The only way to stop Big Tech is to threaten their pocketbooks, says GOP Rep. Bill Johnson, R- Ohio.
“They think that their pocketbooks are so deep, that Congress cannot touch them. Well, there’s going to be some accountability because we’re looking into 230,” Johnson said Monday during an appearance on Newsmax TV’s “American Agenda” in reference to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, and Google’s Sundar Pichai appeared virtually before the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week to discuss misinformation. It was the first time the executives took questions from lawmakers since the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6 that left five dead.
Social media companies under Section 230 are currently granted immunity from liability for the content that appears on their platforms. But Republicans and Democrats say the companies need to be reined in.
“Self-regulation has come to the end of its road,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat from Illinois, said during the hearing.
“This hearing marks a new relationship between all of us today. There will be accountability,” Johnson, of Ohio, said.
Rep. Angie Craig, a Democrat from Minnesota, remarked: “This panel has done something truly rare in Washington these days: It has united Democrats and Republicans. Your industry cannot be trusted to regulate itself.”
Dorsey of Twitter was the only CEO to acknowledge that his platform played a role in the Capitol attack.
“Yes,” he said when asked by Pennsyvania’s Democrat Rep. Mike Doyle whether Twitter bore “some responsibility for disseminating disinformation related to the election and the Stop the Steal movement that led to the attack.”
“But you also have to take into consideration the broader ecosystem,” he said. “It’s not just about the technological systems that we use.”
Zuckerberg and Pichai declined to answer yes or no.
“There was a smugness about them the way they answered the question, in many cases the way they refused to answer the questions. It was striking to me that they think they’re above the law,” he said.
“Right now, Big Tech and the liberal mainstream national media, they have become the marketing and communication department for the liberal Democrat Party. The only way to stop Big Tech from doing what they’re doing is to threaten their pocketbooks. That means potential antitrust action, it means Section 230 reform. But they’re not going to be able to continue riding roughshod over the American people.”