WASHINGTON – Lawmakers called for tighter regulation of big tech companies in the U.S. at a congressional hearing on Tuesday, addressing the intensifying debate over the growing influence social media platforms have on society.
Bob Latta (R-Ohio), Chairman of the House Communications & Technology Committee, also vowed to balance accountability and transparency when applying section 230 to internet companies.
“Big Tech companies have the ability to influence almost every part of our lives,” Latta stated in his opening statement. “When this type of censorship is used to silence dissenting voices, it can have a damaging effect on democracy and public discourse,” said Latta.
In recent years, Democrats and Republicans have raised concerns about the negative influence big tech companies have on users through content moderation and algorithm filtering. Last week, lawmakers grilled TikTok’s CEO over the company’s use of data exchange and its connection to the Chinese Communist Party.
These concerns have helped fuel a desire to change section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which recognizes social media platforms not as publishers but as tools for free speech and mass communication. Latta said he advocated for reform because big tech companies control and amplify content, creating echo chambers that spread false information.
“For too long, Big Tech platforms have acted like publishers—instead of platforms for free speech and open dialogue—so they must be treated as such,” said Latta.
House Republicans also discussed the possibility of big tech censorship and flagging misleading COVID-19 information, accusing the Biden administration of colluding with tech companies resulting in a narrative presented only by the bureaucrats and mainstream news media.
Furthermore, Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) defined the administration as “on a dangerous authoritarian mission to institutionalize censorship of American voices and control the narrative to benefit their political agenda.” She accused the partnership between Biden and big tech companies of censoring certain speech while neglecting regulations such as the fentanyl-laced drugs sold on social media platforms.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) accused House Republicans of victimhood and said they should be held accountable for their legislation that promotes censorship and threatens free speech.
Yet, both parties supported reforming and updating section 230, the legislation that was passed 27 years ago.