Congressional “Big Tech” hearings often follow a three-step formula.
Step one: lawmakers demand that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai answer questions simply with “yes” or “no.” (Sample: “Is YouTube’s recommendation algorithm designed to encourage users to stay on the site?”)
Step two: the aforementioned CEOs inevitably say something else, either to inject some legitimate nuance or to dodge obvious, unflattering answers with vague platitudes. (Sundar Pichai’s response to the above question: “Content responsibility is our number one goal.”)
Step three: lawmakers point out that they’re avoiding the question and mock them. (Sample, from Rep. Billy Long of Missouri: “I’m going to ask you a yes-or-no question. Do you know the difference between these two words: ‘yes’ and ‘no?’”)
Later today, my colleague Makena Kelly will publish a breakdown of “Disinformation Nation,” a marathon House of Representatives hearing about social media, extremism, and misinformation. But to massively oversimplify, just imagine several hours of that three-step process — and that Jack Dorsey is clearly, obviously sick of it all.
While Pichai and Zuckerberg have mostly stuck to answering questions, Dorsey has started openly tweeting through the hearing — favoriting other people’s commentary, sending passive-aggressive quote tweets wishing the questions were better, and trolling Congress with a Twitter poll.
Jack Dorsey, for what it’s worth, answered “yes” to Long’s question. And on Twitter, “yes” is winning by a margin of 65.5 percent to 34.5 percent — but depending on how much longer this hearing lasts, there’s plenty of time for that to change.