Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) took Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to task over his company’s suppression of the bombshell New York Post report on Hunter Biden’s emails linking Joe Biden to his son’s notorious business deals. In a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Cruz pressed Dorsey on how Twitter could possibly claim not to be a publisher when it selectively applied its hacked materials policy against the Biden story but not against the New York Times article on Trump’s tax returns.
The Post story broke in the lead-up to the 2020 election, and a Newsbusters survey suggested that the legacy media and Big Tech efforts to suppress the story about Biden corruption may have made the crucial difference in the election. A small but significant portion of Americans who voted for Biden and did not hear about the corruption story said they would not have voted for the Democrat had they known.
Cruz argued that the immunity platforms like Twitter enjoy under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is “in effect, a subsidy,” a form of “corporate welfare” for some of the most influential companies on the planet. Under Section 230, companies like Twitter are not held liable for the content others publish on their platforms. Section 230 gives the companies the ability to curate content to some extent on the premise that they are not acting as publishers.
Cruz asked Dorsey, “Is Twitter a publisher?” The Twitter CEO insisted, “No, we are not.”
The senator cited the definition of “publisher” under Section 230: “any person or entity that is responsible in whole or in part for the creation or development of information provided through the internet…”
Cruz then pressed Dorsey on Twitter’s decision to censor The New York Post.
“Was Twiter being a publisher when it censored The New York Post?” the senator asked.
“No,” Dorsey replied. “We have very clear policies on the conduct we enable on the platform and if there’s a violation, we take enforcement action. And people choose to commit to those policies and to those terms of service.”
Cruz countered that Twitter’s “policies are applied in a partisan and selective manner.”
“You claim [The New York Post story] was ‘hacked materials’ and yet you didn’t block the distribution of the New York Times story that alleged to talk about President Trump’s tax returns, even though a federal statute makes it a crime to distribute someone’s tax returns without their consent. You didn’t block any of that discussion, did you?”
Dorsey admitted that Twitter did not block that discussion. Instead, he split hairs to try to justify the double standard. “In the New York Times case, we interpreted it as reporting about the hacked materials not distribution of the hacked materials,” he said.
Cruz also noted that Twitter locked the account of Jake Sherman, a reporter with Politico, when he shared the New York Post story, even though Sherman argued he was asking questions to undermine the story.
“When Twitter is editing and censoring and silencing the New York Post, the newspaper with the fourth-highest circulation in the country, and Politico, one of the leading newspapers in the country, is Twitter acting as a publisher when it’s deciding what stories reporters are allowed to write and publish and what stories they’re not?” Cruz demanded.
Dorsey countered by insisting that Sherman’s account was not suspended, only “locked.”
“It fell afoul of the hacked materials policy. We realize that there was an error in that policy and the enforcement,” the CEO admitted.
Cruz also noted that Twitter did not block the Edward Snowden documents.
The senator also pressed Dorsey on his company’s labels on election fraud claims.
“Mr. Dorsey, does voter fraud exist?” Cruz asked.
“I don’t know for certain,” Dorsey admitted.
“Are you an expert in voter fraud?”
“No, I’m not,” the CEO said.
“Why then is Twitter right now putting purported warnings on virtually any statement about voter fraud?” Cruz demanded.
“We’re simply linking to a broader conversation so that people have more information,” Dorsey insisted.
Cruz rightly countered that Twitter’s labels do not “link” to a “broader conversation.” Instead, they insist that “voter fraud of any kind is exceedingly rare in the United States.”
Dorsey admitted that Twitter would put “disputed information” flags on direct quotes from the Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform.
“Twitter’s position is, essentially, voter fraud does not exist,” Cruz argued. Yet “just two weeks ago in the state of Texas, a woman was charged with 134 counts of voter fraud.”
Cruz concluded his remarks by demanding that Facebook and Twitter provide a list of the times they have blocked Republican and Democratic candidates for office and sitting officeholders in the 2016, 2018, and 2020 election cycles. Both Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave half-hearted pledges to work on compiling such a list.
“Facebook and Twitter and Google have massive power. They have a monopoly on public discourse in the online arena,” Cruz argued. Yet “consistently the message from Senate Democrats is for Facebook and Twitter and Google to censor more, to abuse their power more, to silence voices that Senate Democrats disagree with more.”
“That is very dangerous if we want to maintain a free and fair democracy, if we want to maintain free speech,” he lamented. “There was a time when Democrats embraced and defended the principles of free speech. There was a time when Democrats embraced and defended the principles of a free press. And yet there’s an absolute silence from Democrats speaking up for the press outlets censored by Big Tech. There’s an absolute silence from Democrats speaking out for the citizens silenced by Big Tech.”
“Instead there is a demand to use even more power to silence dissent and that’s a totalitarian instinct that I think is very dangerous,” Cruz warned.
Indeed, this weekend, former President Barack Obama called for even more Big Tech “fact-checking,” suggesting that the 71 million Americans who voted for Trump were all taken in by misinformation.
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Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.