This four-hour House hearing was incredibly long, but not particularly illuminating, except insofar as revealing the personal preoccupations of various individual congresspeople.
To recap the events of the day:
- Sheryl Sandberg and Jack Dorsey testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee, largely about their efforts to combat foreign interference in US elections.
- The senate hearing was largely collegial, with both the tech executives and the lawmakers generally expressing their desire to work together to address coordinated attacks.
- Google was represented by an empty chair, having declined to make Sundar Pichai or Larry Page available to testify. The company’s absence made it a convenient target for lawmakers, and given how cordial the questioning was, it did not look good that Google was unwilling to show up.
- The Senate hearing was followed by a marathon grilling of Jack Dorsey by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
- Much of the House hearing was taken up with largely specious allegations of bias against conservatives by Republican lawmakers, who have spun a narrative of censorship out of very thin gruel.
- Dorsey was also asked about issues like harassment, cyberbullying, algorithmic bias, data privacy, foreign interference and more.
- The ultimate winner of the day was probably Dorsey, who kept his patience while being asked to answer the same questions over and over again, and managed to deliver a consistent message about working to improve Twitter without falling into any obvious political potholes.
Markwayne Mullin asks Dorey if he’s conservative, liberal, socialist or what.
Dorsey says he tries to focus on the issues. He’s a registered independent, he says.
Ryan Costello asks for a complete accounting of “all of the signals” that the Twitter algorithm uses.
Dorsey says that it can’t really, because they change all the time.
Rush: Do you consider President Trump’s tweets to be abusive at all?
Dorsey says that all accounts are held to the same standard, but that the company weighs public interest when it comes to enforcement.
This is the policy the wrote to provide themselves an excuse not to have to censor world leaders, which would be a minefield.
Bobby Rush is going back to the Frank Pallone’s questions about a civil rights audit. Now he’s asking about Twitter being used to organize violence.
Raul Ruiz of California says that we’re in the home stretch. He’s bearing down on the number of fake accounts on Twitter, for some reason that is unclear.
Buchshon asks about the diversity of the workforce.
Dorsey says that Twitter recognizes that it needs to decentralize out of San Francisco, mentioning how expensive it is. He says he’s excited to be a more “distributed” company.
Larry Bucshon asks if the algorithms are publicly available to be reviewed for bias.
Dorsey: Not today, but says he’s open to more transparency.
Long is now discussing the tweets that get sent to him by email from Twitter. He was sent “highlights” emails of tweets, and he is reading the names of the accounts whose tweets are included. They are mostly political reporters.
I think the implication here is that there aren’t enough Republicans included.
“They’re all pretty much Trump bashing,” he says.
Dorsey: It doesn’t sound like we served you well in matching your interests.
Billy Long of Missouri is praising Dorsey for his mannerisms and comportment. So that’s nice.
Paul Tonko is criticizing Twitter’s election advertising system in comparison to Facebook’s. Dorsey says that it’s a work in progress.
Bill Johnson of Ohio is talking about algorithms as being like art. Do you do peer reviews of algorithms?
Johnson: Can’t you modify your algorithms to be more intelligent on alerting certain things? Is it unreasonable to think that Twitter could not modify its algorithms to hit on illegal drug sales?
Dorsey: Not unreasonable at all, it’s just a matter of work.
Debbie Dingell asks about the datasets that are used to train Twitter’s AI and what kind of explainability its algorithms have.
Dorsey seems kind of excited to get some different questions, but he doesn’t directly answer them.
Gus Bilirakis is raising concerns about school threats on Twitter. It is a bit rich that a pro-gun Floridian congressman with an “A” rating from the NRA would be raising the issue of school safety with a social media company, but here we are.
Scott Peters of California says that Twitter has “democratized democracy” which makes about as much sense as most of the other comments in this hearing, which is heading toward its third hour.
Morgan Griffith of Virginia also wants to talk about drug sales on social media.
Dorsey says that the company is really focusing on foreign interference in elections.
Tony Cardenas also wants to talk about online bullying. He mentions Melania Trump’s campaign against cyberbullying, and takes a shot at Donald Trump.
As with most of the issues here, however, Twitter is certainly not the most important platform to talk about cyberbullying with.
According to Pew, US teenagers are vastly more likely to be using YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat.
A lot of Democrats are trying to bait Dorsey into calling out the Republicans for bad faith, but he’s not biting.
Joe Kennedy: Why do you outsource reporting abuse to users?
Dorsey: Well, we don’t feel great about it.
David Loebsack of Iowa wants to talk about the use of social media by teenagers and concerns about harassment and cyberbullying. He asks if they are making any changes for young users.
David McKinley of West Virginia is asking whether Twitter takes responsibility for the opioid crisis, referencing a study showing illegal drug ads. He references an ad for cocaine that went up in the last hour.
“I would be ashamed if I were you,” he says.
Lujan is now pointing out that Congress hasn’t actually passed any laws relating to Russian interference, Cambridge Analytica, or the Equifax breach and that this hearing might be a bit of a waste of time.
Ben Lujan: During the purge of bots, who lost more followers, Trump or Obama?
Dorsey: I don’t know.
Lujan is jocularly asking whether there is a conspiracy against Obama because he lost more bot followers than Trump.
Dorsey is just playing it straight.
Olson asks if Twitter prioritizes emergency outreach, referencing Hurricane Harvey.
Dorsey says that Twitter does prioritize emergency response, says that when 911 failed, people were able to use Twitter to ask for rescue.
Pete Olson of Texas is asking about the political bias of the Trust and Safety council.
Dorsey points out that the council is just advisory.
Peter Welch of Vermont complains about having a hearing to deal with Trump’s specious allegations of anti-conservative bias.
Welch moves on to questions of privacy, hate speech, and abuse: Bottom line, do you believe that this should be something that should be decided company by company, or should we have rules of the road that are moderated by elected officials?
Dorsey: We don’t want to compete on this. Independent of what the government things we should do, we are going to continue to do this work, and share our approach. This is not an area for us to compete.
Part of what is frustrating about this hearing is that the constant refrain from Republicans about anti-conservative bias simply muddies the water about real algorithmic bias.
And we’re back. Next up is Leonard Lance, who again wants to discuss the Meghan McCain tweet.
Lance: I think it’s the unanimous view of this committee is that 5 hours is intolerable.
We’re on a five minute recess.
One of the silly things about this hearing is that, in order to show that they are focused on “serious” issues instead of the imaginary shadowbanning problem that the Republicans are harping on, Democrats keep bringing up serious issues that aren’t actually that serious on Twitter, like data privacy, discriminatory advertising or foreign interference in elections.
Those are certainly important issues, but they are primarily issues with Facebook, which was not asked to appear at this hearing. Twitter is a comparatively tiny platform (300m users versus more than 2 billion) that holds an outsize importance in the minds of politicians and journalists. And the platform’s problems are much different – and arguably less insidious – than those of Facebook.
Gregg Harper also wants to talk about the number of Republican and the number of Democrats who were “shadowbanned”.
I wrote about the particular blindness that affects American politicians who insist on thinking that tech algorithms are biased in partisan ways here.
Sarbones says he will submit questions for Dorsey in writing while he uses his time to discuss Republican intransigence about investigating the Trump administration.
John Sarbones of Maryland says he is worried that this hearing is the result of Republicans “working the refs”.
Cathy McMorris Rodgers is again raising the issue of the offensive tweet about Meghan McCain.
Dorsey says, as he said before, that the tweet violated standards and should have been taken down early. He also reiterates that Twitter is trying to take burden of reporting abuse off the person who receives the abuse.
Kathy Castor raises the issue of the Justice Departmeent apparently investigating bias, and suggests that Republicans are running their own “influence” campaign to spread the idea of conservative bias.
Dorsey: People do see us as a digital public square and that comes with very serious obligations.
Castor praises Dorsey for being diplomatic in his answer.
Robert Latta asks if there is political bias in verification.
Dorsey: The program is paused, but we make exceptions for government figures, brands, and public figures.
Engel: Are you aware of current foreign interference operations related to the midterms?
Dorsey: None that we haven’t already reported.
Per Sheera Frenkel of the New York Times, the woman who was shouting was alt-right activist Laura Loomer.
Eliot Engel of New York asks about the recent news about an Iranian influence operation, asks whether it’s concerning that a third-party identified it first.
Someone in the audience is shouting. Someone with a microphone is pretending to do an auction, I think to drown her out...
Scalise is back on shadowbanning now. This is going to be a long afternoon of Republicans stating with no evidence that the “shadowbanning” issue was the result of bias against conservatives.
There is very little listening going on at this hearing.
Steve Scalise of Louisiana: What we’re concerned about is how Twitter has in some ways selectively adversely affected conservatives.
Scalise alleges that Twitter banned a Marsha Blackburn ad about the alleged “sale of body parts”.
Dorsey: This was a mistake and we do apologize.
Scalise wants to know if someone was held accountable. This is like a weird customer support call.
Dorsi Matsui asks about inferring identities from metadata.
Dorsey points out that Twitter is mostly public, so the data involved is less sensitive than “peer companies”, aka Facebook and Google.
Matsui now raises blockchain technology and asks what potential applications it has for Twitter.
Dorsey: Blockchain is one that has a lot of untapped potential, specifically around distributed trust and distributed enforcement.
He says they haven’t gone that deep on blockchain but do have people “thinking about it”.
Joe Barton of Texas says that Dorsey doesn’t look like a CEO. Dorsey says his mother agrees.
Barton then returns to alleging partisan bias, asking if there were Democrats within the 600,000 people who were affected by the auto-correct issue.
Dorsey says yes, but declines to name them.
Barton says “it’s hard to stomach” that Twitter isn’t discriminating against Republicans and that they wouldn’t be having this hearing if it wasn’t generally agreed upon that Twitter does discriminate against conservatives.
This is very silly.
Doyle: How can we ensure you have the proper incentives to address toxicity?
Dorsey: Our singular focus in on improving health right now, and we realize that will have short term costs, such as removing accounts.
Doyle: Right, there’s an economic disincentive to act because it removes people from the platform.
Dorsey: We believe this is a growth vector for us, long term. Even if it hurts us in the short term.
Doyle says that the entire premise of the hearing, that conservatives are being censored, is “a load of crap”.
He then turns to bullying and harassment, which he says are real issues.
Michael Doyle of Pennsylvania: “Social media is being rigged to censor conservatives – is that true?”
Doyle reads further statements by Republicans that accuse Twitter of censoring conservatives. Dorsey denies them.
Doyle points out the absurdity of Twitter having its own hearing without other social media companies, then turns to the “shadowbanning” issue:
“You were equal opportunity shadowbanning, right?”
Michael Burgess of Texas mentions the utility of Twitter as a real time news source, but says he is concerned about issues like a doctored photo of Meghan McCain that circulated over the weekend.
Dorsey: That was unacceptable. We don’t want to use our scale as an excuse here. We can’t place the burden on the victims, and we need to build technology so we’re not waiting for reports ... This was an image, and we just didn’t apply the image filter to recognize what was going on in real time ... We are using that as a lesson.
Burgess asks if Dorsey will apologize to the McCain family, and Dorsey says he will.
Green asks about bots.
Dorsey: We identify 8-10m accounts per week, and challenge them to prove they’re human.
Gene Green of Texas raises the GDPR and privacy. He asks if Twitter will allow users in the US to opt out of tracking.
Dorsey: Even before GDPR was enacted, we were actively making sure that the people that we serve have the controls to opt out of tracking across the web. We are very different from our peers in that the majority of what is on Twitter is public.
John Shimkus, of Illinois is raising concerns about Twitter potentially suppressing controversial speech. The he asks about the verification process.
Dorsey: To be very frank, our verification program is not where it needs to be. It needs a reboot and reworking.
Dorsey says that verification started in order to verify the CDC during a swine flu outbreak, but needs to be addressed more comprehensively. This became a major issue when Twitter verified the account of Jason Kessler, the organizer of the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.
Diana DeGette of Colorado raises an Amnesty International report describing misogynistic abuse of women on Twitter.
Does Twitter have reports of abuse based on demographics? Does Twitter have data on actions it has taken?
Dorsey: We don’t believe we can create a digital public square for people if they don’t feel safe to participate, and that is our number one priority.
Dorsey says they do have data on abuse reports and intends to create a public transparency report.
“We don’t feel it’s fair that the victims of harassment have to do the work to report it,” he says. “We think that we can reduce the amount of abuse and create technology to recognize it before a report has to be made.”
Fred Upton, “My name is Fred Upton and I have to bet that my initials are used more than any other. I would like to see civility brought back into public discourse ... How do you determine whether a user is tweeting to manipulate or divide the conversation?”
Dorsey explains how Twitter is using “health” as a metric for conversations. “Right now we’re trying to determine what the indicators of conversational health are.”
They are trying to figure out how to define and measure things like shared attention, shared facts, and variety of perspective.
Dorsey also acknowledges that there is confusion around Twitter’s rules.
Pallone asks if Twitter will do a civil rights audit with a third-party, and Dorsey says yes.
Pallone: How many human content moderators do you employ in the US and how much do they get paid?
Dorsey: We don’t like to think about it that way.
Pallone also asks what their training is and whether they are instructed that politicians and celebrities should be treated the same. Dorsey says he’ll follow up on specific numbers.
Dorsey: I do believe we should do more around protecting private individuals than we do to public figures.
Pallone: I think it’s the height of hypocrisy that Trump and Republicans criticize Twitter for supposed bias.
Pallone says Twitter has an obligation to ensure that at a minimum, it does no harm. He complains that the rules are unevenly enforced.
Walden: Why does Twitter rely on users to report violations?
Dorsey: This is a matter of scale...
Unspoken here is that Twitter doesn’t necessarily have the financial wherewithal to go on a massive hiring spree for content moderators, the way that Google and Facebook have.
Walden jumps into questioning about this “shadowban” issue, again.
Why did this only happen to certain accounts, he asks.
Dorsey: We use signals, hundreds of signals, to determine what to downrank and what to filter. We were using a signal of the behavior of people *following* accounts.
Dorsey says that this signal impacted 600,000 accounts, so it wasn’t just a handful of Republicans who were affected, as one might be led to believe by the way this issue has been beaten to death.
Dorsey addresses the “shadowbanning” scandal, which was actually an issue of certain accounts not appearing in auto-complete results.
More from the opening statement:
“Our early and strong defense of open and free exchange has enabled Twitter to be THE platform for activists, marginalized communities, whistleblowers, journalists, governments and the most influential people around the world. Twitter will always default to open and free exchange. A default to free expression left unchecked can generate risks and dangers for people. It’s important Twitter distinguishes between people’s opinions and behaviors, and disarms behavior intending to silence another person, or adversely interfere with their universal human rights.”
Jack Dorsey is now offering his opening statement: As he did this morning, he is reading the statement off his phone and simultaneously tweet-storming it.
Here’s the beginning of the Twitter thread:
Pallone: This hearing appears to be just one more mechanism to raise money and generate outrage.
Nevertheless, Pallone says, Twitter has issues and should be better at dealing with misinformation and abuse.
Frank Pallone of New Jersey, the Democratic ranking member, begins his opening statement by criticizing Trump for drumming up “conspiracy theories” about Twitter. He says he hopes this hearing won’t focus on that.
And then Walden gets to the “but...”, raising Vice New’s specious report about “shadowbanning” in July. Here’s our article addressing the “shadowban” theory, and explaining what was actually happening.
Chairman Greg Walden is opening things up by talking about how important Twitter is. He references the Arab Spring and calls the service “truly revolutionary in the way the Gutenberg press was revolutionary”.
Ok we’re getting underway!
We’re now waiting for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s hearing to begin. They’re running a bit behind schedule.
DoJ announces meeting to discuss social media "intentionally stifling" ideas
Directly after this morning’s hearing ended, the Department of Justice announced that attorney general Jeff Sessions “has convened a meeting with a number of state attorneys general this month to discuss a growing concern that these companies may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms.”
Rubio urges tech giants to resist 'authoritarian regimes'
Another major issue, especially for Senators Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton, was the degree to which Facebook, Twitter and Google should be aligned with American interests.
Rubio pressed Sandberg and Dorsey to “link your company to the values of this country” and pressed them not to comply with request from “authoritarian regimes”.
Looming over the hearing were recent reports that Google is working on a censored version of its search engine in order to re-enter China. By failing to attend the hearing, Google avoided awkward questions about those plans, but also lost any chance to defend itself.
Meanwhile Facebook, which is no less interested in capturing the Chinese market, got the opportunity to appear principled and transparent by comparison. “We would only operate in a country if we could do so in keeping with our values, and that includes China,” Sandberg said.
This liveblog got under way a little late, so we missed some key exchanges between the lawmakers and tech executives.
Ron Wyden, one of the more tech-savvy senators, spent most of his time discussing the nexus between personal data and national security, saying “personal data is now the weapon of choice for political influence campaigns” and charging tech companies to “not make it easier for our adversaries to seize these weapons and use them against us”.
Wyden also pressed Sandberg on Facebook ads designed to suppress voting – the Trump campaign reportedly targeted African American voters with messages designed to discourage them from voting in the 2016 election.
Sandberg said “that activity has no place on Facebook”, but did not provide any specifics of how Facebook could detect or prohibit such ads, or whether they are technically against the company’s terms of service.
Sandberg also struggled with pointed questions from Kamala Harris, who referenced a 2017 ProPublica report on how Facebook polices content, which revealed that the company treats white men as a protected class but not black children.
The distinction in question stemmed from Facebook’s awkward efforts to define protected classes based on certain characteristics (gender) but not others (age).
“That was badly written policy,” Sandberg said. She claimed that Facebook “fixed it” after publication of the article, but could not provide details.
Sandberg is now off the hook, but Dorsey has another hearing today. He’ll testify before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce in a hearing that is likely to focus more on partisan political issues than the one that just concluded.
In his prepared remarks for the House committee, which were published yesterday, Dorsey emphasized Twitter’s neutrality, saying: “Twitter does not use political ideology to make any decisions, whether related to ranking content on our service or how we enforce our rules. We believe strongly in being impartial, and we strive to enforce our rules impartially. We do not shadowban anyone based on political ideology.”
The House committee gets underway at 1:30pm Eastern, and we’ll be following along.
The hearing is adjourned.
My quick take: This was a fairly congenial hearing, with senators largely emphasizing their desire to work together with tech companies, and Dorsey and Sandberg taking pains to emphasize how much they want to cooperate as well.
The absence of Google provided a convenient whipping boy for the senators, and a contrast for Dorsey and Sandberg, who got to look transparent and accountable in contrast.
Ultimately, there was not much new information, but it was interesting to see Sandberg and Dorsey engage on this stage for the first time.
Burr is now offering closing remarks. He notes that the Russian influence operation was against the American people, not the American government.
“There is a very human component to this. No single algorithm can fix the problem. Social media is a part of our life. It serves as the family newsletter... Unfortunately other states are now using the Russian playbook. We’re at a critical inflection point. Will using social media to sow discord become an acceptable form of statecraft? Your companies must be at the forefront of combatting those issues.”
Warner is providing some closing remarks: I think we’re going to see more cases where misinformation actually incites violence. He raises the specter of violence like in Myanmar occurring elsewhere.
Burr asks Sandberg and Dorsey to let him know if there are ways the government can work better with them.
Reed: Do you believe that your users should have the right to control what you do with their data.
Sandberg: Yes, very strongly, it’s your information.
(There are many, many caveats to any assurances from Facebook that users have any control over their data. But Sandberg delivers the Facebook talking points much more believably than Mark Zuckerberg does.)
Reed is asking why Twitter doesn’t label bots, which is an issue Warner already brought up.
Dorsey notes that some of the bots are still difficult to identify because they mimic human activity. So if they label some bots, it might fool users into thinking that every account that isn’t labeled is a bot.
Sandberg: We’re committed to working with you on it.
Jack Reed asks if the government is working with them to combat election interference, giving Dorsey and Sandberg a chance to praise them.
Cotton: Why does Facebook allow Wikileaks and Julian Assange?
Sandberg: I’m nog going to defend Wikileaks and Julian Assange. Wikileaks is public and it doesn’t violate our terms of service.
Dorsey: We also haven’t found violations of terms of service, but we are open to law enforcement insight that would tell us that there has been a violation.
Cotton asks Dorsey if he prefers to see the US remain the dominant world power.
Dorsey is dodging that question, and trying to thread a needle of being “consistent” with following its own terms of service when it comes to dealing with government requests.
Senator Tom Cotton: Both of you should wear it as a badge of honor that you are blocked in China.
Cotton criticizes Google for “cooperating” with “the Chinese Communist Party” (via device maker Huawei) while simultaneously reportedly taking steps to build a censored search engine for China and backing away from working on weaponized AI for the US government.
This is... complicated, and Cotton’s statement is beyond questionable. But Google’s failure to show up for this hearing is allowing Twitter and Facebook to look much more ~patriotic~ than Google.
Manchin: But do you all feel any responsibility?
He raises the prospect of passing some kind of law akin to SESTA/FOSTA to limit the CDA Section 230 safe harbor clause and make internet platforms more liable for drug sales.
Manchin: Why are you not doing business in China?
Both say: We are blocked.
Sandberg: The Chinese government blocked us... In order to go into China we would have to be able to do so without sacrificing our values and that’s not possible to do right now.
Manchin says that prosecutors are looking to hold drug dealers are responsible for the deaths of drug users. He asks to what extent platforms bear responsibility for deaths of drug users if they die from drugs bought on platform.
Sandberg and Dorsey are silent for a long moment, before Sandberg jumps in to say that the sale of drugs on the platform is against policy. She then adds that FB is cracking down on predatory drug rehab centers.
Dorsey: We are looking deeply at how this information and activity spreads so we can shut it down.
Joe Manchin of West Virginia brings up the illegal sale of opiates on Facebook and Twitter. He says the tools used for these sales are similar to those that are used by Russian influence operations.
Lankford asks about WhatsApp.
Sandberg: We are strong believers in encryption. Encryption helps keep people safe.
Alex Jones in testy exchange with Marco Rubio
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, whose fake news broadcast Infowars was recently banned from Facebook, is present at the hearing. He apparently had a testy exchange with Marco Rubio in the hallway.
Senator James Lankford is also concerned about “deep fakes”. “Americans typically can trust what they say and suddenly in video they can no longer trust what they see.”
Angus King asks about the line between providing context and true information, and censoring. “I’d hate to see your platforms become political in the sense that you’re censoring any one side.”
Dorsey says Twitter “defaults to freedom of expression.”
“We need to understand when that default interferes with other fundamental rights”, such as freedom from harm.
Angus King asks about deep fakes. Is there a technological way that you can determine that a video has been manipulated and tag it?
Sandberg: Deep fakes is a new area, and as always we’re going to do a combination of investing in technology and investing in people.
There’s a pretty substantial contrast between Dorsey’s and Sandberg’s tones today. Sandberg is fairly upbeat in defending Facebook and its various efforts to address serious issues. Dorsey is taking a more confessional tone, referring repeatedly to his company’s failures.
Blunt asks Dorsey what is the business downside of working on these issues. A backdrop to this question is that Twitter’s stock price has dropped significantly during this hearing.
One reason for that may be Dorsey’s repeated statements that Twitter is considering making “tectonic shifts” in how it incentivizes user behavior.
Roy Blunt is questioning Sheryl Sandberg: “What’s the big challenge about being at the forefront of trying to figure this out from a business perspective?”
Sandberg: “We have been investing very heavily in people, in our systems, and I that’s what you’re seeing pay off.
Sandberg praises “tighter coordination” between social media companies, government, and law enforcement to combat foreign interference.
Sheryl Sandberg and Jack Dorsey testify before Senate intelligence committee
Welcome to our live coverage of executives from Facebook and Twitter are testifying before Congress. This is their latest attempt to assure lawmakers that they are capable of protecting the upcoming midterm elections from foreign interference – but the loudest message so far may have come from Google, which is represented by an empty chair.
“The era of the Wild West in social media is coming to an end,” warned Senator Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in his opening remarks. “Where we go from here now is an open question.”
The hearing is the fourth in a series examining how social media platforms have evolved from fun time-wasters into what committee chair Senator Richard Burr called “a threat to our democracy”.
“Clearly this problem is not going away; I’m not even sure it’s trending in the right direction,” Burr said of the threat to US elections from foreign influence operations on social media platforms.
“What happened in the 2016 election cycle was unacceptable,” said Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg in prepared remarks. “We were too slow to spot this and too slow to act. That’s on us … We are learning from what happened, and we are improving.”
Jack Dorsey, chief executive of Twitter, also acknowledged his company’s past failures. “Abuse, harassment, troll armies, propaganda through bots and human coordination, misinformation campaigns, and divisive filter bubbles – that‘s not a healthy public square,” he said in opening remarks. “We acknowledge the real-world negative consequences of what happened, and we take full responsibility to fix it.”
Google, which declined to send CEO Sundar Pichai or co-founder and Alphabet CEO Larry Page, was notably absent, an empty chair and nameplate providing a constant visual reminder of the snub. The company sought to send senior vice president for global affairs Kent Walker, but was rebuffed.
“I’m deeply disappointed that Google – one of the most influential digital platforms in the world – chose not to send its own top corporate leadership to engage this committee,” said Warner. “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 actually take a leadership role in this important public discussion.”