November 20, 2020

Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg usually disagree, at least as far as Twitter and Facebook policies are concerned. But during Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, the two tech CEOs seemed to find common ground on a few topics where they had previously disagreed.

In the first few seconds of their opening remarks, they both mentioned the words “people” and “safe/safety” and also, almost identically, stressed the need for togetherness.

Zuckerberg stated that “Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” Dorsey explained that Twitter’s purpose is “to serve the public conversation. People from around the world come together on Twitter in an open and free exchange of ideas.”

Both also mentioned misinformation and falsehoods during their opening statements, but Zuckerberg and Dorsey approached it from different angles.

Zuckerberg referred to the efforts his company has deployed in order to fight misinformation and commented that, after partnering with election officials, Facebook “removed false claims about polling conditions and displayed warnings on more than 150 million pieces of content after review by our independent third-party fact-checkers.”

Dorsey’s approach to the topic was based on transparency, people understanding the rules of Twitter’s content moderation and algorithmic choice. Although Twitter is still working on the final report for the 2020 U.S. elections, Dorsey gave a preview of its preliminary findings: “We updated our civic integrity policy to more comprehensively enforce labeling or removing of false and misleading information.”

This point was specifically addressed in the context of the controversial New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s laptop and emails relating to his work in Ukraine and China.

As Katy Byron and Jake Sheridan described in a Poynter  article, Facebook limited the Post article’s reach because of a suspected possibility of false information in the story. Twitter blocked users from tweeting and messaging the link to the story, but later reversed this decision.

Despite their disagreements on the handling of the New York Post story, both men seemed to be aligned on a topic that six months ago saw them on opposing sides of the argument: how to treat Donald Trump’s posts.

In May, when Twitter decided to place “fact-check” labels on some of the president’s tweets, Zuckerberg criticized the measure publicly, saying: “I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online,” in an interview with Fox News.

Now after the election and Trump’s defeat, what seemed to be an irreconcilable difference on how to treat his posts has shifted, or at least softened.

Asked by Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii, about the treatment of Trump’s accounts after he leaves office, Dorsey said, “If an account suddenly is not a world leader anymore, that particular policy goes away.”

Zuckerberg answered similarly saying, “If the president is spreading hate speech or promoting violence … those will receive the same treatment as anyone else saying those things, and that will continue to be the case.”

To access FactChat on WhatsApp and follow the presidential campaign, click hi.factchat.me for English, and hola.factchat.me for Spanish.

Laura Weffer is IFCN’s coordinator for FactChat and co-founder of Venezuelan news outlet @Efecto Cocuyo. She can be reached at laurafactchat@gmail.com or on Twitter at @laura_weffer

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