Coons considering hauling in Facebook, Twitter CEOs for hearing

By | March 18, 2021

Sen. Chris Coons said Thursday he’s “very likely” to call on tech executives — including the CEOs of Twitter and Facebook — to testify before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on privacy and technology, which he was recently tapped to lead.

Key context: The remarks by the Delaware Democrat signal the panel is poised to make social media accountability a top priority in its oversight efforts under Democratic control. Coons and other members of his subcommittee are expected to play a major role in coming months in congressional debates about content moderation, online misinformation and data privacy.

Planning to get answers: Coons said he expects the panel will push to bring in top Silicon Valley executives for hearings, including the chiefs of Twitter and Facebook.

“We held hearings in the full committee last year that included one — particularly, famously — [with] Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg from Twitter and Facebook, and I think there’s reason for us to ask them to come before us again,” he said in an interview.

Coons said his hearing plans aren’t final and that discussions with his Republican counterpart, ranking member Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, about the scope of the sessions are ongoing.

Spokespeople for Twitter and Facebook declined to comment.

Under GOP control last Congress, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to authorize subpoenas to compel Dorsey and Zuckerberg to testify about allegations of anti-conservative bias online. Dorsey and Zuckerberg later agreed to appear voluntarily.

A broad look into social media: During the interview, Coons said his agenda will also focus on how algorithms amplify misinformation online and how to combat extremism on the internet.

“I think we’ll look at the dynamics of social media and I think we’ll look at the intersection between privacy, civil liberties and civil rights in the digital context,” he said.

A possible preview: Zuckerberg and Dorsey are separately slated to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee next Thursday at a session expected to focus on online misinformation.