Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley Demand FTC Investigate Big Tech Firms That Can 'Sway Elections'

On Monday, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to launch a public investigation into the practices of Big Tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter, warning that these companies can sway elections.

"Big tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter exercise enormous influence on speech. The vast majority of internet traffic flows through just a handful of these companies," Cruz and Hawley wrote in a letter to the commission. "They control the ads we see, the news we read, and the information we digest. And they actively censor some content and amplify other content based on algorithms and intentional decisions that are completely nontransparent."

"Never before in this country have so few people controlled so much speech," the senators declared.

Cruz and Hawley encouraged the FTC to exercise its section 6(b) authority "to investigate how major tech companies curate content." That section authorizes the FTC to force companies to provide the information necessary to fully understand their "conduct" and "practices."

Cruz and Hawley warned that "the possibilities for abuse in this area are alarming and endless. Apart from more salient examples of censorship like account suspensions, nobody knows who or what these companies censor or amplify. Most content curation occurs in ways impossible for outsiders to detect."

"By controlling the content we see, these companies are powerful enough to—at the very least—sway elections. And we're told we have to be satisfied simply with trusting them not to abuse this immense power," the senators wrote.

"Companies that are this big and that have the potential to threaten democracy this much should not be allowed to curate content entirely without any transparency," they concluded. "These companies can greatly influence democratic outcomes, yet they have no accountability to voters. They are not even accountable to their own customers because nobody knows how these companies curate content."

Indeed, many prominent examples of censorship have rightly concerned conservatives and liberals. Facebook blocked the account of global evangelist Franklin Graham during Christmas week. An expert psychologist was blocked on Twitter for expressing his opinion on transgender activism. The media director for the Heritage Foundation also found himself blocked on Twitter. The conservative video nonprofit PragerU sued after Google restricted access to its videos on YouTube, and then Facebook deleted three of its videos and prevented its followers from seeing its posts! Facebook admitted that one employee was responsible, and the employee was given a slight reprimand.

Yet conservatives are not alone in facing censorship and warning of the dangers of Big Tech. Feminist Megan Murphy was permanently suspended from Twitter for disagreeing with transgender identity. Even the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a far-left smear factory that pressures Big Tech to remove "hate" from the internet, found one of its own reporters blocked on Twitter. Ph.D. psychologist Robert Epstein, a Hillary Clinton supporter in 2016, nonetheless warned that Google's bias toward Clinton likely gave her her margin of victory in the popular vote.

Epstein analyzed the 2018 midterm elections, and reported that Google's bias might have flipped the three Orange County districts from red to blue. He published an expose on Google Monday.

Cruz and Hawley are right to demand an FTC investigation. It is long past time Americans learned the true nature of Big Tech content curation.

Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.