Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is planning to ask Congress to reform the law that shields technology companies like his from liability for what users post on their platforms.
According to prepared testimony for a hearing Wednesday before the Senate Commerce Committee, Zuckerberg said the growing debate about the law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, “shows that people of all political persuasions are unhappy with the status quo.”
“People want to know that companies are taking responsibility for combating harmful content – especially illegal activity – on their platforms. They want to know that when platforms remove content, they are doing so fairly and transparently. And they want to make sure that platforms are held accountable,” Zuckerberg’s testimony reads.
“Section 230 made it possible for every major internet service to be built and ensured important values like free expression and openness were part of how platforms operate. Changing it is a significant decision. However, I believe Congress should update the law to make sure it’s working as intended.”
Trump vs. Big Tech: Everything you need to know about Section 230 and why everyone hates it
Zuckerberg will make the opening remarks when he testifies alongside Google’s Sundar Pichai and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey at Wednesday’s hearing.
The position is a significant departure from previous resistance among tech companies to any weakening of the law that gives them wide latitude in moderating content on their platforms.
Tensions are running high as conservatives accuse Facebook and Twitter of interfering in the 2020 election by throttling a New York Post article earlier this month that alleged ties between the Democratic presidential nominee and his son Hunter’s business dealings with Ukraine.
Conservatives have complained for years that social media companies systematically silence the political speech of right-leaning users despite consistent evidence that conservative voices and viewpoints dominate the conversation on these platforms.
Tech companies deny any partisanship, saying their policies strike a balance between allowing users to freely express themselves and keeping hate, abuse and misinformation off their platforms.
Facebook says it limited the spread of the New York Post article while waiting for it to be fact-checked. Twitter blocked users from tweeting out the link to the article and from sending it in private messages. Dorsey later said Twitter was wrong to block the article.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, told Fox News last week he's outraged by Twitter’s handling of the New York Post article but will also demand that Dorsey explain "example after example after example of anti-conservative, anti-Republican bias.”
"These are among the most powerful people in the country," he said. "Under the current law, they get a free pass" to censor anything "they find objectionable," Wicker said.
"In my view we should not leave it up to big tech what is objectionable and what isn't."
Wicker and other lawmakers are threatening to narrow the protections of Section 230.
On this question, there is rare bipartisan agreement. Critics across the political spectrum say Section 230 gives tech companies too much power with too little accountability. The political right says companies remove too much content while the political left contends they don’t remove enough when it comes to election interference, hate speech and harassment, extremism and misinformation on social media.
"We stand ready to work with Congress on what regulation could look like in these areas," Zuckerberg plans to tell lawmakers. "By updating the rules for the internet, we can preserve what’s best about it – the freedom for people to express themselves and for entrepreneurs to build new things – while also protecting society from broader harms."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls on Congress to reform Section 230