A Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen, is set to appear before the Senate Commerce Committee tomorrow. She’s far from the first Big Tech whistleblower to expose Silicon Valley’s inner workings — but she is one of the first to call for more censorship, not less. That’s probably why the establishment media has embraced her with open arms.
It’s also probably why she’s one of the only whistleblowers to be invited to testify to the Senate. I’m sure Democrats love the idea of a Facebook insider telling them the company needs more regulation to stop “hate speech” and “disinformation” — which is what she’s clearly called for in recent interviews.
Haugen was part of Facebook’s infamous “Civic Integrity” group, the unit charged with watching over (i.e, interfering) in the last presidential election.
Haugen left because she didn’t think it went far enough.
Despite its vast apparatus of censorship, the politically biased “fact checking” apparatus, the bans of prominent conservative influencers, the ban of Donald Trump himself, Haugen thinks the platform isn’t taking down enough “dangerous” content.
Some Big Tech whistleblowers, it seems, are more equal than others. Why has the Commerce Committee never invited Ryan Hartwig, Cassandra Spencer, or Zach McElroy, all Facebook contractors and employees, who revealed detailed information about Facebook’s biased content moderation practices to the public? Where were the hearings for Google whistleblowers like Kevin Cernekee, Mike Wacker, and Zach Vorhies?
Keep in mind, all of these whistleblowers came forward when Republicans were in charge of the Senate and its committees.
Breitbart News exclusively revealed Facebook’s list of “hate agents,” a list of prominent political figures that it keeps tabs on. I wrote those stories, and not a single Republican committee staffer reached out to me for more information about either the whistleblower or the list.
The message is clear. If you’re a whistleblower who believes Big Tech should censor more content, you’ll get wall-to-wall media coverage, including an interview on 60 Minutes, followed by a loudly-trumpeted Senate hearing.
But if you’re a whistleblower who revealed Big Tech’s efforts to censor political speech or interfere in the last election, you’ll receive absolute silence. The media (and, it seems, Republican-controlled committees) will pretend you don’t exist.
Senate Republicans can redeem themselves by asking this whistleblower some tough questions. How much censorship is too much? What, specifically, is “dangerous” content? What, specifically, is a threat to “civic integrity”? Efforts to combat voter fraud? Tucker Carlson’s Facebook posts? Breitbart News’ Facebook posts?
And, the most basic question of all — why can’t users be allowed to make their own minds up about what content is too “dangerous” to consume? Why is there any censorship of First Amendment-protected content at all?
Even the part of Haugen’s leaks that might interest Republicans who are genuinely interested in censorship, the whitelist for elite users, should not simply be accepted without critical analysis. One way to interpret the “whitelist” is that Facebook’s censorship regime is now so vast and expansive that many prominent and highly followed accounts would be banned if it were strictly enforced.
Taken this way, the “whitelist” is simply a band-aid on a much deeper problem: impossibly broad, draconian content rules that cannot be fully enforced without killing off a large chunk of the platform. The current system isn’t fair, but the deeper problem is much more important.
Republicans’ best bet at tomorrow’s hearing is to stay laser-focused on that deeper issue, instead of following along with the media and Democrats’ preferred areas of focus.
Although a far better approach, while they still held the Senate, would have been to invite whistleblowers who believe censorship is bad.
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.