Congressional Democrats launched an all-out war against conservative concerns about censorship on social media today, calling the concerns a “conspiracy theory,” even as they defended tech giants’ right to censor content on the basis of political viewpoint.
Calling the invitation of Diamond and Silk to testify on social media censorship a “spectacle,” Rep. Nadler said that the idea of a “Silicon Valley plot to censor conservatives” was “baseless.”
“The notion that social media companies are filtering out conservative voices is a hoax,” said Rep. Nadler.
Nadler takes in a substantial amount of money from the tech giants he was defending. His top donor in 2017 was Alphabet Inc, the parent company of Google and YouTube.
Later in the hearing, Rep. Nadler conceded that “maybe Facebook has treated [Diamond & Silk] unfairly, and maybe not, I don’t know” but insisted that even if it were true, it did not establish a “pattern” of discrimination against conservatives.
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) contested this point, stating that the documents he entered into the record of proceedings “do establish” a pattern of discrimination and that he hoped Rep. Nadler would “pay attention to that.”
One of the witnesses at the panel, Rep. Jim Hines (D-CT), also attacked Republicans for talking about censorship.
“Today this committee meets to promote a false narrative,” said Hines. “It meets to continue the hoax, now fully rebutted, that Facebook and other social media have mounted a deliberate crusade to filter out conservative opinion.”
“Assuming that roughly half of Facebook’s users lean right, what possible business logic is there in alienating half of your customers? There is none.”
Hines seems to have missed the rise of the corporate culture wars, which has seen businesses as large as Citigroup deliberately and publicly take positions in opposition to their conservative customers.
Rep. Hines compared allegations of social media censorship to “pizzagate, and stand-down orders at Benghazi, of Obama wiretapping Trump, and the Vince Foster murder, and all of these conspiracies that sprout around here like spring flowers.”
Other Democrats on the committee continued to belittle censorship concerns. “I think there are important issues to be examined when it comes to social media platforms … I don’t know that the topic of today’s hearing is really one of them” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).
She then proceeded, like the Democrats on the committee, to focus on “the influence of the Russians” and “bots” on social media. (Even anti-Trump researchers have concluded that the impact on voters from such activity was virtually nil.)
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) also complained that the committee was “giving a platform to Diamond & Silk” instead of “looking into the manipulation of Facebook by the Russians to help Donald Trump get elected, looking into the Russian interference with the presidential election … [and] Russian hacking into state election processes.”
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) called the hearing “stupid and ridiculous” and said the “notion that social media is somehow censoring conservative folks is ridiculous.”
He went on to call the regulation of social media “unconstitutional,” and said that Facebook and Twitter are “not like UPS or FedEx [but are] like publishers, like the media,” and do not have an obligation to promote certain content.
Even as they mocked conservative concerns over tech censorship as a fantasy, congressional Democrats defended tech companies’ right to do it if they wanted to.
“How do we even write a bill about how we force Facebook to carry certain people or not?” asked Lieu. “I don’t even know how we could write a bill like that. This entire hearing makes no constitutional sense to me.”
“Let’s say that Google has decided, we’re just not going to carry people that talk about PizzaGate anymore. Can the government say ‘you can’t do that’?” asked Lieu.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) compared the regulation of tech giants to the regulation of the press. “Is there anybody on the panel who thinks the government should be compelling Fox News to allow for the use of the words ‘climate change’ or for stories about climate change if they don’t want to run it?”
“Is there anybody who thinks it’s the role of the government to be compelling Facebook to follow some kind of ideological or political policy?” he continued.
He went on to describe Facebook as a “media entity” whose right to censor content is “protected by the first amendment.”