If there's one thing Democrats and Republicans seem to agree on it's that Big Tech needs regulation. Though each side has different reasons, Thursday's hearing made it clear that both want to see changes implemented, particularly when it comes to the spread of misinformation and accountability.
For Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill. 9th District), liability shields afforded to companies like Facebook and Twitter through Section 230 have to be amended, particularly in the wake of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Section 230 is a part of the Communications Decency Act that protects digital sites from lawsuits over third-party comments made on their platforms.
"The Big Tech companies have really, literally in some cases, gotten away with murder and there are very few regulations," Schakowsky told Cheddar. "We're trying to establish standards that are very clear, that are not a violation of freedom of speech but to hold these platforms accountable. We have seen them harboring these hate groups, helping to incite the riots that happened at the Capitol."
Republicans have raised concerns about protecting conservative viewpoints online, which they argue are too often censored. Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio 5th District) said that while repealing Section 230 entirely could encourage accountability for the tech giants, without the liability protection, smaller businesses would not be able to foot the bills needed to protect themselves.
"I think that everybody agrees that we can't leave it the way it is," Latta told Cheddar, however.
"What we've seen happening over the last several years is that a lot of the conservative voices out there have been shut down or shut off of the platforms," he alleged.
Still, Democrats and Republicans will have to reach across the aisle in order for real change to take place, according to the congressman.
"It's going to have to be bipartisan because, of course, it's going to have to be bipartisan [regulation] coming out of the House and the Senate, and we all have to work on this together. We're going to have to come to a conclusion on it," he noted.
During Thursday's hearing, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted that information circulating on his platform did play a role in the January 6 attack. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, also acknowledged there was content on his platform linked to the Capitol riot.
For Schakowsky, the recognition from the CEOs that there were problems was a step in the right direction towards accountability, but she said more has to be done legislatively to require companies to take more responsibility for what happens on their platforms.
"We don't want to eliminate [Section 230] because it does guarantee, in part, some freedom of speech, but it has been so broad," she said. "Initially in 1996 when that rule was put in place, it was kind of understandable because they wanted to give free rein to these startup companies to be able to do what they do and to grow and thrive."
The Illinois representative plans to introduce the Online Consumer Protection Act, which she says would create "parameters of what the online operators can do, what the platforms can do," and allow the Federal Trade Commission to act as oversight and enforce sanctions for violators.
As for Ohio's Latta, he said one way of combating fake news is to "have more information out there so people make those informed choices."
"We want to make sure that when we're working on Section 230 that we're making sure, again, that the voices that might be coming in the new companies, that we can protect them and that they can get started up," he said.
Following the deadly Capitol attack, Schakowsky said she's also focused on ensuring that internet platforms aren't breeding grounds for extremists.
"What we just want to do is to make sure that the violence, that the hate speech, that the fraud that proliferates on these platforms is reined in, and as I said, even Mark Zuckerberg said he thinks that there are some sensible ways that we could adjust Section 230 and the rules that govern how they operate," she noted.