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Section 230 Hearing

The questions the CEOs declined to answer

Each of the CEOs said they'd "get back" to lawmakers in response to various questions.

The questions the CEOs declined to answer

"We spend a lot on legal lawsuits but not sure what of it applies to content-related issues, but happy to follow up," Google's Sundar Pichai said at one point.

Image: C-SPAN

Every congressional hearing with the tech CEOs has been rife with promises they will "get back" to lawmakers on questions they either can't or don't want to answer.

Here are a few of the questions Jack Dorsey, Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai pledged to follow up on privately.

"Facebook is proactively working with law enforcement to disrupt real-world violent attempts that stem from some of that activity that originated on your platform. Can you tell me specifically how many threats have you proactively referred to local or state law enforcement?"

Democratic Sen. Gary Peters, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, spent his seven minutes politely questioning Zuckerberg about the spread of violent extremism on Facebook and how it can lead to real-world harm. He cited the recent attempted kidnapping of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, which was in part organized on Facebook.

Facebook has said it started proactively communicating with law enforcement about the militia group behind the kidnapping plot at least six months ago and it was removed from the platform on June 30.

Zuckerberg said he doesn't "know the number" of proactive referrals it has made to law enforcement about alarming extremist activity but pledged to "follow up with you on that."

"It is increasingly common that our systems are able to detect when there's potential issues," Zuckerberg said.

"Have you seen a reduction in your platform's facilitation of extremist group recruitment?"

An internal Facebook study in 2016 found that 64% of people joining extremist groups on Facebook were due to its own recommendation tools, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report. Since then, Facebook has changed some of its policies and approaches to extremism and online radicalization.

When Peters asked if Facebook has seen a reduction in that activity since it has changed its policies over the past four years, Zuckerberg said he wasn't "familiar" with the study but would get the senator "more information on the scope of those activities."

"How much are your companies currently spending defending lawsuits related to user content?"

None of the CEOs was able to answer this. "I can get back to you," Zuckerberg said.

"We spend a lot on legal lawsuits but not sure what of it applies to content-related issues, but happy to follow up," Pichai said. Dorsey said he didn't "have those numbers."

Republican Sen. Jerry Moran said he wanted to use their answers to "highlight" a tension in the conversation: It could be extremely costly for businesses smaller than Google, Twitter and Facebook to afford the amount of lawsuits that most Section 230 reforms would enable.

"Whatever the numbers are, you indicate they're significant — an enormous amount of money and employee time, contract labor time in dealing with modification of content," Moran said. "These efforts are expensive, and I'd highlight for my colleagues the committee that they wouldn't be any less expensive — perhaps less in scale but not less in cost — for startups and small businesses."

"Gotcha" questions about anti-conservative bias

Each of the CEOs diligently pledged they would "follow up" with various GOP senators over questions related to conservative bias. Dorsey said he would get back to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker about how long it took to take down a particular tweet from a Chinese communist party leader. Zuckerberg pledged to follow up with Sen. John Thune with a list of articles that Facebook has "suppressed" and to discuss a "former Biden staffer" who deals with election-related content at Facebook.

Each of the CEOs spent some time debunking allegations that they routinely censor right-wing voices, but they punted on the vast majority of opportunities to hammer home that message.

Power

Don't sacrifice security for performance when computing at the edge

Companies must look at security in tandem with networking.

Federal IT managers and security analysts need to weigh the risk and reward of each upgrade or improvement to minimize new risk, writes Jim Richberg.

Image: Florian Olivo/Unsplash

Jim Richberg is the Public Sector Field CISO at Fortinet.

As federal agencies increasingly push for improved performance and agility through their networks and devices, they must also consider the lack of visibility that comes with deploying cutting-edge technology. Centralized visibility and unified controls are sometimes being sacrificed in favor of performance and agility through smart devices collecting and processing data at the edge.

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Sponsored Content

The future of computing at the edge: an interview with Intel’s Tom Lantzsch

An interview with Tom Lantzsch, SVP and GM, Internet of Things Group at Intel

An interview with Tom Lantzsch

Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Internet of Things Group (IoT) at Intel Corporation

Edge computing had been on the rise in the last 18 months – and accelerated amid the need for new applications to solve challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic. Tom Lantzsch, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Internet of Things Group (IoT) at Intel Corp., thinks there are more innovations to come – and wants technology leaders to think equally about data and the algorithms as critical differentiators.

In his role at Intel, Lantzsch leads the worldwide group of solutions architects across IoT market segments, including retail, banking, hospitality, education, industrial, transportation, smart cities and healthcare. And he's seen first-hand how artificial intelligence run at the edge can have a big impact on customers' success.

Protocol sat down with Lantzsch to talk about the challenges faced by companies seeking to move from the cloud to the edge; some of the surprising ways that Intel has found to help customers and the next big breakthrough in this space.

What are the biggest trends you are seeing with edge computing and IoT?

A few years ago, there was a notion that the edge was going to be a simplistic model, where we were going to have everything connected up into the cloud and all the compute was going to happen in the cloud. At Intel, we had a bit of a contrarian view. We thought much of the interesting compute was going to happen closer to where data was created. And we believed, at that time, that camera technology was going to be the driving force – that just the sheer amount of content that was created would be overwhelming to ship to the cloud – so we'd have to do compute at the edge. A few years later – that hypothesis is in action and we're seeing edge compute happen in a big way.

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Saul Hudson
Saul Hudson has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, especially in understanding and targeting messages in cutting-edge technologies. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, in helping companies to build passionate audiences and accelerate their growth. Hudson has reported from more than 30 countries, from war zones to boardrooms to presidential palaces. He has led multinational, multi-lingual teams and managed operations for hundreds of journalists. Hudson is a Managing Partner at Angle42, a strategic communications consultancy.
Power

Google wants to help you get a life

Digital car windows, curved AR glasses, automatic presentations and other patents from Big Tech.

A new patent from Google offers a few suggestions.

Image: USPTO

Another week has come to pass, meaning it's time again for Big Tech patents! You've hopefully been busy reading all the new Manual Series stories that have come out this week and are now looking forward to hearing what comes after what comes next. Google wants to get rid of your double-chin selfie videos and find things for you as you sit bored at home; Apple wants to bring translucent displays to car windows; and Microsoft is exploring how much you can stress out a virtual assistant.

And remember: The big tech companies file all kinds of crazy patents for things, and though most never amount to anything, some end up defining the future.

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Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

Transforming 2021

Blockchain, QR codes and your phone: the race to build vaccine passports

Digital verification systems could give people the freedom to work and travel. Here's how they could actually happen.

One day, you might not need to carry that physical passport around, either.

Photo: CommonPass

There will come a time, hopefully in the near future, when you'll feel comfortable getting on a plane again. You might even stop at the lounge at the airport, head to the regional office when you land and maybe even see a concert that evening. This seemingly distant reality will depend upon vaccine rollouts continuing on schedule, an open-sourced digital verification system and, amazingly, the blockchain.

Several countries around the world have begun to prepare for what comes after vaccinations. Swaths of the population will be vaccinated before others, but that hasn't stopped industries decimated by the pandemic from pioneering ways to get some people back to work and play. One of the most promising efforts is the idea of a "vaccine passport," which would allow individuals to show proof that they've been vaccinated against COVID-19 in a way that could be verified by businesses to allow them to travel, work or relax in public without a great fear of spreading the virus.

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Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

Policy

Bad news for Big Tech: Bipartisan agreement on antitrust reform

Democrats and Republicans found common ground during the first House hearing on antitrust of the new Congress. Here's what that means for tech giants.

The House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee held their first hearing of the 117th Congress.

Photo: Tom Williams/Getty Images

During the first House antitrust hearing of the new Congress, Democratic chairman David Cicilline and Republican ranking member Ken Buck made it clear they intend to forge ahead with a series of bipartisan reform efforts that could cut into the power of the largest technology companies.

"We will work on a serious bipartisan basis to advance these reforms together," Cicilline said during his opening remarks Thursday.

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Emily Birnbaum

Emily Birnbaum ( @birnbaum_e) is a tech policy reporter with Protocol. Her coverage focuses on the U.S. government's attempts to regulate one of the most powerful industries in the world, with a focus on antitrust, privacy and politics. Previously, she worked as a tech policy reporter with The Hill after spending several months as a breaking news reporter. She is a Bethesda, Maryland native and proud Kenyon College alumna.

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