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Lawmakers Expand Social Media Probe to Include Meta's Threads

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House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan Requests Documents from Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg

The Request for Documents

House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, has asked Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to provide documents regarding content moderation on Threads. This request follows an earlier subpoena from the committee related to their ongoing investigation of tech platforms' policies and their contact with the Biden administration. Jordan's letter to Zuckerberg is an early indication of the increased scrutiny that Meta's newest product could face in Washington.

The Spotlight on Threads

Threads, Meta's new platform, directly competes with Twitter, which is owned by Elon Musk. While Musk has expressed support for free speech absolutism on Twitter, the platform has faced criticism for suspending users, including journalists. Meta executives have stated that they do not want news and politics to dominate the conversation on Threads. However, given that these topics have historically been a large part of Twitter, Threads could become a target in the political landscape.

The Concerns About Threads

Jordan's letter raises several concerns about Threads. He highlights a Wall Street Journal article that found the Federal Trade Commission had asked Twitter to hand over internal communications about Musk and identify journalists who had access to the company's records. This raises questions about Twitter's ability to protect consumer information. In contrast, Threads will enforce Instagram's community guidelines, which have been accused of suppressing lawful speech under pressure from the government. Recent lawsuits against the Biden administration allege that it has suppressed speech on social media platforms related to the Covid-19 pandemic and elections.

The Ongoing Investigation

Jordan emphasizes that the committee's subpoena, originally sent to Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft, applies to Threads as well. He requests that Meta provide documents related to Threads' content moderation and discussions with the Biden administration. The letter serves as a formal notice to preserve relevant existing and future documents. Meta is expected to provide these documents by the end of the month.

Implications for New Businesses

The request for documents from Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg regarding Threads, and the increased scrutiny that the platform could face in Washington, have broader implications for new businesses in the tech industry. This development highlights the importance of understanding and navigating the complex landscape of content moderation and government interactions in order to succeed in the competitive market.

One key aspect brought to the forefront is the challenge of balancing free speech and community guidelines. Meta's attempt to differentiate Threads from Twitter by not allowing news and politics to dominate the conversation reflects a strategic decision to avoid potential controversies that could attract political scrutiny. However, this approach also raises concerns about the suppression of lawful speech, as Instagram's community guidelines have faced criticism for stifling opinions under pressure from the government. New businesses entering the social media space need to carefully consider these tensions and establish policies that strike a balance between promoting open dialogue and maintaining a safe and inclusive digital environment.

Moreover, the privacy concerns highlighted in the request for documents should serve as a cautionary tale for new businesses. The inquiry into Twitter's ability to protect consumer information and the potential implications for Threads emphasize the need for robust privacy and data protection measures. Startups must prioritize cybersecurity and transparent data practices from the earliest stages of development to earn the trust of users and regulators alike.

Lastly, the ongoing investigation of tech platforms' policies and their interactions with the Biden administration underscores the importance of establishing ethical and transparent business practices. New businesses should proactively engage with policymakers, adopt responsible content moderation policies, and maintain open lines of communication with government entities. Building constructive relationships and demonstrating a commitment to public accountability will not only mitigate regulatory risks but also position companies as responsible actors in the digital landscape.

In this evolving environment, new businesses must proactively address the challenges raised by the scrutiny faced by Meta and Threads. By prioritizing free speech, privacy protection, and ethical practices, startups can position themselves for success while navigating the ever-changing regulatory landscape.

Article First Published at: https://www.cnbc.com/2023/07/17/house-judiciary-expands-social-media-inquiry-to-metas-threads-.html

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