House Judiciary to Hold Online Censorship Hearing

More social media execs could be coming to Capitol Hill this week, but it's not yet a done deal.

The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on online censorship and whether social media platforms disfavor or favor certain speech.

Invited are representatives of Facebook, Google and Twitter, though not word on whether any will show.

The issue was in the spotlight two weeks ago when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg agreed there were legitimate concerns about a liberal Silicon Valley bias, and conceded Facebook content reviewers had made some mistakes with some content calls, though he said there were not top-down directives on speech, beyond trying to weed out hate speech, violence, terrorism and content that made its social media community uncomfortable.

[Zuckerberg Backs Opt-In Legislation, In Principle]

On April 26, the committee will hear from a number of witnesses who say their speech has been censored, including Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), chair of the Communications Subcommittee who was among those quizzing Zuckerberg, and online personalities and Trump supporters Diamond and Silk, whose issues with Facebook were raised during questioning.

Also on the witness list are Corynne McSherry, legal director of Electronic Frontier Foundation, and David Chavern, CEO of the News Media Alliance.

“The advent of social media has made it possible for people to connect across continents, explore vast amounts of information, and share meaningful dialogue with friends and strangers," said Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).

"However, this same technology can be used to suppress a particular viewpoint and manipulate public opinion. I look forward to hearing from a wide variety of experts at our hearing to discuss the free speech implications of social media filtering.”

The National Religious Broadcasters, which called for such a hearing and has been monitoring what it said was online censorship of conservative and religious speech, was pleased.

“I commend Chairman Bob Goodlatte for scheduling this hearing so quickly after Mr. Zuckerberg’s appearances,” said NRB President Dr. Jerry Johnson. “Mr. Zuckerberg’s testimony only briefly touched on the growing problem of online censorship. The American people deserve answers to their questions about why Christian and conservative viewpoint is being censored by Big Tech. I urge Facebook, Google, and Twitter to accept Chairman Goodlatte’s invitation to appear before his committee.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.