Technology

House Dem questions internet platforms on policing content

Greg Nash

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is calling on major internet platforms to explain how they police their sites’ content, saying their policies are “vague and applied inconsistently.”

On Monday, Pallone sent a list of questions to the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Alphabet, Google’s parent company.

“The influence of the internet over our national dialogue and our lives has skyrocketed over the past decade,” the letter reads. “At the same time, the number of websites handling this traffic has consolidated to a handful of key platforms. The combination of these trends have led to these few companies taking on a quasi-governmental role policing content, and therefore a large amount of communication, on the internet.”

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Pallone said that little is known about the companies’ moderation policies and that the “lack of transparency makes it difficult for consumers to understand how content is controlled and for the government to oversee the market.”

The letter cited a series of controversies over how internet platforms enforce their content policies, including Twitter’s decision to briefly lockout actress Rose McGowan after she spoke out on the site about Harvey Weinstein’s alleged history of sexual harassment.

Twitter has said that McGowan violated its privacy policy by posting a person’s phone number.

Pallone also cited the growing controversy around the Russian government’s use of social media sites as part of its alleged campaign to meddle in U.S. politics. Facebook, Twitter and Google will all be testifying before the House and Senate Intelligence committees next week.

The New Jersey Democrat asked the companies to explain how they developed their user content policies, how they enforce them and how they combat the spread of disinformation.

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