Today the CEOs of Google, Facebook and Twitter are testifying before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee to discuss Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
You can read Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai’s opening testimony below, describing how Section 230 makes it possible for Google to provide access to a wide range of information, including what Google calls high quality local journalism while responsibly protecting people from harm and keeping their information private.
Chairman Wicker, Ranking Member Cantwell, and distinguished members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today.
The internet has been a powerful force for good over the past three decades. It has radically improved access to information, whether it’s connecting Americans to jobs, getting critical updates to people in times of crisis, or helping a parent find answers to questions like “How can I get my baby to sleep through the night?”
At the same time, people everywhere can use their voices to share new perspectives, express themselves and reach broader audiences than ever before. Whether you’re a barber in Mississippi or a home renovator in Indiana, you can share a video and build a global fanbase—and a successful business—right from your living room.
In this way, the internet has been one of the world’s most important equalizers. Information can be shared—and knowledge can flow—from anyone, to anywhere. But the same low barriers to entry also make it possible for bad actors to cause harm.
As a company whose mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful, Google is deeply conscious of both the opportunities and risks the internet creates.
I’m proud that Google’s information services like Search, Gmail, Maps, and Photos provide thousands of dollars a year in value to the average American—for free. We feel a deep responsibility to keep the people who use our products safe and secure, and have long invested in innovative tools to prevent abuse of our services.
When it comes to privacy we are committed to keeping your information safe, treating it responsibly, and putting you in control. We continue to make privacy improvements —like the changes I announced earlier this year to keep less data by default—and support the creation of comprehensive federal privacy laws.
We are equally committed to protecting the quality and integrity of information on our platforms, and supporting our democracy in a non-partisan way.
As just one timely example, our information panels on Google and YouTube inform users about where to vote and how to register. We’ve also taken many steps to raise up high-quality journalism, from sending 24 billion visits to news websites globally every month, to our recent $1 billion investment in partnerships with news publishers.
Since our founding, we have been deeply committed to the freedom of expression. We also feel a responsibility to protect people who use our products from harmful content and to be transparent about how we do that. That’s why we set and publicly disclose clear guidelines for our products and platforms, which we enforce impartially.
We recognize that people come to our services with a broad spectrum of perspectives, and we are dedicated to building products that are helpful to users of all backgrounds and viewpoints.
Let me be clear: We approach our work without political bias, full stop. To do otherwise would be contrary to both our business interests and our mission, which compels us to make information accessible to every type of person, no matter where they live or what they believe.
Image of Sundar Pichai taken from Twitter
Of course, our ability to provide access to a wide range of information is only possible because of existing legal frameworks, like Section 230. The United States adopted Section 230 early in the internet’s history, and it has been foundational to U.S. leadership in the tech sector. It protects the freedom to create and share content while supporting the ability of platforms and services of all sizes to responsibly address harmful content. We appreciate that this Committee has put great thought into how platforms should address content, and we look forward to having these conversations.
As you think about how to shape policy in this important area, I would urge the Committee to be very thoughtful about any changes to Section 230 and to be very aware of the consequences those changes might have on businesses and customers.
At the end of the day, we all share the same goal: free access to information for everyone and responsible protections for people and their data. We support legal frameworks that achieve these goals, and I look forward to engaging with you today about these important issues, and answering your questions.