The “Big Tech” hearings in Congress often follow a three-tier formula.
Step one: Legislators require Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai to simply answer questions with “yes” or “no”. (Example: “Is YouTube’s recommendation algorithm designed to encourage users to stay on the site?”)
Step Two: The CEOs mentioned above inevitably say otherwise, either to add a legitimate nuance or to dodge obvious, unflattering answers with vague platitudes. (Sundar Pichai’s answer to the above question: “Content stewardship is our ultimate goal.”)
Step three: Legislature advises avoiding the question and mocks it. (Example from Rep. Billy Long of Missouri: “I’m going to ask you a yes-or-no question. Do you know the difference between those two words: yes and no?”)
Later today my colleague Makena Kelly will post a breakdown of Disinformation Nation. a Marathon House of Representatives hearing about social media, extremism and misinformation. But to make it massively simpler, imagine a few hours of this three-step process – and that Jack Dorsey is obviously sick of it all.
While Pichai and Zuckerberg have mostly limited themselves to answering questions, Dorsey has started to tweet openly during the hearing – preferring others’ comments. Sending passive-aggressive quote tweets Wish the questions were better and trolled congress with a twitter poll.
Jack Dorsey replied “yes” to Long’s question for what it’s worth. And on Twitter, “Yes” wins by a margin of 65.5 to 34.5 percent – but depending on how long this hearing lasts, there will be enough time to change that.