News & Politics

Sen Ted Cruz Calls for Federal 'Criminal' Investigation of Twitter

Sen Ted Cruz Calls for Federal 'Criminal' Investigation of Twitter
AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

Senator Ted Cruz, the Harvard-trained, nine-time winner at the U.S. Supreme Court, is calling for a criminal investigation into Twitter. And he’s being quite transparent about it. He’s laying out his case … on Twitter.

There are a lot of blowhards on Twitter. Ted Cruz is not one of them. The senator sent a letter to the Department of Justice and Department of Treasury on Friday afternoon calling for the criminal investigation into Twitter because it violates the U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Twitter’s Fact Check on Trump

Twitter has begun an effort to “fact-check” President Trump. It so far has flagged the president for his complaints about vote-by-mail fraud and his use of “violent” words about looters in Minneapolis. But it has kept on its platform every tin-pot dictator, including the Iranian ayatollahs, as you can see from the above tweets. Iran is the world’s number one state-sponsor of terrorism.

This isn’t a new issue for Cruz. Axios reports that Cruz and other senators in February requested that Twitter stop Iran’s leaders from using the platform. Twitter’s lawyer responded that they allow anyone of any political persuasion to openly be on its platform.

“Fundamental values of openness, free expression, public accountability, and mutual understanding matter now more than ever,” Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s legal, public policy & trust and safety lead, wrote. “Regardless of the political agenda of a particular nation state, to deny our service to their leaders at a time like this would be antithetical to the purpose of our company, which is to serve the global public conversation.”

But they do not accord “openness” and “free expression” to further “the global public conversation” to President Trump –  without censoring him.

You could argue that the leaders who fling gay people off buildings have more rights on Twitter than President Trump.

Twitter’s Ayatollahs and Cruz’s Request

Cruz wrote in his letter that Twitter has given the notorious ayatollahs a platform in defiance of the US sanctions on Iran.

[W]hen a company willfully and openly violates the law after receiving formal notice that it is unlawfully supporting designated individuals, the federal government should take action. That is why IEEPA includes criminal penalties of up to $1 million in fines and imprisonment for up to 20 years for willful violations. It is also why E.O. 13876 authorizes sanctions against “any person” who is determined to have “provided technological support for, or goods or services to” such designated persons.

The cohesion and legitimacy of our laws rest on their equal application to all citizens and entities, no matter how large or how powerful. The Department of Treasury and the Department of Justice should investigate what appears to be Twitter’s blatant and willful violation of IEEPA and E.O. 13876 by providing services to Khamenei, Zarif, and other designated Iranian entities, and, to the extent appropriate, enforce any violation through sanctions and by seeking civil and criminal penalties.

The Cruz investigation request adds another dimension to the debate over President Trump’s executive order removing the shield from libel lawsuits that social media companies enjoy. It’s known as Section 230 and relies upon the good faith effort by social media companies to be neutral. With shadow-banning and fact-checking conservatives, Cruz says the mask is off, Twitter has chosen a side.

Cruz got blowback from National Review’s Charlie Cooke, who said there’s no way Twitter should be held responsible for anything any of its users say – even terrorists.

Ok, Charles, you want a legal debate. Cool.

If you (3rd Party) write an op-ed in NYT & it’s defamatory, NYT can be sued.

If you post identical defamatory op-ed on Twitter or FB, they can’t be sued—that’s sec 230.

Congress did that bc they were “neutral.” Now, they censor.

That’s it in a nutshell.

From someone whose Twitter account  (@VictoriaTaft) was muffled four-plus years ago, it would be interesting to see what it’s like to be in a truly free Twitter environment. All the saber-rattling going on by Cruz and President Trump right now might shake loose a little freedom on the platform. We all wonder if Twitter’s Jack Dorsey remembers what freedom on his platform really looks like. We can hope.


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