Social media executives testified on Wednesday that they are determined to keep terrorist content off their sites, but the members of Congress who summoned them had doubts.

The House Committee on Homeland Security heard testimony from representatives of Facebook, Twitter, and Google.

“On terrorist content our view is simple: There is no space on Facebook for terrorists,” Monika Bickert of Facebook told the committee.

However, committee chair Bennie Thompson said social media platforms have proven “they were unable to comply” with demands to control content.

The hearing focused on the response of social media platforms to a proliferation of misinformation and violent content. Cited examples included the Christchurch shooting Facebook Live video and the Nancy Pelosi “deep fake” video, which was altered to make her appear impaired.

Derek Slater of Google said “We will do everything we can to ensure users are not exposed to harmful content.” Bickert said “We know this is something that we have to get right.”

Nadine Strossen of New York Law School testified that standards for determining what content should be removed from social media platforms “are irreducibly subjective.” Slater of Google said they removed the manipulated video of Nancy Pelosi from their platform because “the video was deceptive.” Nick Pickles, of Twitter said they didn’t take it down because it “doesn’t break our policies.”

Christchurch aftermath
After the mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Members of the committee were skeptical of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT). The coalition of tech companies, including those at the hearing, seeks to “disrupt terrorists’ ability to promote terrorism, disseminate violent extremist propaganda, and exploit or glorify real-world acts of violence using our platforms.”

Thompson said he was optimistic about the group’s “intentions and goals,” but has yet to see “satisfactory efforts.”

A whistleblower complaint is pending at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) asking the agency to sanction Facebook for its failure to control terror and hate content on its platform. The National Whistleblower Center (NWC) is working with the anonymous whistleblower. In May, the Associated Press published a story describing the key findings in the petition to the SEC.

In addition to noting that terror and hate speech are proliferating on Facebook, the AP report found that Facebook is generating its own terror and hate content, which is being “Liked” by individuals affiliated with terrorist organizations.

This story was reported by National Whistleblower Center interns Kelly Mwaamba, Shoshana Levy and Alexandra Nichols, and written by Tinker Ready. Feature photo by Maria Walker.