AUSTIN (Nexstar)— Reading word for word what he described as innovative solutions to make social media safer, a tech exec was called out for his years-old speech during a joint hearing with the Homeland Security & Public Safety and the Youth Health & Safety committees.
This comes on the heels of the tragedy in Uvalde, where the accused shooter’s questionable social media posts weren’t flagged for law enforcement ahead of time.
Servando Esparza is TechNet’s executive director for Texas and the Southeast. TechNet represents at least 100 social media companies, Esparza said.
Social media companies have faced scrutiny for not doing enough to be proactive in letting law enforcement know about potential threats made online, before it’s too late.
Esparza shed light on what social media companies are doing to help, like creating a hashtag database that provides “unique digital fingerprints [that] allow platforms to identify and remove potential terrorist images, and videos, or in some cases block terroristic content before it is posted.”
Rep. Drew Darby from the San Angelo area brought up that Esparza was regurgitating information from a speech from his predecessor almost three years ago
“I felt like I was experiencing deja vu, so I went back,” Darby said. “Turns out, I was. Your predecessor, David Edmonson, on October the 10th, 2019 — almost three years ago before the select Committee on Mass Violence in which I chaired — [read the same testimony].
Esparza responded to KXAN Tuesday with a statement on his behalf.
“The tragedy in Uvalde was horrific and unimaginable. My testimony yesterday included updated and recent data combined with previous testimony that still remains valid and accurate today, including how social media platforms moderate content and collaborate with law enforcement. Many lawmakers on either the Select or House Committee are new and were not on the Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety from the previous interim. I wanted them to have the most relevant information available. As I said yesterday, I meant no disrespect to the committees or the Uvalde community. I was simply trying to educate and inform lawmakers on this important issue,” the statement reads.
Several other members from the Homeland Security & Public Safety and the Youth Health & Safety committees were also on the committee with Darby in 2019.
Esparza responded apologetically after Darby’s comments.
“That was not to show the committee any disrespect or the Uvalde tragedy,” Esparza said. “It was an easy way for me to get, sort of approval from members, so it was lazy and not thoughtful. So, my apologies there.”
Lawmakers rely on testimony from various voices to better understand issues at hand. That’s why there are various committees that meet ahead of the legislative session. From there, they craft legislation.