JUDY WOODRUFF: Social media under fire. Top executives of tech giants faced off with U.S. lawmakers today. Amna Nawaz reports.
AMNA NAWAZ: A barrage of questions and criticism for the CEOs of Twitter and Facebook, appearing virtually before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on censorship, disinformation, and the 2020 election.
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): What evidence do you have that these labels are effective in addressing President Trump's lies?
SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): It is time we took action against these modern-day robber barons.
AMNA NAWAZ: The tech giants hailed the progress they have made so far. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
JACK DORSEY, CEO, Twitter: The public asked us to offer additional context to help make potentially misleading information more apparent. We did exactly that.
AMNA NAWAZ: The head of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg.
MARK ZUCKERBERG, Chairman and CEO, Facebook: We have taken down more than 100 networks of bad actors who were trying to coordinate and interfere globally. We established a network of independent fact-checkers that covers more than 60 languages.
AMNA NAWAZ: But Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat from Connecticut, insisted that's not enough.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): The destructive, incendiary misinformation is still a scourge on both your platforms and on others.
AMNA NAWAZ: Democrats largely focused there, how to combat misinformation and disinformation, even when it comes from the president. Two weeks after Election Day, President Trump continues to tweet baseless claims of voter fraud, falsely insisting he won. Both Twitter and Facebook have labeled some of the president's posts as misinformation. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat from California, asked Dorsey about the president's tweet on November, saying -- quote -- I won this election by a lot. Twitter added a label that says -- quote -- Official sources may not have called the race when this was tweeted.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): Does that label do enough to prevent the tweet's harms, when the tweet is still visible and is not accurate?
JACK DORSEY: I believe it is really important that we show people a broader context, and that is the intention of the label. It is not just text below a tweet. It is a link to connect to a much larger conversation and news articles across the spectrum.
AMNA NAWAZ: Republicans today focused their fire on accusations of bias against conservative voices. Chairman Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, first called the hearing after Twitter blocked a New York Post article about Hunter Biden that violated its policy on sharing hacked materials. After backlash, Twitter reversed course, amending the policy to block only the hackers or their associates, and adding a label to possibly hacked content.
JACK DORSEY: I hope this illustrates the rationale behind our actions and demonstrates our ability to take feedback, admit mistakes and make changes, all transparently, to the public.
AMNA NAWAZ: Both Dorsey and Zuckerberg were repeatedly pressed on what content they'd allow and what they'd take down. A Facebook post, for example, by former Trump adviser Steve Bannon called for the beheading of Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: How many times is Steve Bannon allowed to call for the murder of government officials before Facebook suspends his account?
MARK ZUCKERBERG: The content in question did violate our policies, and we took it down. Having a content violation does not automatically mean your content -- your account gets taken down. And the number of strikes varies depending on the amount -- the type of offense.
AMNA NAWAZ: But when asked if Facebook would take down Bannon's account altogether?
MARK ZUCKERBERG: Senator, no, that's not what our policies would suggest that we should do.
AMNA NAWAZ: Central to all this, growing calls to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a 1996 rule designed to protect Internet companies from liability.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Do both of you support change to 230, reform of Section 230?
MARK ZUCKERBERG: Senator, I do.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: Mr. Dorsey?
JACK DORSEY: Yes.
AMNA NAWAZ: With the Georgia special elections looming in January, which will determine Senate control, both CEOs pledged continued vigilance. For the PBS NewsHour, I'm Amna Nawaz.