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Google, Facebook, and Twitter CEOs may face subpoenas from Senate panel

Google, Facebook, and Twitter CEOs may face subpoenas from Senate panel


The hearing is scheduled for October 1

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The Senate Commerce Committee has asked the CEOs of Google, Facebook, and Twitter to appear for testimony on October 1, according to a new report from Politico. It’s an unusually tight timeline for such a high-profile panel, but members have indicated they may issue subpoenas if CEOs do not agree to appear by the end of the day on Thursday.

It’s still possible that other committee members will object to the subpoenas, or that CEOs will find some other way to evade the summons. Google, Facebook and Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The hearing will reportedly focus on measures to amend Section 230, a pivotal law for content moderation practices online. In July, a subcommittee hosted a hearing concerning the PACT Act — an ostensible compromise between bias hawks and more measured reformers — although the results of the discussion were inconclusive.

The Senate Commerce committee has launched numerous investigations into alleged anti-conservative bias on Facebook, and questioned Mark Zuckerberg directly in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. More recent hearings on allegedly anti-competitive behavior by tech companies have been handled by the Judiciary committees, which preside over antitrust issues.

Potential changes to Section 230 have become a lively issue for Congress as the election approaches, and more candidates run afoul of moderation systems. Also on Thursday, Senator Josh Hawley (who is not a member of the Commerce committee) introduced a new bill that would strip platforms of 230 protections if they were found to not be operating in good faith.

“It is time to take a fresh look at the statute and clarify the vague standard of ‘good faith’ for which technology companies receive legal protections,” said Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a co-sponsor of the bill.