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Facebook and Twitter, but not Google, appear before Congress

September 5, 2018

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey shared the stage in DC today, appearing before a more muted Congress than Mark Zuckerberg faced earlier this year.

Google was a no-show: An empty chair sat next to Sandberg and Dorsey, emphasizing the tech giant’s absence. The result was less talk about antitrust issues than anticipated, as Google is at the center of that debate.

Tweeted testimony: Dorsey (despite his popped collar) didn’t come off as smoothly as Sandberg, who has a lot more experience in Washington. His lack of polish could stem from his decision to live-tweet his opening remarks, which made him seem more attached to his phone than most people testifying before Congress.

Regulation will happen: That’s something the senators repeatedly made clear to the tech executives. How, though, is still up in the air. Suggestions ranged from election-related regulations to limitations protecting personal privacy. Both executives agreed that personal-privacy protections are a national security priority.

Foreign influence: Senators softened their stances towards the executives when the topic moved to foreign meddling. Rather than constant criticism, they gave Facebook and Twitter some credit for how much their services have improved since the 2016 elections.

Accusations of bias: Dorsey faced the brunt of the criticism when it came to bias. Republican representatives pressed him to address claims of anti-conservative censorship. The Twitter CEO had the support of some Democratic lawmakers, who accused conservatives of of “trying to rally their base by fabricating a problem that simply does not exist.”

On Wall Street: Tech stocks fell during the testimony, dropping as much as 6 percent.

The aftermath: Following the morning Senate committee hearing, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he will meet with state attorneys general to look at whether tech companies “may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms.”

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