News roundup: big tech leaders get a grilling from the US senate

A roundup of this week’s tech news, including an important big tech senate hearing, a historic IPO for Ant Group, and a new quantum computer from Honeywell.

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Dorsey, Pichai and Zuckerberg face US senate hearing

The head honchos at three of the world’s biggest technology companies appeared before the US senate this week to discuss section 230, a law that grants social media companies freedom from litigation when it comes to user-generated content and its management. Appearing via video-link, the tech leaders faced an absolute grilling from both Republican and Democratic representatives, who (astonishingly) have managed to come together in their critique of the Silicon Valley juggernauts, albeit for totally different reasons.

Republicans in particular took the opportunity to cast aspersions on the impartiality of the tech juggernauts, with section 230 taking a bit of a back seat at times. Twitter’s kingpin Jack Dorsey copped a particularly tough line of questioning from Republican senators over its recent handling of a New York Post article involving allegations against Joe Biden’s son Hunter. While Dorsey admitted his company made an error in judgement, that did little to ail the fury of GOP Senator Ted Cruz, who repeatedly grilled the Twitter boss over the incident.

On the other hand, the Democrats dismissed the GOP’s claims of bias and instead raised concerns over the way the platforms handle things like hate speech and misinformation. Zuckerberg said his platform had made moves to fight such things, although he agreed that his company needs to assess its content recommendations. He also copped questioning over Facebook’s election approach this time around, with the CEO assuring that it would pull down posts inciting violence and those that prematurely call an election victory.

Ultimately, the three companies championed section 230, arguing the law has facilitated a more free-flowing exchange of ideas while making it possible for them to step in and moderate content. Of course, the law has – up until this point – allowed them to thrive and grow exponentially, so it makes sense that they would back it.

Speaking of growth, the week of those same tech giants (and many others) was sweetened greatly by their respective sales figures, which were also revealed this week. As you may have guessed, 2020 has been a very good year for the likes of Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon, and Apple (go figure) and this was reflected in their results. Amazon especially raked it in, with sales up to US$96.1 billion in the 3 months to September 30 (a 37% increase YoY).

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