Meta, TikTok, YouTube, and Twitter have been interrogated by the Senate; Tim Cook is seen in the construction of the building

Meta, TikTok, YouTube, and Twitter have been interrogated by the Senate; Tim Cook is seen in the con ...

Execs from four technology giants were questioned by the Senate Homeland Security Committee yesterday. Meta, TikTok, YouTube, and Twitter were both questioned about security, privacy, misinformation, and more.

Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, was also seen in the building, but he did not appear before the committee.

Even if they were told in advance what they would be asked, none of the executives seemed particularly interested in answering them.

This time around, Congress pushed in a relatively fresh set of product-focused executives, including TikTok''s COO Vanessa Pappas, who testified for the first time before lawmakers, and long-time Meta executive Chris Cox. The hearing was convened to explore social media''s influence on national security broadly and touched on topics ranging from domestic extremism and misinformation to CSAM and China.

Sen. Gary Peters, the committee chairman, urged each company to disclose the number of employees it has working full-time on trust and safety, and each company was refused to answer as a result of the only numerical response. The company employs 2,200 people across Twitter, although it wasn''t clear if those employees also performed other kinds of duties []

Despite the executives'' suggestions for the total number of workers who touch trust and safety, none made the distinction between external contract content creators and employees working full-time on those issues.

When it comes to languages other than English, one of the most important concerns was that moderation efforts are even worse.

Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) walked the content moderation conversation in another important direction, posing a doubt to Meta Chief Product Officer Chris Cox about safety practices outside of the English language.

[In] your testimony, you state that you have over 40,000 people working on trust and safety issues. How many of them focus on non English language content, and how many of them focus on non-U.S. users? Padilla asked.

When asked the same question, Cox gave no one to give us a reply.

Vanessa Pappas, CEO of TikTok, was particularly evasive when it came to the question of the companies'' links to the Chinese government.

Pappas became acquainted with her peers immediately, dodged complicated questions, offering partial responses, and even refusing at one point to admit TikToks'' Chinese parent company ByteDance. When Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) pressed Pappas on the location of the company, she dodged the question awkwardly by alleging that the company is distributed and has no primary offices. []

Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) also delved into TikToks'' relationship with the Chinese government. Is there any one member of TikTok or ByteDance, or no? Hawley asked.

Pappas avoided answering directly, but eventually landed on the conclusion that no one making strategic decisions at the company has no links to the Chinese government.

It is evident that corporations believe that they are not permitted to answer the questions they answer, even if it comes to election interference and national security.

Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, did not attend the committee, but was seen in the building on the day of the hearings.

Tim Apple has just gone through the Senate''s basement.

I asked him if I could see the new iPhone, but he rejected it:(

Not yet. Friday. pic.twitter.com/B6GPqhYJye

Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) on September 14, 2022

Photo:Andy Feliciotti/Unsplash