Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to testify on Capitol Hill about terrorism and social media

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to testify on Capitol Hill about terrorism and social media
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Representatives from major technology firms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will testify on Capitol Hill this month.

The Senate Commerce Committee announced on Tuesday that it will hold a hearing exploring extremist content on social media platforms on Jan. 17.

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The committee said the hearing, titled “Terrorism and Social Media: #IsBigTechDoingEnough?,” will look at “the steps social media platforms are taking to combat the spread of extremist propaganda over the Internet.”

Facebook’s Head of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert, YouTube’s Global Head of Public Policy and Government Relations Juniper Downs and Twitter’s Head of Public Policy and Philanthropy Carlos Monje will testify at the hearing.

Representatives from each company, and YouTube’s parent company, Google, testified before Congress in November about Russia's election interference; nevertheless, it is rare for major tech companies to send representatives to speak publicly on Capitol Hill.

Though the public’s attention on the potential of internet platforms to be used for nefarious purposes has focused lately on Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, major tech companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have also taken significant action to curb terrorists’ use of their platforms.

YouTube announced in 2017 that it would demonetize most content associated with terrorism, even videos that didn’t violate its terms of service. The video streaming service also said that it was outright removing more extremist content than ever before.

Twitter, which had faced criticism for the amount of pro-terrorist content on its platform, has also taken significant steps to reduce this over the past several years.

Facebook has received less criticism than its peers on the matter but is still taking steps to prevent terrorists from using its site.

Overseas, some politicians in Europe have made extremist digital content the focal point of their technology policy.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly criticized technology companies and demanded that they step up their efforts to curb terrorists' use of their platforms. May has gone so far as to advocate for increased internet regulation and online surveillance.

American politicians haven't called for such regulations, but say that they would like to see more action from tech firms.