Amid claims of election interference and censorship over alleged Biden emails, Senate committee to hold hearing

Tech

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — The Senate Committee will meet with heads of Facebook, Twitter, and Google Wednesday, Oct. 28 to testify over censorship of articles relating to Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden.

The hearing will investigate whether tech companies should still be afforded liability protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act or whether the protections “has outlived its usefulness in today’s digital age.”

The question of whether social media companies are afforded too much freedom in how they restrict content was raised by President Donald Trump and other lawmakers in Washington. Trump said, “When government granted these protections, they created a monster!”

“Social media companies have a First Amendment right to free speech,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said. “But they do not have a First Amendment right to a special immunity denied to other media outlets, such as newspapers and broadcasters.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai of Google and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey are now under fire for the handling of New York Post articles on purported emails from Hunter Biden that allegedly link the former vice president to his son’s business arrangements in Ukraine.

Twitter locked the account of both the newspaper and the Trump campaign for tweeting about the findings of the Post citing violations of its “hacked materials policy.” Dorsey later said taking action to limit distribution without providing context “unacceptable.” The platform has since announced new policies.

Facebook also reconsidered its fact-checking rules amid the censorship debate. New policies are in place on the platform to uphold election integrity.

A computer hard drive said to be owned by Hunter Biden was used as the source of the Post article. A copy of the now controversial files was given to the newspaper by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, the Post said.

The emails contained intimate messages between Biden and his son along with information regarding Biden’s connection to foreign lawmakers.

The FBI is now investigating to determine whether the emails are part of a foreign influence operation. The emails have surfaced as U.S. officials have been warning that Russia, which backed Trump’s 2016 campaign through hacking of Democratic emails and a covert social media campaign, is interfering again this year.

Biden declined to comment on the controversy when asked during Thursday’s ABC News town hall by moderator George Stephanopoulos. He called it, “another smear campaign.”

Trump used the incident as a campaign talking point Friday at his rally in Georgia.

“Here we have the biggest scandal going on anywhere in the world, the corruption of Joe Biden and the Biden family,” Trump said. “How come your son got three and a half million dollars from Moscow?” Right From Moscow, Russia. Because they were the ones involved with Russia, it turns out. Not me. It was the opposite.”

The Republican National Committee filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission Friday alleging that the censorship of the New York Post reporting by Twitter “amounts to an illegal corporate in-kind political contribution to the Biden campaign.”

The complaint alleges Twitter is using its corporate resources to provide active support for Biden’s election. 

The Senate Committee will investigate those claims less than a week before Election Day on Oct. 28.

The FCC Chairman said the hearing will help define Section 230 because “Many advance an overly broad interpretation that in some cases shields social media companies from consumer protection laws in a way that has no basis in the text of Section 230,” Pai said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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