A Big Tech Hearing As Pointless and Performative As Every Other One

Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai, and Jack Dorsey faced the music. The tune is becoming familiar.


When it was her turn to speak at Wednesday's Senate Commerce Committee Hearing, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R–Tenn.) had a rather specific question fo Google CEO Sundar Pichai: "Is Blake Lemoine, one of your engineers, still working with you?"

Pichai responded that he did not know whether this particular individual was still employed by Google.

"Well, he has had very unkind things to say about me," said Blackburn. "I was just wondering if you had kept him working there."

Yes, she actually asked this.

Not every question posed to Pichai, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, and Twitter's Jack Dorsey hinged on whether an employee had personally insulted a member of the government, but a great many of them were of similarly dubious public value. As has been the case at previous Congressional hearings on tech issues, Democrats and Republicans assailed the CEOs for opposite problems, seeking openly contradictory solutions. In particular, the left wants to regulate Twitter and Facebook for allowing too much content, while the right wants to regulate these companies for allowing too little content. The only winner here is the regulatory state itself—certainly not the users of these tech platforms' services.

Indeed, the government actually earned a concession from the CEOs—Zuckerberg in particular—that some reform of Section 230 (the federal law that allows the internet as we know it to function) might be amenable to Facebook. But as Zuckerberg rightly noted in one of his responses, changing the law and subjecting social media companies to increased liability could paradoxically help Big Tech by subjecting smaller competitors to un-survivable costs. Facebook, Twitter, and Google have armies of lawyers and can afford to spend money on compliance. If a new, smaller company comes along to challenge Facebook's dominance, the regulatory barriers erected to control Big Tech would be too high for new competitors to surmount.

In holding this hearing, Senate Republicans—to their slight credit—had actually seized upon a legitimate grievance (albeit one the federal government is not at all positioned to solve): social media's handling of the New York Post's Hunter Biden expose. A problem for the senators, however, quickly merged: Dorsey readily conceded that Twitter's aggressive suppression of the link to the story was misguided, and had in fact admitted this—and vowed to change the policy—within hours of the initial controversy. He also said that the Post could easily recover its Twitter account.

"[Post editors] have to log in and delete the original tweet," Dorsey explained. "They can tweet the exact same article today and it would go through."

As is characteristic of these disputes, the concession actively displeased the other side. Sen. Brian Schatz (D–Hawaii) steadfastly maintained that the platforms had a duty not to circulate misinformation that "interferes in the election," whether "foreign or domestic." He complained that the Republicans were attempting to bully the CEOs into being nicer to conservatives—and then immediately began to bully them for being too nice to conservatives.

"You've hired Republican operatives, hosted private dinners with Republican leaders, and in contravention of your terms of service, given special dispensation to rightwing voices and throttled progressive journalism," said Schatz.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't: That's the only rule of these increasingly fraught tech hearings.

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  1. Is it just me, or is Jack Dorsey really just Hunter Biden disguising himself as a homeless man?

    1. Come to think of it, you never see both of them in the same room..

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    3. Dorsey looks exactly like I would expect someone with his politics to look.

      1. A golden nose booger is still just a booger.

    4. The nose ring really tied the look together. Douchebag level - Epic.

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  2. The solution is get rid of social media companies and comment sections. They serve no purpose and have degenerated any chance of civility.

    Otherwise regulation may be the only method to corral this madness. The days of internet companies pretending they have no influence is over. Twitter showed this quite clearly.

    Also gross beard jack. Get some sense.

    1. The beard is either that of a bum, or of a really rich guy who doesn't have to care what people think of his grooming.

      1. No. It's just a "tough male" statement from a nerdy guy who isn't so tough but has enough money to be able to make it without having to worry about backing it up.

        Revenge of the nerds!

        1. It says to me "I get too stoned too often to actually give a damn about shaving."

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    2. "The solution is get rid of social media companies and comment sections."

      So has "Sometimes Bad Is Bad" declared, with the pen and the phone of "Sometimes Bad Is Bad"! So has it been declared, and so must it be done! All HAIL to the All-Powerful Authoritarians behind the curtains!

      Well, THESE comments sections RIGHT HERE, then, must IMMEDIATELY be shut down and shit down! fOR STARTERS!
      Perhaps (unless "Sometimes Bad Is Bad" is a flaming, blatant hypocrite) "Sometimes Bad Is Bad" will show us the START of the way, at the VERY least, and CEASE AND DESIST from adding comments, to these VERY SAME comment pages, which need to be SHUT DOWN!!!

      1. Shut up, turd-brained cretin.

        1. Wow, what clever wit! Did your mommy help you write that?

          1. No actually, your mom did.

    3. They serve no purpose and have degenerated any chance of civility.
      Nobody should talk any more!
      Otherwise regulation may be the only method to corral this madness.
      It’s always worked so well in the past!

      PS: Joe Biden is a crook.

      1. Please stop insulting...crooks.

        Thank You.

        1. Not actually an insult to crooks. Look at all the money he has accumulated for no real work, right out in the open (mostly).

          1. Real crooks have to actually do real work, and have to work to hide what they do. They're at least honest in their dishonesty.

    4. "The solution is get rid of social media companies and comment sections. They serve no purpose and have degenerated any chance of civility."

      There isn't a "civility exception" to the First Amendment, you [bleep] [bleep] son of a [bleep].

    5. They serve no purpose and have degenerated any chance of civility.

      Yet we keep Congress around.

      Social media does serve a purpose and fuck civility.

      1. get rid of comment sections? how would we share videos of hamburgers dancing to van halen?

        1. What if I would rather watch naked hamsters ballroom dancing?

            1. + 2 dollars.

              Some people just don't know good cinema.

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                1. Ah, the early days of the internet.

              2. And how could ANYONE forget "Ghost Chickens in the Sky", by LeRoy Troy?


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    6. The beard must be a disguise that he can remove after the hearing, so ordinary people won’t recognize him.

      It’s like robbing a gas station while wearing a big silly hat. No one remembers the rest of your face.

  3. serious derelicte vibes from Dorsey.

    1. Derelicte was a fashion craze not long ago. He's just retro.

      1. Well you can *derelick* my balls, el capitan

        1. You think you're too cool for school, but I got a newsflash for you Walter Concricht... you aren't!

          1. Yep, Dorsey definitely not an Ambi-Turner.

    2. Dorsey apparently lied to congress today. He claimed nypost could delete their original tweet and relost the exact same post with no worry. Someone attempted to post the same tweet and were blocked. Still. After everyone knows nothing was hacked.

      1. And that 'somebody', was Senator Ted Cruz. Whoops.

        Dorsey could be in deep shit here if he actually perjured himself.

  4. As if these social media giants could be intimidated by mere Congressmen.

  5. this kabuki is more boring than most.

  6. WTF is going on with Dorsey? Patrice O'Neal was right, white guys think it's "cool" to look bummy.

    1. What? You wouldn't want that for your CEO?

  7. Not every question posed to Pichai, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, and Twitter's Jack Dorsey hinged on whether an employee had personally insulted a member of the government, but a great many of them were of similarly dubious public value.

    I don't think that line of questioning was of dubious public value. From my read, it was an attempt to show the total contempt the tech companies have towards their own terms of service.

    I don't have to support the legislative side of this coin, but I can look at this exchange in a vacuum and say, yeah, fuck off Dorsey with your corrupt and transparent contempt for your own so-called rules.

  8. Reason does a better job defending the Democratic social media machine than the Democrats do. Tom Perez should put them on payroll.

    In all seriousness, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that taxpayer-subsidized tech companies shouldn't be allowed to discriminate. And given the significant barriers to entry, "start your own social networking website" is dumb advice. We need less Ronald Reagan and more Theodore Roosevelt.

    1. And given the significant barriers to entry, “start your own social networking website” is dumb advice.

      This great thing about this idiotic advice is that dozens of people have actually started their own social networks and as soon as they attract any significant number of users they are shut down by collusion between ISPs, domain registrars, banks, payment processors, online ad networks, coordinated DDoS attacks.

      "Hurrr durrrrrrr just make your own internet, bank, payment processor, ISP and domain registrar then durrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr"

      1. That's EXACTLY why this should be charges of Antitrust; Nothing less, nothing more.

    2. You are quite possibly the dumbest motherfucker alive.

      1. Not at all; Biden lives!

      2. No. That would be ENB.

    3. Why?

      Are you planning to recklessly charge up some hill and then, should you actually survive, make exaggerated claims of glory about yourself?

      At least RR put the onus in the right place. Take responsibility for yourself and stop trying to blame the boogie man for your self perceptions.

      1. Quit whining about Twitter censoring your content, snowflake. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, and start your own tech company.

    4. Direct hit! Hey if you can call up the Fed or primary dealers or hedge funds and say you need 500M to start a competitor of FB, lets see if they give you the money..hell they put their ivy league buddies from NYC in charge of "content" management at these firms in the first place.

    5. Meh. Boogeymen.

      They have yet to establish why a specific legal carveout was required for big tech.

      "But as Zuckerberg rightly noted in one of his responses, changing the law and subjecting social media companies to increased liability could paradoxically help Big Tech by subjecting smaller competitors to un-survivable costs. "

      Not much direct cost to *not* filtering based on ideological content. There are only costs to your *business model* which relies on a crony capitalist legal carveout.

      Business constraints often only kick in after a business reaches a certain number of customers, employees, gross sales, etc.

    6. Tom Perez should put them on payroll.

      Why have Perez as a middle man? The same kinds of wealthy people bankrolling the Democrats are bankrolling Reason.

  9. Dorsey lied. The URL of the original post story itself is still blocked.

  10. Was it really pointless? As Ted Cruz demonstrated, twitter was still blocking the story until quite some time after the hearing was over, and tweeted about how lying to congress was a crime. Soon after that the story was no longer blocked (though the Post still is locked out of their account)

    1. That's okay. Individual liberty means big tech should be allowed to do anything it wants. Yes, the government will continue to subsidize them, but they're part of the free market, you know?

      1. It's fine for them to want discretion over what is published on their site.

        But if they are exercising discretion, then they should be held accountable for the content the allow on their site, including libel, slander, harrassment, and threats of violence that they allow to remain on their sites.

        If they don't want to be held responsible for libel, slander, and malicious content, then they should make the choice not to exercise publishing discretion on political viewpoints and "false" information.

        1. Also, I do not see why section 230 is being used to protect a publisher when it was written to give common decency protection to platforms (operating as a public space).

          I don't see how section 230 prevents Twitter, Facebook, and Google from being termed publishers and not platforms.

          It is possible to treat Twitter as a publisher when they behave like a publisher and maintain section 230 for businesses that behave like platforms - such as comment sections and other social media platforms.

          If it is necessary for the FCC to clarify this administration's interpretation of section 230 or for additional clarifications be added legislatively, then so be it. But it doesn't need to be repealed for Twitter and Facebook to sleep in the bed they made.

  11. "[Post editors] have to log in and delete the original tweet,"

    Show proper subservience to your masters, and perhaps we will permit you to play in our yard for awhile.

    1. Bend the knee, bitches.

      1. It's so transparent.

        The Left always does it's best to make you complicit in your own abuse. Control is not enough. You must *obey*.

  12. What happened to the court ruling that the web is a public space, and Trump can't block people?
    That would lead the last reasonable people on the planet to think that the public space cannot block one of the oldest voices in that public space.

    1. Knight First Amendment Institute v. Donald J. Trump implies that *anyone* in government who uses a platform that isn't content neutral as a "public forum" runs afoul of the First Amendment.
      Can't delegate your bias to the platform you select.
      Trump should sign an executive order ordering all federal employees to stop participating in public forums in their official capacity on social media that filters protected speech,

  13. So this moron from Hawaii is worried about "disinformation" and yet I don't see any regulatory of say the NYT which is the home base for disinformation. The issue is these companies believe they are sovereign countries that don't have to obey the bill of rights...they all run basically a digital classified such they can't discriminate between what their customers post unless it is illegal. That said these sovereign nations run by globalist NYC bolshevik types are at war with the US...a declaration of war should be passed and federal troops occupy the server farms, arrest the "commie" leaders and replace management who will obey the Bill of Rights..

    1. #CrazyMazie

  14. "...Sen. Brian Schatz (D–Hawaii) steadfastly maintained that the platforms had a duty not to circulate misinformation that "interferes in the election," whether "foreign or domestic."..."

    Well Joe the hoe and Hunter the pimp has yet to be debunked, so any claim it is misinformation is a lie.

  15. So even the contemplation of whether content is objectively true as opposed to fake, biased, or fabricated out of whole cloth to please a totalitarian dictatorship is ungoodthinkful at best and throughtcrime at worst? That's our trusts-ridden Kleptocracy all right.

  16. From the hearing:

    "CRUZ: "Does Twitter have the ability to influence elections?"

    DORSEY: "No"
    I guess this means the Russians could not have influenced the 2016 election

    1. So when is he going to be prosecuted for lying to the Senate while under oath? He obviously lied at least twice.

  17. "[Post editors] have to log in and delete the original tweet," Dorsey explained. "They can tweet the exact same article today and it would go through."

    As of today, Twitter is still blocking tweets containing links to the Post article, so that's a lie.

    Furthermore, even if they could repost it, that would lose all the original engagements before it was banned.

    1. And Reason will continue to defend their right to engage in ideological censorship, all while leeching off the American taxpayer.

      1. "Their right" refers to social media companies' right.

  18. I chose to block email today instead of send it to all my friends as requested by the author - Am I in violation of the 1st Amendment?

    The Government shouldn't be chopping at the press over content; I wish they'd either make a successful Antitrust suite and break up the companies across multiple states or just shut the F-Up already.

  19. Enjoyed Reading the post its amazing

  20. Sigh...blown opportunity. This is why I hate DC politicians.

    Nobody asked the CEOs about the specific behaviors documented in the DOJ lawsuit. Nobody asked the CEOs for their assessment of whether they were a distributor of content, or a publisher of content.

    I won't say the hearings were a waste of time, but close to it.

    WTF is up with Dorsey, looking like a damned bum for a Congressional hearing?

  21. You get 'em Ted Cruz. You show those libs how to protect free speech by telling them how to moderate their privately owned, privately run, and privately managed message boards subject to their own privately imposed rules. Private property is the new public access! Didn'tcha know?

    Once upon a time I voted for Senator Cruz to attain his senate seat and later, despite some misgivings I was beginning to have, for his presidential campaign because I believed him to be a constitutionalist and a fiscal conservative. I feel so disappointed by him. As soon as Trump is gone I'm quite certain he'll go back to beating that conservative drum but he has shown beyond dispute that he has no principles he truly believes in.

  22. Members of Congress and state legislators may have good intentions but their supreme loyalty oath (Title 5 US Code 3331 and Article VI of the Constitution) was designed to “restrain” unconstitutional authority - like censorship.

    Congress and state legislatures should instead adopt Hollywood’s Jack Valenti constitutional system. Valenti helped create the Hollywood ratings system (PG. R) which gave censoring authority to the parent (citizen) instead of a government official - which the First Amendment makes illegal.

    Social media companies, like Facebook, should let users “self-rate” their own content before posting (ex: violent content, nudity, profane language, etc). Parents could then choose the appropriate editing filters to block that content. Parents (citizens) would be the censors, not the social media company. That would eliminate legal liability for the social media companies and no longer require either a corporate or government “nanny-state” to censor what adults are allowed to view or read.

    1. The movie ratings were kabuki for avoiding liability for exposing children to indecent content.

      Movie producers worked with the MPAA to dictate the ratings that would be used to put business owners, the theaters, in a position of liability. It made the theaters prevent kids from entering, not the parents.

      Instead of cleaning up movie production, it only limited ticket sales. Today’s R movies are more violent and vulgar than anything extant before the ratings were implemented.

      “Self-regulation” of the movie industry was and is a crock of crap.

      So is the larger social media companies’ claims to self-monitor. It’s crap and they’ve only gotten more vulgar over time.

      I’m not saying government should censor them. I’m saying self-monitoring doesn’t work.

      The libertarian answer: they should be liable for the crap that they allow, and government should stop shielding these industries from liability.

  23. This couldn't be going any better for these Big Tech companies. Conservatives have fully jumped on the Progtard train of running to Daddy Government when the mean corporations don't run their own businesses the way they like. And we all know the resulting regulatory regime will be a competitive advantage for massive companies like Google and Facebook, at the expense of any smaller companies who would dare to compete against them.

  24. This genuine constitutional crisis will only be solved through “Judicial Branch” plaintiffs in court. The other two political branches have no interest whatsoever in upholding the First Amendment - which they took an oath to uphold.

    Americans should be donating to the Institute for Justice, ACLU Foundation, Center for Constitutional Rights and the Electronic Frontier Foundation to maximize the number of plaintiffs. Only lawsuits will solve this, that is where the focus should be. The U.S. Department of Justice is part of the political “Executive Branch” and has shown little interest in upholding their oath of office (Title 5 US Code 3331 and Article VI of the U.S. Constitution). This is won by plaintiffs in court.

  25. It's true but people have to understand that the major platforms are censoring speech. Youtube takes down videos critical of Biden in contrast to their stated rules. See the second half of this video on ATF & Youtube.

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