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Senators Want Facebook and Twitter to Ignore Demands from Authoritarian Governments, Except Ours

Tom Cotton to Jack Dorsey: “Do you prefer to see America remain the world’s dominant global superpower?”

DorseyScreenshot via PBSOn Wednesday morning, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee to take questions from congressmen who spent most of the hearing demanding that the social media giants comply with U.S. government dictates while eschewing cooperation with any other government judged to be "authoritarian."

The senators were particularly concerned about foreign interference in U.S. elections. They wanted the social media companies to take firmer steps to prevent non-citizens from attempting to sway public opinion by creating fake accounts, spreading misinformation, or buying political ads.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) wanted to know exactly how much revenue Facebook had generated from the sale of illicit political ads, for instance, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) wanted a guarantee that the platforms' commitments to free expression would not get in the way of preventing this kind of thing in the future.

"You did say you were a global town square, you said Twitter was built on the core tenet of free expression," Rubio said to Dorsey. "We've learned the hard way that social media can be manipulated by bad actors to do harm. What we're asking you to do is use the powers you have within your platforms to crack down on certain actors."

At the same time, many senators were insistent that Twitter and Facebook should not cave to demands made by other governments. Repressive regimes in China, Vietnam, Turkey, and other places have also asked tech companies to purge certain kinds of content in exchange for being allowed to operate within said countries. Obeying these governments would be evil and wrong, said the senators. Obeying the U.S. government is smart and good, though.

Rubio, at least, was fully aware of this irony. He addressed it by asking Dorsey whether he agreed with the statement, "There's no moral equivalency between what we are asking you to do and what Turkey is asking you to do." Dorsey quickly agreed. He did, however, offer a partial defense of Twitter's decision to make certain accommodations for authoritarian nations like Turkey.

"We have evidence to show a lot of citizens in Turkey access that [purged] content through proxies," he said. "We have fought the Turkish government around their requests and often times won. We would like to fight for every single person being able to speak freely and see everything, but we realize it's going to take some bridges to get there."

That seems like a perfectly defensible strategy. The ideal situation would be for Facebook and Twitter to operate everywhere in the entire world, free of silly government-enforced constraints. Alas, that isn't even the case in the U.S., but it would be self-defeating for Facebook and Twitter to disband entirely unless they have total, perfect autonomy from governments. A Turkey with an imperfect, somewhat compromised Twitter is better off (and likely to have access to more information that can inform the citizenry as they seek greater freedoms) than a Turkey with no Twitter at all.

Google, which did not send a representative to the hearing despite requests from the U.S. government to do so, has cooperated with the Chinese government.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R­­-Ark.) had clearly been itching to grill Google about this, but had to settle with proxy questions for Dorsey and Sandberg.

"Would your companies every consider taking these actions [that Google has taken] that privilege a hostile foreign power over our men in uniform?" he asked. Sandberg and Dorsey confirmed that they would not.

Cotton also criticized the social media companies' view of themselves as global marketplaces of ideas.

"Do you prefer to see America remain the world's dominant global superpower?" Cotton asked Dorsey.

Twitter's CEO did his best to give an answer that was suitably pro-America, affirming that yes, Twitter is indeed an American company.

But those other governments, those are the authoritarian ones.

Watch the full hearing below:

Photo Credit: Screenshot via PBS

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  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    We have to prevent foreign actors from accessing and communicating on social networks.

    And that is in no way discrimination.

  • Just Say'n||

    It does follow the American belief that when we bomb foreign nations those aren't actually humans that we are killing. They're different and therefore it's OK or something

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    They should just call them "buggers" or something.

  • ||

    That reminds me - I have new video game for you to try. . .

  • Brandybuck||

    Why? Why can't a "foreign actor" make a tweet? Explain.

  • chipper me timbers||

    I'm so confused by this as well.

  • Juice||

    Because fuck Benedict Cumberbatch, that's why.

  • Just Say'n||

    "Senators Want Facebook and Twitter to Ignore Demands from Authoritarian Governments, Except Ours"

    Why do we keep playing up this Randian myth that Big Business will hold the line against an intrusive government when all examples show just the opposite to be true?

    It doesn't matter if it's China, the US, or the UK, these tech companies will absolutely cooperate with the government so long as it is not out in public. Just like Big Banks are the biggest defenders of Dodd-Frank, Big Tech is the biggest proponent of government regulating their industry.

    Also, all those senators are unmitigated assholes

  • sarcasmic||

    Is there such a thing as a mitigated asshole?

  • DarrenM||

    That requires sutures.

  • croaker||

    I prefer stainless steel staples.

  • Aloysious||

    Is this one of those anal bleaching parties I keep hearing about?

  • perlchpr||

    Human Centipede.

  • Microaggressor||

    Didn't realize Rubio was this much of a scumbag.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    He's a politician and a lawyer.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    So, like a scumbag, but without the bag?

  • Wizard4169||

    Ten pounds of scum in a five pound bag.

  • ||

    "We don't think it's a question of whether regulation, we think it's a question of the right regulation."

    - Sheryl Sandberg

  • mpercy||

    " this Randian myth that Big Business will hold the line against an intrusive government"

    Not sure which Rand you read, but Big Business in, say, Atlas Shrugged, knuckled under at the first nudge from government. Because they believed in "top men".

    Except for certain individuals who bucked the overwhelming trend, which was kind of the point.

  • Wizard4169||

    I would absolutely love to see just one exec go straight up Dagny Taggart on these clowns.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    "We've learned the hard way that social media can be manipulated by bad actors to do harm. What we're asking you to do is use the powers you have within your platforms to crack down on certain actors."

    What we're doing is outsourcing our censorship to the private sector. And that makes it easier for us because then when you do it, the media will just print a bunch of to-be-sure articles about how you're a private company and you can do whatever you want. But here's what you're going to do, and if you don't do it, we're going to Microsoft you in the way Microsoft never got Microsofted in the 90s. You feel where I'm coming from here?

  • Jerryskids||

    The senators were particularly concerned about foreign interference in U.S. elections. They wanted the social media companies to take firmer steps to prevent non-citizens from attempting to sway public opinion by creating fake accounts, spreading misinformation, or buying political ads.

    Why the hell can't somebody explain to these old farts that it's the WORLDWIDE web and that - despite what they seem to believe - the United States' jurisdiction is not worldwide. If Russians in Russia want to buy ads and post stuff on Facebook about what a horrible person this candidate is or what a wonderful person that candidate is, there's nothing the US can do about it - Russia is a sovereign country and Russians are not citizens of the United States, US law does not apply in Russia to Russians. What these senators actually want is for Facebook to do the dirty work of censoring the internet in the same way the Chinese government does, while still maintaining the pretense that it's not the US government doing the censoring.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    If Russians in Russia want to buy ads and post stuff on Facebook about what a horrible person this candidate is or what a wonderful person that candidate is, there's nothing the US can do about it

    Sure they can. Europe has successfully protected its borders from lots of online stuff. You threaten high enough fines and it'll happen. Facebook is already demanding ID to place ads (racist!).

    See: GDPR.

    Facebook et. al. have to comply with that.

  • Brandybuck||

    > See: GDPR.

    Yup. Europe was getting a bit too affluent, so they had to slam the brakes on growth and innovation.

  • ||

    If Russians in Russia want to buy ads and post stuff on Facebook about what a horrible person this candidate is or what a wonderful person that candidate is, there's nothing the US can do about it - Russia is a sovereign country and Russians are not citizens of the United States, US law does not apply in Russia to Russians.

    Well fuck, we'd have to come up with a of complex systems of lines or edges for saying when Russians are in Russia and US laws don't apply and when Americans are in America and Russian laws don't apply.

  • My Dog Bites Better Than Yours||

    I don't understand why "foreign interference" is a problem, other than political grandstanding. I thought the First Amendment applied, but that's just me. Who the fuck cares if Russia ran some lame Facebook ads that nobody remembers seeing first hand?

    Perhaps a loophole around campaign financing they can't control?

    Maybe having to defend "Candidate X is endorsed by Soviets worldwide"?

    What's really going on?

  • Shirley Knott||

    And far be it from me to engage in whataboutism, but the US has been meddling in foreign elections and with foreign governments for over a century.
    Why do you think the whole Iran situation blew up in our faces?
    Remember that old standby, Radio Free Europe?

  • My Dog Bites Better Than Yours||

    Ah, Radio Free Europe. The US answer to Moscow Radio. I listened to them when I was a kid. Brings back memories of shortwave broadcast radio.

    That's when I started developing a sense that people around the world, regardless of race or politics, are equally full of shit.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Google, which did not send a representative to the hearing despite requests from the U.S. government to do so, has cooperated with the Chinese government.

    What's Bing, chopped liver?

  • Just Say'n||

    Bing makes Bill Gates cry

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I get the sense that Gates spends no more than 2 minutes a day thinking about Microsoft, which is how it should be.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    According to BUCS, Bing is superior for adult content searches. BUCS's favorite game is Bingwhacking, which involves coming up with a two word search query that comes up with only one porn result.

  • DarrenM||

    Well, if companies like Facebook and Twitter affirm they are American companies with primary loyalties (such as they are) to the U.S., that would encourage companies in other countries to develop competing platforms. The potential alternative is to have a single global corporation, or a small group of them,.controlling all social media in the world.

  • ||

    The ideal situation would be for Facebook and Twitter to operate everywhere in the entire world, free of silly government-enforced constraints.

    Robby, you and I have very different ideas about "the ideal situation".

  • Hugh Akston||

    "Do you prefer to see America remain the world's dominant global superpower?" Cotton asked Dorsey.

    Does anyone?

  • Jerryskids||

    Tom Cotton reminds me of Jeff Sessions, if Jeff Sessions were an evil nasty mean little man.

  • Longtobefree||

    If we are the world's dominant global superpower, why do Iran and North Korea still exist, and why does China build military installations in international waters?

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    My response would have been something like, "what kind of stupid question is that, Senator?"

  • John||

    I wish one of these guys would have the balls to say something like that. Treat these idiots with the contempt they deserve

  • John||

    According to the blue check mafia on Twitter today, the half Mexican granddaughter of Holocoust survivors flashed a secret white supremacist sign to the believers at the Kavanaugh hearings yesterday.

    Yeah, peak retard has finally been achieved

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    We peaked a long time ago, but unfortunately it's more of a plateau.

  • John||

    I think this one is a peak that likely can never be topped

    Read the reactions to her husband tweeting in her defense. That is peak retard.

    http://twitter.com/usattybash/.....20416?s=21

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    There is no such thing as peak retard. This is a simple mathematical property of the high-dimensional space of all the possible ways people can be retarded. There are only retard saddle points, but no true peaks.

  • John||

    The closer you get to peak retard the heavier the burden of stupidity. It is like the speed of light, it can be approached but never quite reached. This is probably the closest man will ever get. So it is practical peak retard not theoretical peak retard

  • leninsmummy||

    Reading these comments chills me to the bone. These people are so full of hate they're only missing torches. I'm truly afraid for the future.

  • Rob Misek||

    I think peak retard is exhibited by anyone who espouses free speech while advocating the censorship of, under threat of imprisonment no less, the evidence of science and history that contradicts the official holocaust narrative.

    What say you?

  • John||

    I can think of no major event in history that is better documented than the Holocaust. People can debate its causes and meanings but that it occurred is beyond rational dispute.

  • Rob Misek||

    People are imprisoned and persecuted all over the world for providing evidence to the contrary of the official narrative.

    As a result, the presentation of evidence is strictly censored. Rational dispute is illegal.

    Most people, including yourself, have never seen it.

    Peak retard goes to you.

  • LynchPin1477||

    We've got a real winner here, folks!

  • perlchpr||

    And I thought this guy was "special" after the Feed the Homeless thread. Dang.

  • Rob Misek||

    On that thread I demonstrated that conflicts are resolved when people recognize and accept the truth, reality as demonstrated by logic and science.

    For some reason, the evidence of science and logic that contradicts the holocaust narrative is censored and illegal.

    That isn't helping resolve any conflicts now is it?

    It's hilarious observing all the peak retards go into fits of brainwashing when they are faced with the facts, reality.

  • ||

    It's hilarious observing all the peak retards go into fits of brainwashing when they are faced with the facts, reality.

    You haven't done that, though - you've just declared the "official narrative" to be wrong.

    What is the right version?

  • Rob Misek||

    That would require discussing evidence of science, logic and history that is deemed censored and illegal, by many governments.

    How does that make you feel?

  • Mickey Rat||

    It can be troubling that a theory can be considered a crime to disseminate and also be underpants on head insane.

  • Rob Misek||

    It must be troubling to base your rationality on the absence of science and logic, evidence.

    Be a good zealot and take comfort in censorship and ignorance.

    I can't do that.

  • ||

    How does that make you feel?

    Well, I don't have a lot of control over what happens in other countries, but what you are offering up is not illegal here. Why not put up all this science, logic and history to let us know what really happened?

  • Rob Misek||

    I'll give you a few points that I remember from Kollerstrms book, "Breaking the Spell".

    He was so thorough, as as doctor of both science and history would be expected to be, but here are a few teasers.

    There is no possible way zyklon b cyanide could have been distributed as Rudolf Hoesslin, the commandant at Aushwitz "confessed" it did. There was just no way.

    Nobody not one "survivor" ever mentioned pink bodies. The necessary result of cyanide poisoning.

    Released decryption of German communication demonstrated that they were trying to save prisoner lives during a typhus epidemic, no kill them.

    The Red Cross visited all camps and in all their thorough documentation, no mention of extermination, cyanide, nothing.

    Deliusing chambers designed for use with zyklon b, not on any aushwitz tour, exhibit stained blue brick walls from cyanide use, the shower area where the gas was supposed to "come out of the shower heads" an impossibility, has no cyanide staining.

    The British propaganda department warned its head office that there was absolutely no evidence of cyanide extermination, but the propaganda continued.

    Etc etc etc.

    More than enough science and logic to question the narrative.

  • Rob Misek||

    Rudolf Hoess
    Delousing chambers

  • John||

    No its not. The Germans were fabulous record keepers. The entire thing was dutifully recorded by the German state. There is something like nine volumes of testimony at the Nuremberg trials. There are another nine or more at the Eichman trial in Jerusalem.

  • Rob Misek||

    It's well documented that the testimony and confession at Nuremberg was obtained after torture.

    That makes it inadmissible.

    It doesn't bother you that the evidence for defence is illegal?

  • leninsmummy||

    So every survivor is lying, US troops and soviet troop eyewitness accounts are all lies, and the ovens lamps and piles of hair and bones are lies. Where did all those people disappear to including my relatives? Denial is an incredibly powerful emotion. You should consider that mountains upon mountains of evidence exist including survival and liberator accounts. In this modern age it would be absolutely farcical to create a hoax of this magnitude.

  • Rob Misek||

    Well paid "survivors".

    Do you think censoring the conflicting evidence improves or diminishes the credibility of the narrative?

    Seriously, when the government tells you that you have to pay more taxes and they censor any evidence that conflicts with their statements and "data", how does that make you feel?

  • ||

    Well paid "survivors".

    OK - I was gonna give you the benefit of the doubt that you were angling towards some sort of "it wasn't all about Jews - gays and gypsies and were rounded up, too!"

    But clearly you're just a kook.

    It is not illegal for you to present your "science." You're just being a dishonest dipshit. "Oh, I know my kick-ass evidence would show you that I'm right, if only I were allowed to present it!"

    Fuck off.

  • Rob Misek||

    Read and learn.

    Don't be a coward. All you have to lose are your comfortable delusions.

    Nickolas Kollerstrom is a doctor of both science and history. What are you exactly?

    https://www.goodreads.com /book/show/23629458-breaking-the-spell

  • ||

    Zyklon B is a buzz word for the claimed Nazi mass murder, but all non-anecdotal evidence proves that this chemical was merely used as a pesticide in order to improve the inmates' health and reduce, not increase, camp mortality. . . . The UK's intelligence decrypts prove that the German camp authorities were desperately trying to save their inmates' lives.

    Yeah. This isn't some super-secret mind-blowing theory. Kollerstrom was dismissed because this theory is blantantly stupid. This kind of thing is exactly why you morons should be encouraged to share your thoughts instead of granting you the legitimacy of being outlawed.

    I beg everyone who sees these comments to click through and enjoy the idiocy this guy has linked to.

    Kollerstrom is not a doctor of both "science and history." "Science" is not a thing you get a degree in. His doctorate was on the history and philosophy of science, which happens to be the exact topic of my own doctoral dissertation, completed fourteen years ago. I have published in the Journal of the History of Science among other places.

    And did you know that that same Kollerstrom also exposed the vast conspiracy to conceal Paul McCartney's death?

    Seriously - check out the album covers. It's science.

  • Rob Misek||

    Read Kollerstroms book. Then decide for yourself.

    People with nothing to hide, don't criminalize the sharing of scientific and historical evidence.

    Or you can believe what the government is telling you, or be persecuted/imprisoned.

  • ||

    People with nothing to hide, don't criminalize the sharing of scientific and historical evidence.

    Dude - you posted your link and no one came and locked you up, and no one is going to. Kollerstrom walks the world a free man, spreading his idiocy as far and wide as he can manage.

    You and Kollerstrom are both perfectly free to share anything you want. It doesn't make either one of you members of the category "not idiots."

    In case you're not a completely lost cause I'll take exactly one stab at this: in order to accept Kollerstrom's conclusion, you have to actively ignore literal mountains of evidence that contradict his claims. You have to listen only to him and pay attention only to the things he tells you to pay attention, and in just the right way, to in order for what he is saying to even make the most basic sense and not sound like hysterical gibberish denying obvious and well-documented facts of history.

    If you can't see that - seriously, seek help.

    Paul isn't dead, either. He was the walrus.

  • Rob Misek||

    Kollerstrom was severely persecuted in the UK. He was a London University professor with tenure, who lost his job immediately for sharing only evidence of science and history.

    Zundel had all the evidence, which was declared a lie when the judge ruled that "commonly held beliefs" are facts, ruled him a liar, deported him to Germany, where they imprisoned him.

    Irving, same story, imprisoned in Austria.

    Yes you profess that you're an advocate of free speech, but your actions demonstrate the opposite.

    There are mountains of anecdotal evidence but ZERO objective evidence supporting the holocaust narrative.

    People are persecuted and imprisoned all over the world for sharing logic, science and history that conflicts with a narrative that guarantees payments to the "victims" and lends support to the brutal, racist, terrorists who stole and occupy Palestine.

    BTW, the planned theft of Palestine and its impacts on WW1, WW2 and the Middle East conflict deserves recognition.

    So YOU believe the Narrative absent of objective evidence due to censorship. I'll fight for free speech and sharing the truth demonstrated by objective evidence.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Tom Cotton to Jack Dorsey: "Do you prefer to see America remain the world's dominant global superpower?"

    Would you like to see Britannia
    Rule again, my friend?
    All you have to do is follow the worms...

  • Shirley Knott||

    Yup.

  • Dillinger||

    Cotton doesn't understand the googles > the 'merica

  • JoeJoetheIdiotCircusBoy||

    "Would your companies every consider taking these actions [that Google has taken] that privilege a hostile foreign power over our men in uniform?" [Tom Cotton] asked.

    What the fuck does that even mean?

  • John||

    Good question.

  • leninsmummy||

    It means treason.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Congress must look absolutely disgusting under a black light.

  • leninsmummy||

    Under regular light too.

  • SimonP||

    Hm, quite.

    Meanwhile, I am looking all over Reason's website for any coverage or commentary on Jeff Sessions' plans to use the antitrust laws to crack down on Google, et al., for not sufficiently promoting conservative views. Because surely the clear and present danger of law enforcement action is more consequential, from a liberty perspective, than what a bunch of ignorant, grandstanding politicians say in some hearing.

    Don't worry, I'll keep looking...

  • M.L.||

    Sandberg said they would present "ALTERNATIVE FACTS" to combat "misinformation" / fake news.

    Where's the outrage? Where's the left accusing them of lying and deception?

    It's almost like everyone understands that she wasn't talking about lying and deception, but was saying the same thing Kellyanne Conway said, and the left/media are the liars here.

  • Rockabilly||

    I, a Russian robot, have accounts on the HuffPost, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube so I can brainwash the peoples

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