“If we stop online platforms from removing objectionable content, then we risk turning online platforms into 8-Chan,” explained Carl Szabo, general counsel for NetChoice. “Section 230 was specifically created to enable private platforms to eliminate offensive content.”
In his opening statement, Cruz said,”Not only does Big Tech possess the capability to silence voices with which they disagree, but Substantial Tech also has the power to collate a individual’s feed so that they only get the news that comports with their particular political agenda.”
Last week, Republicans were up in arms following the Twitter accounts for pro-life movie, Unplanned, was suspended from Twitter. But shortly after the account was removed, Twitter reinstated it, and in the hearing today, Twitter’s manager of public policy and philanthropy, Carlos Monje, clarified that the individual who created the Unplanned accounts had formerly operated an account that had violated Twitter’s rules.
Agents from Facebook and Twitter sparred with Republican lawmakers for hours in the Senate hearing where Cruz, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s panel on the Constitution, driven industry agents over deep concerns his and his coworkers have that social networking platforms knowingly censor conservative political speech. But all the evidence Republicans were stories that representatives from the companies were able to explain away by citing their content policies or investigations to particular takedowns.
The issue over the alleged conservative bias does not run deep across the party. More groups such as Americans for Prosperity have spent calling out Republicans such as Cruz within the assumption of Wednesday’s hearing.
In his prepared testimony, Monje said,”The accounts was captured in our automated systems used to discover ban evasion. Ban evasion takes place when an individual registers for a brand new account despite having been frozen previously for breaking our rules.”
The entire premise of the hearing, conservative prejudice, was rebuked by the subcommittee’s ranking member Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), that was one of only two Democrats that took their seat at the dais throughout the hearing. “We cannot simply allow the Republican Party to harass tech companies into weakening content moderation policies that already don’t get rid of hateful, harmful, and misleading articles,” Hirono said. “If conservatives have had their articles eliminated, maybe they need to examine the content they’re posting.”
At the start of the hearing, Cruz suggested that this perceived prejudice could be remedied through changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, antitrust actions, or charging companies like Facebook and Twitter for fraud, because Cruz suggested users that access these platforms are unaware that the calculations are”prejudice” to specific political views.
“Senator Cruz is appropriate: tech companies ought to present an open platform for speech throughout the political and ideological spectrum. But asking the authorities to police online address — through direct action or by cajoling private firms — sets a dangerous precedent which will undermine essential elements of free speech,” Billy Easley, a senior tech policy analyst for conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, said in a statement.