Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) grilled representatives from Twitter at a recent hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on the suspension of the Twitter account for the pro-life film Unplanned.
At a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee titled “Stifling Free Speech: Technological Censorship and the Public Discourse,” Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) grilled a representative from Twitter about the site’s hate speech policies and the suspension of the Twitter account for the pro-life film Unplanned. Hawley opened his questioning following a brief recess saying: “Mr. Mohje, first of all let me say I enjoyed your testimony about Mother Teresa and why she was or was not engaging in hate speech, I found your inability to answer that questions absolutely hilarious and really indicative of the lack of transparency that your company is engaging in.”
Hawley continued, “so let me just ask you a few more pointed questions, your account for the movie Unplanned, why was that suspended?” Twitter representative Carlos Mohje Jr. replied: “Thank you for that question sir, I’ll note that Mother Teresa quote is currently on Twitter,” Hawley then asked if the representative would classify the quote as hate speech, Mohje quickly brushed past the question and asked about Hawley’s query relating to Unplanned.
Discussing the suspension of the Unplanned account, Mohje Jr. stated: “What we discovered — we have a system which tries to stop individuals who have broken rules in the past from coming back on [the platform], the individual who started the Unplanned account had previously been suspended for violating our rules and as a result our automated systems flagged that account and it was taken down for an hour.”
Hawley then asked why conservative columnist Jesse Kelly was banned from the platform, to which Mohje Jr. replied: “We have been in contact with him about what he did and he understands the rules that he’s broken, this is a challenge of a platform as broad as Twitter where people are doing things that are not always visible to the public and we can’t comment because of his privacy and security but it was a significant violation and one that we stand by.”
Hawley then asked if it was algorithms deciding when people are deplatformed from Twitter and when to which Mohje Jr. stated that the company uses a combination of machine learning and human moderation. Hawley pointedly asked if Twitter would make the guidelines under which human reviewers judge what content is objectionable public, Mohje Jr. attempted to steer the conversation towards the broader discussion of transparency but was held to task by Hawley on the publication of the moderator guidelines.
“You said earlier that you are a pro-transparency company,” said Hawley, “that you want to embrace transparency so you have your chance now, tell us you’ll make the protocols public. Will you make them public?” Mohje Jr. replied that the deicsion on that matter was not up to him to which Hawley asked would he advocate for the protocols to be made public to which Mohje Jr. stated “our team will get back to you sir.”
Watch the full hearing live here.