter. Covert accounts linked to Iran also have cropped up. Most of those accounts were created after the presidential election and claimed US affiliation or sought to reach American audiences, according to Dorsey's testimony.

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