Fb, Twitter might face aggressive regulation after pro-Trump Capitol Hill riot

In the months ahead, some Democrats are now promising to use their powerful new perches – and their control of the White House and Congress in a few days – to offer the kind of harsh new laws and other penalties that tech giants have successfully fended off for years . Their seething anger could have a significant impact on the industry and open the door to a multitude of policy changes that could blame Facebook, Google, and Twitter for their missteps.

“You have primary responsibility for ignoring repeated red flags and calls for corrections,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Who will play a key role in leading a tech-driven congressional body over the coming months. Legislators accused Facebook, Google and Twitter of neglecting to act as the riots unfolded “until long after blood and glass were in the halls of the Capitol”.

“They have done permanent damage to their own credibility,” added Blumenthal in an interview, “and these events will renew and redirect the need for Congress to reform big tech.”

The visceral reaction in Washington followed an uprising that saw lawmakers and staff take cover when gangs of Trump supporters destroyed one of the three branches of American democracy. Members of Congress have feared for years that Trump’s vitriolic online rhetoric could have disastrous consequences just to live the experience in person in the final days of his presidency.

Facebook has since suspended Trump’s account indefinitely, and Twitter has kept him from posting for 12 hours, a suspension that was lifted Thursday morning. Google, which owns YouTube, along with the other tech giants, announced guidelines that resulted in the removal of one of Trump’s earlier videos repeating falsehoods about the 2020 election despite the president urging the rioters at the time to remain calm . Corporations earlier this week also pledged to take more aggressive action to crack down on harmful content, and the groups like the far-right Proud Boys who helped keep it going.

Some Democrats said they backed tech giants’ enforcement efforts – but criticized the industry’s actions as too late and hollow. Members of Congress pointed out that Facebook, Google and Twitter did not take more aggressive action against Trump when he began attacking the 2020 presidential election results, a series of falsehoods that served as a call to action for far-right groups and other provocateurs.

“Facebook has finally taken the long overdue move to suspend the president’s account – at least for the next 13 days – but I am deeply frustrated that a group of local terrorists stormed the Capitol before they were ready.” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement.

Thompson on Thursday also called on Twitter to ban Trump hours before the president broke a nearly day-long silence to tweet a video confirming his imminent departure from the White House.

“These companies should announce a permanent ban on his accounts. None of these will meet at this moment, ”Thompson said.

Even before Trump’s supporters hit Washington, many Democratic lawmakers had been critical of the power and reach of some of the Internet’s most popular platforms. In recent years, party lawmakers have called for a number of new social media regulations that cover everything from data collection practices in the technology industry to moderation of content across the web.

A 16-month investigation by Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google led House lawmakers to conclude that the four tech giants were raising major antitrust concerns – and prompted the Democrats to urge Congress to make sweeping changes that will empower the U.S. government would bring more aggressive cases. Others have trained their view on more specific parts of the law, such as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which prevents a wide range of digital services from holding liable for the content posted by their users.

Democrats are increasingly seeing decades of protections for social media giants as too lenient, allowing Facebook, Twitter, and other companies to evade the responsibility for not cracking down on harmful content, including voting misinformation, inciting violence, and hate speech. Republicans share a growing skepticism about Section 230, although GOP lawmakers – led by Trump – have instead turned their attention to punishing Silicon Valley for unproven allegations of political bias.

“There has already been a powerful movement to reform Section 230,” said Blumenthal, who tabled a proposal to reform the law and said the “uprising” at the Capitol this week would increase its momentum.

In a token of the upcoming audit, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., chairman of the technology-focused House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement that his panel “is actively seeking ways to motivate all social media platforms to deal with disinformation and deal with extremism and other online abuses. “

“The events of the past few days have only shown how important and consistent it is that we all take this seriously,” added Pallone (DN.J.).

The party’s digital agenda gained an even bigger political boost after winning two special Senate elections earlier this week that sent two more Democrats to the Chamber – and cemented their control over both houses of Congress. Meanwhile, Biden said he shared the desire of Democratic lawmakers to investigate and regulate companies like Facebook and possibly repeal Section 230.

The new president’s transition team declined to comment.

“I think we need to move very quickly,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), A member of the House Justice Committee who harassed Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg over malicious content online. “The regulation of these technology companies in particular is a national security problem. … It must be emphasized what happened. “

Tech companies like Facebook say they support limited regulation – and social networking giant Zuckerberg’s market leader has even expressed its openness to some changes to Section 230. However, the internet industry has spent more than $ 59 million in some cases in the past nine months promoting Washington not to pass some of the legislature’s most burdensome changes to the law on radars, according to recent federal ethics data suggesting the tough Signals a fight that may still be ahead.

Senator Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Who is slated to inherit his chamber’s intelligence body, said he and his fellow Democratic leaders would next want to take a moment to cool off post-pro-Trump uprising The Capitol threw an unexpected shadow on Biden’s official certification as President this week.

But he seemed to suspect that political relaxation might only last a short time.

“Relying on the goodwill of a handful of technology managers when thugs rampage through the Capitol,” he said, “is not a viable solution.”

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