U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas grilled Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey during a hearing, accusing him of trying to control information that the American people have access to.
During a virtual hearing held on Wednesday, Cruz expressed concern about the ability of Facebook, Google, and Twitter to influence elections, dubbing them “the single greatest threat to free speech in America.”
“Facebook is at the minimum at least trying to make some efforts in the direction of defending free speech. I appreciate their doing so,” noted Cruz. “Of the three players before us, I think Twitter’s conduct has by far been the most egregious.”
Last week, Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee announced that they were subpoenaing Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. At issue was the decision of Facebook and Twitter to censor two New York Post articles alleging corruption involving the son of Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden.
Through a virtual chat on Wednesday, Cruz began his line of questioning toward Dorsey, asking if Twitter has the power to influence, which Dorsey claimed it did not.
“We are one part of a spectrum of communication channels that people have,” responded Dorsey. “People have a choice of other communication channels.”
Cruz was unconvinced, asking the Twitter CEO why the popular social media blocks anything if they do not believe that they can influence an election.
“Well, we have policies that are focused on making sure that more voices on the platform are possible. We see a lot of abuse and harassment which ends up silencing people,” replied Dorsey.
Cruz called Dorsey’s comments “absurd on their face,” then talked about how Twitter had censored the New York Post stories about Hunter Biden and alleged corruption.
As part of their efforts, Twitter blocked accounts from linking to the Post stories and from posting pictures of the reported Biden emails mentioned in the stories.
Dorsey attributed the censorship to a “hacked materials policy” created in 2018 by the website so that they could limit the spread of hacked materials on the site.
He went on to explain that because the New York Post story showed screenshots of materials that might have been the result of a hack, they limited the spread of the story posts.
Dorsey acknowledged that Twitter “made a fast decision” and conceded that they were “incorrect,” adding that the New York Post could now promote the story if they wanted to.
Cruz accused Twitter of hypocrisy, noting that they did not censor the New York Times when they posted a story about President Donald Trump’s tax returns, even though it also involved displaying materials without his knowing consent.
“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?” the senator critically asked.
“And why do you persist in behaving as a Democratic super PAC silencing views to the contrary of your political beliefs?”
Dorsey insisted that they were not censoring conservative voices, but agreed that there should be “more transparency” and that they “need to earn trust more.”
Recently, major social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook have faced repeated accusations that they have engaged in censorship of conservative and Republican views.
Earlier this month, Media Research Center released a report finding that Twitter and Facebook had censored Trump 65 times, while never censoring Biden.
“Twitter composes the bulk of the problem, with 98 percent of all the instances of censorship,” reported the conservative media watchdog group.
“Twitter has been by far and away the biggest offender, labeling, fact-checking and removing Trump’s tweets and the tweets from his campaign accounts 64 times since the president’s election.”
Censored material included three Trump tweets touting hydroxychloroquine as an effective treatment for COVID-19 and four videos from the president’s campaign account.
“Tweets about the president’s concern over mail-in voting, COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement have been given ‘public interest notices,’” continued the report.
“Videos retweeted by the president depicting a satirical version of Biden walking on stage to the song ‘F*** tha Police’ have been deleted as well, after a fact-check from Poynter Institute’s PolitiFact.”
Other instances of censorship include Twitter's refusal in 2017 to allow pro-life group Live Action to buy ads that promote the dignity of unborn life due to its "hate and sensitive policy." More recently, Facebook has removed posts on Restored Hope Network's page, saying they violate "community standards." The posts were of former LGBT-identified persons who now follow Jesus.
In some instances, the social media networks have argued that the various incidents can be explained as mishaps regarding other policies and that leftwing outlets have also fallen victim to them.
For example, in a 2019 hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Carlos Monje, director of public policy at Twitter, denied that there was an anti-conservative bias.
Monje noted that an “impersonation policy” that had been wrongly used to block a few conservative accounts had also impacted multiple elected officials who were Democrats.
“We honored the ideas that were part of the Honest Ads Act and agree with the idea that political advertising should be more transparent,” said Monje regarding another allegation of bias.
“In the process of setting that up, a number of accounts got caught up in that. It included three current Democratic candidates for president and a major national pro-choice group.”