Social Media CEOs Can’t Defend Their Business Model

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Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and Sundar Pichai testified before Congress for a hearing titled “Disinformation Nation: Social Media’s Role In Promoting Extremism And Misinformation.” If you tuned in looking for dumb questions, annoying partisan talking points, and exasperatingly squishy discussions of “misinformation” and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, you would not have been disappointed. However! The five-and-a-half-hour hearing also contained flashes of promise, when members of Congress did something they have very rarely done in these situations: drilling down on the business incentives that drive bad consequences, rather than just browbeating the companies for their content moderation decisions. Representative after representative took turns describing the relationship between monetizing user attention in order to serve personalized ads, on the one hand, and the proliferation of extreme and false material, on the other. Focusing on the attention-driven business model seems to have been a coordinated strategy among the committee’s Democrats, but they were not alone.

Social Media CEOs Can’t Defend Their Business Model Zuckerberg confirms Instagram for kids plans at Congressional hearing on misinformation (USA Today) Lawmakers vent frustration in first hearing with tech CEOs since Capitol riot (The Hill) Here’s How Congress Botched Another Big Tech Hearing (The Wrap) At least one member of Congress thinks we need a government agency to regulate social media companies (Vox) Yes or no: Are these tech hearings doing anything? (The Verge) Is a Big Tech Overhaul Just Around the Corner? (New York Times) 5 Takeaways From Big Tech's Misinformation Hearing (NPR) Lawmakers Grill Tech C.E.O.s on Capitol Riot, Getting Few Direct Answers (New York Times) Lawmakers Hammer Tech CEOs for Online Disinformation, Lack of Accountability (Wall Street Journal) Editorial: Congress Summons Its Speech Regulators (WSJ) Hate speech, censorship, Capitol riot, Section 230: Lawmakers slam Facebook, Google and Twitter, warn of regulation (USA Today)