From left, Jack Dorsey, Sundar Pichai, and Mark Zuckerberg
FPI / March 31, 2021
Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee took Big Tech overlords to task on Thursday for their censorship of conservative voices on their platforms.
The companies are not censoring conservatives nearly as much as they should be, the Democrats said.
The hearing, which lasted for more than five hours, saw Democrat after Democrat scolding Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and Google/Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai for not removing more conservative voices from their platforms.
"One Democrat after the next at Thursday’s hearing described all the content on the Internet they want gone: or else. Many of them said this explicitly," independent journalist Glenn Greenwald noted in a March 26 analysis.
At one point toward the end of the hearing, Texas Democrat Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, in the context of the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol, "actually suggested that the government should create a list of groups they unilaterally deem to be 'domestic terror organizations' and then provide it to tech companies as guidance for what discussions they should 'track and remove,' " Greenwald noted. "In other words, treat these groups the same as ISIS and Al Qaida."
"Words cannot convey how chilling and authoritarian this all is: watching government officials, hour after hour, demand censorship of political speech and threaten punishment for failures to obey," Greenwald wrote.
The U.S. Supreme Court, Greenwald noted, "has repeatedly ruled that the state violates the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee when they coerce private actors to censor for them — exactly the tyrannical goal to which these hearings are singularly devoted."
Thursday's hearing was accompanied by threats from Democrats that "legislative punishment (including possible revocation of Section 230 immunity) is imminent in order to force compliance (Section 230 is the provision of the 1996 Communications Decency Act that shields Internet companies from liability for content posted by their users)," Greenwald noted.
Zuckerberg and Pichai, Greenwald pointed out, "spoke like the super-scripted, programmed automatons that they are, eager to please their Congressional overseers (though they did periodically issue what should have been unnecessary warnings that excessive 'content moderation' can cripple free political discourse). Dorsey, by contrast, seemed at the end of his line of patience and tolerance for vapid, moronic censorship demands, and — sitting in a kitchen in front of a pile of plates and glasses — he, refreshingly, barely bothered to hide that indifference. At one point, he flatly stated in response to demands that Twitter do more to remove 'disinformation': 'I don't think we should be the arbiters of truth and I don't think the government should be either.' "
But, Greenwald aded, "it is vital not to lose sight of how truly despotic hearings like this are. It is easy to overlook because we have become so accustomed to political leaders successfully demanding that social media companies censor the Internet in accordance with their whims. Recall that Parler, at the time it was the most-downloaded app in the country, was removed in January from the Apple and Google Play Stores and then denied Internet service by Amazon, only after two very prominent Democratic House members publicly demanded this. At the last pro-censorship hearing convened by Congress, Massachusetts Democrat Sen. Ed Markey explicitly declared that the Democrats’ grievance is not that these companies are censoring too much but rather <em>not enough</em>."
Greenwald concluded: "We are taught from childhood that a defining hallmark of repressive regimes is that political officials wield power to silence ideas and people they dislike, and that, conversely, what makes the U.S. a 'free' society is the guarantee that American leaders are barred from doing so. It is impossible to reconcile that claim with what happened in that House hearing room over the course of five hours on Thursday."
Free Press International