Social media companies told a US House panel that they are not discriminating against content for political reasons. Among the companies were Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc, and Twitter Inc.
Conservative Republicans in Congress have scrutinized social media businesses for what they suspect are politically motivated practices of removing and/or filtering content. The companies in question have denied and rejected such notions.
Bob Goodlatte, a Republican and the House Judiciary Committee chairman, stated that since the April hearing, Congress has “seen numerous efforts by these companies to improve transparency.” However, he also pointed to anecdotes of some content that were allegedly removed.
Goodlatte inquired if these companies are “using their market power to push the envelope on filtering decisions to favor the content the companies prefer?”
Representative David Cicilline, who is a Democrat lambasted the hearing and came to the defense of Facebook, saying that the company for two years has “bent over backwards to placate and mollify conservatives.” The representative also stressed Facebook’s failure to remove pages that promoted unverified and questionable conspiracy theories.
“There is no evidence that the algorithms of social networks or search results are biased against conservatives. It is a made-up narrative pushed by the conservative propaganda machine to convince voters of a conspiracy that does not exist,” said Cicilline.
Earlier this year, Facebook said that it had retained former Republican Senator Jon Kyl to advise the company “on potential bias against conservative voices.”
Meanwhile, Monika Bickert, who is Facebook’s head of global policy management, told the committee that the company wants to treat all groups fairly, as she explained why the social media giant was conducting different audits.
“We just want to make sure that we are doing our job right,” stated Bickert, adding that Facebook consults with a wide ranging variety of groups.
House Democrats stated that the committee should be paying more attention on the threats to the US electoral process from Russian hackers. Representative Jerrold Nadler, who is the top Democrat in the committee, asked the panel to adjourn to a private session to discuss Russia, but he was unsuccessful.
Juniper Downs, who is global head of public policy and government relations Google-owned video streaming website YouTube, stated that the company does not discriminate against conservatives.
“Giving preference to content of one political ideology over another would fundamentally conflict with our goal of providing services that work for everyone,” she emphasized.
Nick Pickles, who is a senior strategist at Twitter, said that the company does not discriminate against conservatives. He also said that social media firm works to make neutral decisions. “Our purpose is to serve the conversation, not to make value judgment on personal beliefs,” said Pickles.