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The Masters of the Universe to Congress: We Love Free Speech

Silicon Valley Masters Of Universe

Executives from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube testified Tuesday in Washington, D.C. before a House Judiciary Committee hearing that their companies support free speech and expression. They further denied their companies’ use of political censorship of their users’ conduct.

Monika Bickert, head of global policy management at Facebook, described her company as committed to free speech and expression. 

“Freedom of expression is one of our core values, and we believe that the Facebook community is richer and stronger when a broad range of viewpoints are represented on our platform,” said Bickert. “I want to reiterate our commitment to building a community that encourages free expression,” she added.

Bickert also said Facebook has “engaged” with former Sen. John Kyl to examine “potential bias against conservative voices.”

Juniper Downs, global head of public policy for Google-subsidiary YouTube, similarly framed her employer as committed to free speech and expression.

Downs said, “Supporting the free flow of ideas is core to our mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. … We have a natural and long-term incentive to make sure that our products work for users of all viewpoints.”

Downs added, “We are dedicated to access to information and freedom of expression, but it’s not anything goes.” She listed “pornography,” “incitement to violence,” and “harassment” as categories of content to be restricted.

Downs continued, “Supporting the free flow of ideas is core to our mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Nick Pickles, a senior strategist of public policy at Twitter, described his company’s mission as improving public dialogue.

“Twitter’s purpose is to serve the public conversation,” stated Pickles. “We have committed Twitter to help increase the collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation and to hold ourselves publicly accountable towards progress. Twitter’s health will be built and measured by how we help encourage more healthy debate, conversations, and critical thinking. Conversely: abuse, spam, and manipulation detract from it.”

Pickles added, “We strive to protect expression, including views that some of our users might find objectionable or with which they vehemently disagree. We do not believe that censorship will solve societal challenges, nor that removing content will resolve disagreements.”

Pickles denied political or partisan censorship on the part of Twitter: “Our rules are not based on ideology or a particular set of beliefs. Instead, our rules are based on behavior.”

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