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During a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing titled “Algorithms and Amplification: How Social Media Platforms’ Design Choices Shape Our Discourse and Our Minds,” Democratic Senator Jon Ossoff took aim at the way Big Tech companies’ scale and power allows them to be gatekeepers that determine “what ideas prosper and what ideas don’t.”
Ossoff used his time to question Facebook’s Vice President for Content Policy, Monika Bickert, and noted that while much of the public discussion focuses on Big Tech’s content moderation practices, he believes there’s a compelling argument that the underlying business model, scale, and power of these companies is the real problem.
“I’m not at all enthusiastic about huge multinational tech companies becoming the arbiters of legitimate speech and expression, especially when the decisions about what you may boost or suppress algorithmically are often made in secret and under heavy pressure from politicians and advertisers, and public opinion,” Ossoff said.
Ossoff, who before becoming a politician, was a documentary film producer and investigative journalist, also quizzed Bickert on whether Facebook will be engaging in any further acquisitions of competitor services in light of the antitrust lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission and 48 state attorneys general last December which alleged that its previous acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp constituted anticompetitive activity.
When Bickert declined to comment on the litigation and Facebook’s future acquisitions, Ossoff used this to highlight his point about the power of Big Tech.
“The root issue is that Facebook has too much power,” Ossoff said. “And one company, perhaps, should not be such a massive gatekeeper that determines what ideas prosper and what ideas don’t. And that’s why the question that I asked was, ‘Does Facebook anticipate that it will embark on any further acquisitions of competitor services?'”