Twitter boss meets with US lawmakers amid pressure on tech

Social-media company is in the middle of debates about net neutrality and diversity in Silicon Valley.

Jack Dorsey, CEO and co-founder of Twitter and founder and CEO of Square, speaks at the Consensus 2018 blockchain technology conference in New York City, New York, U.S., May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar
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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey met with lawmakers from the House and Senate on Wednesday as the social-media company finds itself in the middle tech policy debates ranging from net neutrality and privacy to diversity in Silicon Valley.

“Pleasure to meet with @Twitter’s @jack today,” Senator Ed Markey, of Massachusetts tweeted, saying they had been joined by Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Maria Cantwell of Washington – all Democrats.

The group discussed “#NetNeutrality, online #privacy, and immigration,” Senator Markey wrote.

The meeting occurred a day after Senate Democrats, joined by three Republicans, pushed through a measure that would nullify the Federal Communication Commission’s repeal last year of net neutrality rules. The measure, which Twitter supported, is unlikely to pass the House.

Mr Dorsey, 41, also met with Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota, who is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. Senator Thune didn’t vote for the measure but has supported legislation to end the regulatory back-and-forth over whether internet service providers can block content or create fast lanes.

Mr Thune tweeted that he spoke to the Twitter boss “about the power of his platform and what they’re doing to protect users” and said they “had a great conversation.”

The company has often figured in Washington’s rising scrutiny of internet platforms. Twitter’s presence in the capital, however, rarely approaches those of Facebook or Google. Facebook spent a record $3.3 million on lobbying in the first three months of 2018 while Google spent more than $5 million, according to disclosures with the government. Twitter spent $150,000.

Representative Greg Walden, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, tweeted that he spoke with Dorsey about “consumer protection, algorithms, and data privacy,” and an aide said Mr Walden asked the executive to testify in Congress. The Oregon Republican, who recently called for more tech CEOs to appear at hearings, wrote that he looked “forward to further discussions on these important issues in the near future.”

A Twitter spokeswoman declined to provide a full list of Mr Dorsey’s meetings but said he only met with lawmakers.

Mr Dorsey also met with four members of the Congressional Black Caucus, according to a tweet from Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 Democrat in the House. They discussed election security, a political ad transparency bill and the group’s push for diversity in the tech workforce.

In addition to Mr Clyburn, the Twitter chief met Representatives Barbara Lee of California, Terri Sewell of Alabama and Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, who chairs the CBC. All four are Democrats.

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee that’s probing Russia’s use of online services like Twitter to influence the 2016 election, also met with Dorsey, according to a committee aide.

Senator Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, tweeted that he also spoke with Dorsey about “making sure the platform is used properly.”

“Found out he follows me,” the 84-year-old Iowa Republican who famously enjoys Twitter wrote.

Mr Dorsey tweeted in response: “Thank you for your time Chairman, and for using Twitter so early!”