Week In Geek Podcast: Twitter, Facebook and Google take on Congress

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Facebook’s Colin Stretch, Twitter’s Sean Edgett, and Google’s Kent Walker take oath before the Senate Intelligence Committee. (Screenshot via YouTube)

Should tech companies be responsible for how people use their products? That’s one of the tough questions Congress is facing as it investigates Russia’s attempt to meddle with the 2016 presidential election.

Representatives from Twitter, Facebook and Google were grilled by lawmakers this week over how their platforms let false or misleading political information spread in the run up to the election. We get the full run-down on this episode from Monica Nicklesburg, GeekWire’s civic innovation editor , who has been following the hearings.

The tech companies have long made the case that they’re just platforms, and they can’t take responsibility for what people say on them, but lawmakers didn’t seem to be buying it. The companies also faced some tricky questions about their loyalty to the American government.

Although the hearings were at least somewhat for show, there are also indications that lawmakers are serious about starting to regulate tech platforms more strictly, especially when it comes to political information and advertisements.

In other tech and civics news, a Google sister company has teamed up with the city of Toronto to build a novel new neighborhood: One that anticipates the huge boom caused by tech companies before one even moves in.

While the program sounds like a utopian dream, there are also serious concerns about the neighborhood becoming a haven for wealthy techies. Integration with self-driving transit is cool, but what about affordable housing?

Plus, Amazon introduced a controversial new feature this week: The ability to “see” products in your home through an augmented reality camera view. Todd thinks the tech is a sign of where augmented reality could thrive, but others on the GeekWire team are unconvinced.

On the Random Channel this week: A tasty controversy; One man’s epic Halloween project that attracted 3,000 people; and why do we still have baseball umpires anyway?

Listen to the episode above or download the MP3 here. Get every episode using this RSS feed, or subscribe in Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play or wherever you get podcasts.

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