Democrats showed no signs of letting up on criticisms of Facebook and Twitter at the hearing despite greater efforts by the companies to act on misinformation in the recent election.
Instead, several Democratic lawmakers blamed Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter for a surge of hate speech and election disinformation after the election. They pointed to comments on Facebook from Steve Bannon, the former senior adviser to President Trump, who called for the beheading of Dr. Anthony Fauci, and posts on and Facebook groups that spread false conspiracy theories about voter fraud.
“I think you can and must do better,” said Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont.
Democratic lawmakers called for a slew of legislation directed at the tech sector.
Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut called for tougher data privacy laws, changes to a law that gives the companies legal protection for content posted by users, and greater antitrust action.
“You have built terrifying tools of persuasion and manipulation — with power far exceeding the robber barons of the last Gilded Age,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “You have made a huge amount of money by strip mining data about our private lives and promoting hate speech and voter suppression.”
The calls for changes could portend a legislative agenda aimed at Silicon Valley in the next Congress. Republicans have also called for reforms to the legal shield protecting platforms for third-party speech, known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Several Democratic members pointed to calls for violence and protests on the companies’ platforms after the election. Some pro-Trump groups organized on Facebook to stop the count of voting in some states, for instance, before the groups were removed.
“What are your concerns about the spread of misinformation, like Trump’s claims about the election that may incite violence?” Ms. Feinstein asked.
Mr. Zuckerberg promised to be vigilant.
“I’m very worried about this, especially any misinformation that could incite violence in such a volatile period like this,” Mr. Zuckerberg said.