Join gaming leaders online at GamesBeat Summit Next this upcoming November 9-10. Learn more about what comes next. 


(Reuters) — The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday unanimously voted to approve a plan to subpoena CEOs of Twitter, Alphabet’s Google, and Facebook for a hearing likely to be held before the election on a prized legal immunity enjoyed by internet companies.

The hearing will discuss reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which offers tech companies protection from liability over content posted by users.

The panel’s top Democrat Maria Cantwell — who opposed the move last week, saying she was against using “the committee’s serious subpoena power for a partisan effort 40 days before an election” — changed her mind and voted to approve the move.

“I actually can’t wait to ask Mr. Zuckerberg further questions,” Cantwell said. “I welcome the debate about 230.”

The committee, chaired by Republican Senator Roger Wicker, had originally asked the executives to come on October 1 on a voluntary basis and was ready to issue subpoenas last week.

On Thursday, Wicker said Section 230’s “sweeping liability protections” are stifling diversity of political discourse on the internet.

“After extending an invite to these executives, I regret that they have again declined to participate and answer questions about issues that are so visible and urgent to the American people,” Wicker said.

Republican President Donald Trump has made holding tech companies accountable for allegedly stifling conservative voices a theme of his administration. As a result, calls for a reform of Section 230 have been intensifying ahead of the elections, but there is little chance of approval by Congress this year.

Last week, Trump met with nine Republican state attorneys general to discuss the fate of Section 230 after the Justice Department unveiled a legislative proposal aimed at reforming the law.

The CEOs of Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon recently testified before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel. The panel, which is investigating how the companies’ practices hurt rivals, is expected to release its report as early as next Monday.

VentureBeat

VentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative technology and transact. Our site delivers essential information on data technologies and strategies to guide you as you lead your organizations. We invite you to become a member of our community, to access:
  • up-to-date information on the subjects of interest to you
  • our newsletters
  • gated thought-leader content and discounted access to our prized events, such as Transform 2021: Learn More
  • networking features, and more
Become a member