Big Tech Censorship Highlighted by Republican Senators at Commerce Hearing

This morning, the CEOs of Facebook, Google, and Twitter testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The Republican senators in the hearing highlighted the big technology companies' censorship of conservative speech, particularly the recent actions of Twitter and Facebook to suppress the story regarding Hunter Biden's international exploits. All three will return (virtually) to the Senate on November 17 for a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sen. Ted Cruz questioned Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey over Twitter's suppression of the New York Post's story on Hunter Biden and pointed out how it was inconsistent with Twitter's treatment of the New York Times article that (illegally) contained information from President Trump's personal tax returns (emphasis in original):

Did Twitter block the distribution of The New York Times, a story a few weeks ago, that purported to be based on copies of President Trump's tax returns?" [...]

"They posted what they purported to be original source materials, and federal law, federal statute, makes it a crime, a federal felony to distribute someone's tax returns against their knowledge. So that material was based on something that was distributed in violation of federal law, and yet Twitter gleefully allowed people to circulate that. But when the article was critical of Joe Biden, Twitter engaged in rampant censorship and silencing." . . .

Mr. Dorsey, [...] New York Post isn't just some random guy tweeting. The New York Post has the fourth highest circulation of any newspaper in America. The New York Post is over 200 years old. The New York Post was founded by Alexander Hamilton, and your position is that you can sit in Silicon Valley and demand of the media what stories they can publish. You can tell the American people what reporting they can hear, is that right? [...] The terms of service is how media outlets must genuflect and obey your dictates if they wish to be able to communicate with readers."

"So Twitter takes the view that you can censor The New York Post, you can censor Politico. Presumably you can censor The New York Times or any other media outlet. Mr. Dorsey, who the hell elected you and put you in charge of what the media are allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to hear? And why do you persist in behaving as a Democratic super PAC, silencing views to the contrary of your political beliefs?"

Sen. Cruz pointed out that despite what Mr. Dorsey claimed, Twitter users were still blocked from tweeting the New York Post article during the hearing. Twitter finally lifted the ban on the article after the hearing had ended. The New York Post's Twitter account had been locked for two weeks and is still locked. Apparently it takes intervention by Congress for a social media company not to censor one of the largest circulation newspapers in the country.

Under questioning from Sen. Mike Lee, neither Mr. Dorsey nor Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg could name a single liberal organization or person who had been censored on their platforms:

Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee asked Zuckerberg and Dorsey to name “one high-profile person or entity from a liberal ideology” that was barred off either platform. However, neither CEO was able to think of someone on the spot. . . .

“I’m not asking for an exhaustive list, I’m asking for a single example,” Lee retorted. “Just one individual, one entity.”

Perhaps the most curious thing about this hearing is that the big technology companies are facing bipartisan agreement on the need to change the regulatory scheme that governs them (though the reasons for Sen. Elizabeth Warren wanting to change the scheme differ vastly and importantly from those of Sen. Hawley and Sen. Cruz). This was an opportunity for them to reassure the Republican senators that they were taking steps to address censorship of conservatives on their platforms, yet they did precisely the opposite. Mr. Dorsey did not even correct the suppression of the New York Post story until after the hearing. As they continue to outline steps to combat so-called election misinformation, it is possible and indeed likely that the Senate Judiciary Committee will have additional examples of censorship to address on November 17.


Corrected 10/30/2020 to note that the New York Post's Twitter account was still locked even after the hearing.