Following Attack on the Capitol, Reps. Eshoo and Malinowski Lead Dozens of Colleagues in Urging Tech CEOs to Fix Dangerous Algorithms, Address Spread of Extremism and Conspiracies on Platforms

January 21, 2021
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, in the aftermath of the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18) and Congressman Tom Malinowski (NJ-7) sent letters to the CEOs of Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter urging the companies to address the fundamental design features of their social networks that facilitate the spread of extreme, radicalizing content to their users. Representatives Malinowski and Eshoo, along with dozens of their colleagues, called on the companies to reexamine their policy maximizing user engagement as the basis for algorithmic sorting and promotion of news and information, and to make permanent and platform-wide design changes to limit the spread of harmful, conspiratorial content. 

 

The lawmakers note that the rioters who attacked the Capitol earlier this month were radicalized in part in digital echo chambers that these platforms designed, built, and maintained, and that the platforms are partially responsible for undermining our shared sense of objective reality, for intensifying fringe political beliefs, for facilitating connections between extremists, leading some of them to commit real-world, physical violence.

 

To view the full text of the letters and their respective signers click on the links below.

 

  • Letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook 
  • Letter to Susan Wojcicki and Sundar Pichai, YouTube; Alphabet/Google 
  • Letter to Jack Dorsey, Twitter 

 

“For years social media companies have allowed harmful disinformation to spread through their platforms, polluting the minds of the American people. Online disinformation is not just about removing bad content. I see it as largely a product design issue. The algorithmic amplification and recommendation systems that platforms employ spread content that’s evocative over what’s true,” said Rep. Eshoo. “The horrific damage to our democracy wrought on January 6th demonstrated how these social media platforms played a role in radicalizing and emboldening terrorists to attack our Capitol. These American companies must fundamentally rethink algorithmic systems that are at odds with democracy.”

 

“Social media platforms’ algorithms are designed to feed each of us increasingly hateful versions of what we already hate, and fearful versions of what we already fear, so that we stay glued to our screens for as long as possible. In this way, they regularly promote and recommend white supremacist, anti-Semitic, anti-government, and other conspiracy-oriented material to the very people who are most susceptible to it — some of whom just attacked our Capitol,” said Rep. Malinowski. “We are urging the CEOs of these large social media companies to make permanent and platform-wide changes to limit the frictionless spread of extreme, radicalizing content – something they’ve shown they are capable of doing but are consciously choosing not to.” 

 

Last Fall, Representatives Malinowski and Eshoo introduced the Protecting Americans from Dangerous Algorithms Act, legislation to hold large social media platforms accountable for their algorithmic amplification of harmful, radicalizing content that leads to offline violence.

 

Rep. Eshoo represents California’s 18th congressional district, which includes much of Silicon Valley. She is a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

 

Rep. Malinowski represents New Jersey's 7th congressional district. Last year, his bipartisan resolution to condemn QAnon and the dangerous conspiracy theories it promotes passed in the House of Representatives 371-18. He also led the effort in the House to restore funding for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's program to combat domestic terrorism and targeted violence.

 

 

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