Senator Ted Cruz has called the three major tech giants – Facebook, Google, and Twitter – the biggest threat to free speech today. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told the Texas Senator today that Twitter can’t influence election results.
This contradicts the practices current in place that are intended to limit and control the information that is shared on the platform. Not only are they adding additional steps to share information, but they are de-amplifying posts in order to limit visibility across the network of things they deem unfavorable. All of this is bad enough as a basic practice, but it has been increased specifically for the duration of the election.
In other words, Twitter is adding additional control to limit the spread of information that would have a direct correlation to election results.
We saw this proven by bans placed on the New York Post in order to prevent the sharing, posting, and spreading of the Hunter Biden laptop story. Twitter even went so far as to censor the White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany
In further questioning by Cruz, Jack Dorsey explained the censorship of the New York Post story by citing a relatively new policy to prevent the spread of hacked material. This policy was implemented in 2018, and would be difficult to argue that the election was not a consideration. This is because of the e-mails released on Wikileaks from both Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Convention. There is no doubt that these emails played a major role in exposing alleged criminal activity of the Democrat Party.
“Your ability is,” Cruz asserted, “you have the ability to force a media outlet … you can demand of the media, you can tell them what stories they can publish, you can tell the American people what stories they can tell, is that right?”
Dorsey denied the claim, and Cruz drew the comparison to the New York Times publishing alleged tax documents they obtained of President Trump.
Dorsey claimed this publication despite federal law, was not a violation of their policy. This difference showed a clear political bias in their censorship efforts.
“Who the hell elected you?” Cruz asked.
Turning to Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg spoke on the importance of Section 230, which is the law that essentially removes publisher liability from tech companies. In other words, hosting a platform for people to communicate does not mean that Facebook is liable for what people say.
The ability to moderate is also protected however, because with the removal of publishing liability still holds the responsibility of of moderating public decency. The ability to remove threats of bodily injury for example should be protected as well.
In a written statement submitted to the Senate by Zuckerberg, he acknowledges that the law is not perfect and is in need of reform.
Facebook has received less criticism as of late due to the difference of editorial decisions. Whereas Twitter has outright banned content and attempted to scrub it from their platform, Facebook has taken the step of adding fact check labels. These could be just as damaging, because while they still allow the content to inevitably be viewed, it is then marred by often baseless claims of inaccuracy that will stay with the reader.
It has been argued, and is the position of News Analytics, that social media serves as a digitized version of the public square. While government expansion is typically viewed upon as negative, it could be argued that a Free Speech Commission could and should be formed to regulate and control these tech companies by protecting the basic free speech of the platform users. The First Amendment also protects the free press, which is not stipulated by federal or governmental acknowledgement. Organizations such as Infowars have the right to exist and as the public square it is an egregious abuse of power to remove them from essentially all platforms.
At the end of the day, moderation and censorship by companies like Facebook and Twitter affect what and how information is received by users. To claim that Twitter, or Facebook for that matter, can’t influence election results is outright absurd.
You can watch the full hearing on C-SPAN.