Senate panel votes to subpoena tech CEOs to testify over Section 230 legal immunity

Senate panel votes to subpoena tech CEOs to testify over Section 230 legal immunity

(Reuters) – The U.S. Senate trade committee unanimously voted Thursday to approve a plan to summon CEOs from Twitter, Google from Alphabet and Facebook for a hearing, which is expected to take place ahead of the election on valuable immunity from internet companies.

The hearing will discuss reform of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects technology companies from liability for user-posted content.

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

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

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

On Thursday, Wicker said that Section 230’s “comprehensive liability protection” is stifling the diversity of political discourse on the Internet.

“After inviting these leaders, I regret that they again refused to attend and answer questions on issues that are so visible and urgent to the American people,” said Wicker.

Republican President Donald Trump has made it a government issue to hold tech companies accountable for allegedly stifling conservative voices. As a result, calls for Section 230 reform have increased before the elections, but there is little chance that Congress will approve this year.

Last week Trump met with nine Republican attorneys general to discuss the fate of Section 230 after the Justice Department tabled a legislative proposal to reform the law.

The CEOs of Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon recently testified before the House of Representatives Antitrust Committee. The panel, which examines how corporate practices are harming rivals, is expected to release its report as early as next Monday.