At a glance.
- Biometric policy under review.
- Big Tech on Capitol Hill.
US contemplates advancing, expanding newcomer biometric screenings.
The Wall Street Journal reports the US National Security Council is considering requiring visa hopefuls to tender fingerprints and other biometric data before they can file an application. Currently, biometric data is collected after applications are submitted. The new rule would permit additional time for background checks. As part of the plan, the Department of Homeland Security was instructed earlier this month to buy more advanced fingerprinting machines to send overseas. The Council is also considering rolling out biometric screening requirements for countries participating in visa waiver agreements. Some functionaries worry that should the proposal go through, other nations might respond with similar conditions.
Facebook, Twitter, Google testify before US Senate Commerce Committee.
In advance of yesterday’s hearing, Big Tech faced bipartisan concern that Section 230 allows “companies to abdicate their responsibility to impartially moderate content,” WNYT reports. Facebook, Twitter, and Google all testified that they do not referee political speech and maintained that the law’s provision for regulating “otherwise objectionable” content isn’t overbroad, according to Yahoo.
Twitter identified its cardinal sin as the failure to earn society’s trust, and proposed additional transparency measures as a solution. The CEO acknowledged he has no “information whatsoever” that the New York Post story concerning Hunter Biden’s emails (which the platform blocked) is Russian disinformation, or that the emails are inauthentic. In an exchange the Wall Street Journal described, Senator Ted Cruz (Republican of Texas) reprimanded the CEO for censoring journalists and deciding “what the American people are allowed to hear,” asking who elected him and accusing the company of behaving like a “Democratic super PAC.” Other senators questioned why the platform censors President Trump but not presidential candidate Biden, Holocaust denials, or incitements of violence against Israel. Twitter clarified that its misinformation policy only covers certain topics, and dismissed the notion that the company has influence over elections, as USA Today reports.
Facebook was criticized for radicalizing users, hosting extremist groups, profiting off of division, and not doing enough to stem misinformation. The New York Times observed that the company is investing billions in election security. Zuckerberg mentioned conflicting pressures to remove more or less content, arguing the mixed signals don’t mean they’re “getting this right” but do mean “real disagreement” exists. He stated he wasn’t aware the employee in charge of election integrity previously worked for Biden.
Google disclaimed any political bias “full stop,” while allowing that the tech industry leans left. Senator Amy Klobuchar (Democrat of Minnesota) raised questions about the company’s market share, saying Google controls nearly ninety percent of search engine queries and seventy percent of search engine advertising. Pichai denied monopolization but expressed openness to feedback; Klobuchar said he had his feedback in the form of the federal antitrust lawsuit.
Senator Brian Schatz (Democrat of Hawaii) called the event “nonsense” and “bullying,” and others encouraged the platforms to push back against Republican pressure. Japan Today called the hearing a “political scuffle,” noting both President Trump and candidate Biden have called for Section 230’s revocation. Appeals for change are also coming in from abroad: the EU’s Digital Services Act would in part “address liability for harmful or illegal content.” Senator Cory Gardner (Republican of Colorado) remarked that unelected government bureaucrats' moderating speech would be even worse than the current situation. (Yahoo says it’s a shame important ongoing legal questions were overshadowed by the impending election.)