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Senate panel votes to subpoena Big Tech executives

The Senate Commerce Committee voted Thursday to subpoena the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Alphabet, Google's parent company.

Committee Chairman Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerEnsuring more Americans have access to 5G technology Zuckerberg to express openness to Section 230 reform Bipartisan group of senators call on Trump to sanction Russia over Navalny poisoning MORE (R-Miss.) had threatened to subpoena Twitter's Jack Dorsey, Facebook's Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to express openness to Section 230 reform | Facebook removes accounts linked to foreign influence efforts ahead of election | YouTube adding warnings to videos, searches on Election Day Zuckerberg to express openness to Section 230 reform Hillicon Valley: Hospitals brace for more cyberattacks as coronavirus cases rise | Food service groups offer local alternatives to major delivery apps | Facebook says it helped 4.4M people register to vote MORE and Alphabet's Sundar Pichai last week but was required to hold a vote after ranking member Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellZuckerberg to express openness to Section 230 reform Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein Hillicon Valley: Senate panel votes to subpoena Big Tech executives | Amazon says over 19,000 workers tested positive for COVID-19 | Democrats demand DHS release report warning of election interference MORE (D-Wash.) opposed the plan.

The unanimous vote will compel the CEOs to appear for a hearing on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which is considered the bedrock of the modern internet.

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The 1996 law, which has come under increased scrutiny since President TrumpDonald John TrumpGiuliani goes off on Fox Business host after she compares him to Christopher Steele Trump looks to shore up support in Nebraska NYT: Trump had 7 million in debt mostly tied to Chicago project forgiven MORE targeted it in an executive order in May, gives internet companies immunity from lawsuits for content posted on their sites by third parties and allows them to make "good faith" efforts to moderate content.

Wicker made it clear during Thursday’s executive business meeting that the hearing is required because of allegations of anti-conservative bias on their platforms.

Conservative voices actually dominate many platforms on social media including Facebook, the most powerful of them all.

But that hasn't stopped Republicans from persistently making the allegation about bias, which the tech companies have also vociferously denied.

Cantwell ultimately agreed to vote for the subpoena after changes by Wicker, allowing privacy and misinformation to be discussed alongside the supposed bias.

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A spokesperson for Facebook declined to comment on the subpoena vote.

Spokespeople for Twitter and Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the vote.

If they ultimately appear, this will be the second major hearing of the year with some of tech's biggest executives.

The House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust this summer held a hearing on competition in digital marketplaces featuring Zuckerberg, Pichai, Apple's Tim Cook and Amazon's Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosBlue Origin takes one small step toward being a competitor to SpaceX Democrats question Amazon over reported interference of workers' rights to organize Hillicon Valley: Twitter lacked adequate cybersecurity protection ahead of July hacks, regulator says | Twitter, Facebook clamp down on New York Post article about Hunter Biden | YouTube bans COVID-19 vaccine misinformation MORE.

The panel is set to release a report on the issue as early as next week.