Republicans, aided by Musk, accuse Big Tech of colluding with Democrats


Shortly after Elon Musk took over Twitter, he began promoting screenshots of internal company documents that he said exposed the social media platform’s “suppression of free speech” around the 2020 election. has been done Republicans were excited.

“We knew Big Tech was censoring conservatives, but the #TwitterFiles keep showing us it’s worse than we thought,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) tweeted recently. .

On Wednesday, Musk’s “Twitter Files” will take center stage at a Capitol Hill hearing where GOP leaders will continue their campaign to share a story about the president’s son as evidence of a widespread conspiracy theory. Twitter’s decision to briefly block could be reversed. Conservatives have long argued that Silicon Valley systematically favors Democrats by suppressing the right. View on social media, a serious violation. The accusations build on nearly a decade and a half of warnings, as politicians in Washington and beyond believe the industry’s interactions with Democratic leaders seek to cast the opposing party as anti-free speech.

The Twitter files show no evidence of such a conspiracy. Stories of conservative influence and conservative platforms regularly draw large audiences on social media. But Wednesday’s hearing, which will feature former Twitter executives as witnesses, is the latest attempt to advance an increasingly popular argument.

Elon Musk’s ‘Twitter Files’ Are an Exercise in Hypocrisy

As House Republicans throw their political weight behind the narrative that Democrats colluded with social media companies, they have created a new House panel to investigate perceived government abuses against conservatives. There are also accusations of social media bias. Meanwhile, two Republican attorneys general in Louisiana and Missouri have filed a lawsuit alleging the Biden administration is skirting the First Amendment to censor social media.

Taken collectively, the moves represent the next step in a GOP strategy that has fueled distrust among some conservatives over the “big lie,” the baseless claim that the 2020 election were stolen. Early warnings that liberal employees within tech companies were tilting the playing field in favor of Democrats have been overshadowed by allegations that government officials are actively working with the platforms to influence public discourse.

Paul M. Barrett, deputy director of New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, said tech companies are “bending over backwards” to accommodate content from right-wing accounts as a result of mounting pressure from Republicans. Vengeance out of fear

“The fact that … people are beating the drum that there’s anti-conservative bias is really unfortunate. It’s really confusing, and it’s just not true,” Barrett said in an interview.

What the January 6 investigation found out about social media, but didn’t report.

Top Republican leaders have reportedly made tech censorship one of their first priorities in the House, scheduling hearings and demanding the reinstatement of documents in a multifaceted pressure campaign.

House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) along with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Jordan introduced a bill in January called the Protecting Speech from Government Interfaces Act. is, in which punishment will be given. Federal employees if they are found. Asked social media companies to remove the posts. The House Judiciary Committee has created a special subcommittee focused on “weaponizing the federal government,” designed to examine interactions between the Biden administration and major tech companies.

Jordan sent letters to five major tech companies in December, demanding they detail their “collusion with the Biden administration.”

“Big tech is poised to get conservatives, and is increasingly willing to undermine First Amendment values ​​by complying with directives from the Biden administration that stifle free speech online,” Jordan said. said the letters, which were sent to executives at Facebook’s parent company Metta. , Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post). The charges threaten to unravel nearly a decade of investment in people and policies to root out online violence and lies — a powerfully partisan attack on Silicon Valley, even as President Biden calls out Big Tech. called for unity to deal with

Strategy evolution over the years

For more than half a decade, accusations of anti-conservative bias have plagued Silicon Valley, fueled by a high-profile crash at Facebook before the 2016 election. Anonymous former Facebook employees told tech news website Gizmodo that the social media giant often bypasses conservative media outlets when choosing stories for its “trading” news feature.

While stories with a conservative slant regularly outperform moderate or liberal-leaning outlets, tensions have increased under President Donald Trump. As tech companies struggled to strengthen defenses against disinformation in the wake of Russian influence operations in the 2016 election, they had an on-the-fly policy for the then-president’s often false and racist tweets. made Under political pressure, Facebook leaned to the right in policies, personnel and public gestures, according to a Post investigation.

How social media ‘censorship’ became the frontline in the culture war.

Top Republicans and right-wing influencers routinely accuse companies of secretly tinkering with their follower numbers or “shadowbanning” their posts, even when they’re online. Line audience has increased. For many influencers, advertising how deeply repressed they are has become a marketing tool, especially since Trump’s 2019 White House “social media” crackdown on censorship. Summit” was invited. The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr. , solicited pre-orders of his book on Twitter this year, calling it “the book the leftist elites don’t want you to read.”

Once calls in Congress to ignore social media laws reached the Oval Office, Trump signed an executive order seeking to replace Section 230, a decades-old legal shield that Protects tech companies from being sued over posts, photos and videos people share. on their platform. The growing anger reached an inflection point in 2021, when social media companies made the unprecedented decision to ban a sitting president from their services ahead of the 2020 election.

Trump’s ban sparked a new legislative strategy in Republican-led state houses. Florida and Texas moved forward with new laws aimed at preventing companies from banning politicians and censoring political views. States and the tech industry have asked the Supreme Court to consider the constitutionality of the laws after federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings. The Supreme Court recently asked the Biden administration to consider whether states can prevent social media companies from removing political speech.

From the early days of his deal to buy Twitter, Musk signaled that he shared Republicans’ concerns that tech companies were stifling their ideas. Before closing the deal, he drew criticism from Twitter executive Vijay Gaude, who will testify Wednesday, and that he was involved in decisions to moderate politically contentious content, including the company’s attacks on Trump. There was also a demand for a ban.

Twitter’s attorneys have long weighed protections, free speech. Then Musk called him out.

After the deal closed, House Republicans have demanded Musk turn over any records related to the company’s handling of a New York Post article about Hunter Biden. After a group of select journalists began tweeting screenshots from Twitter files about the company’s handling of the laptop story in December, they quickly provoked congressional action.

“We’re very serious about it. We’re very concerned about it,” Comer said in a December interview on Fox News, teasing the hearing with former top Twitter leaders.

On Capitol Hill, Comer called the hearing the start of a “tight investigation” into “the influence of the Biden administration.” House Republicans have launched an extensive campaign spanning multiple congressional committees to investigate communications between tech companies and Democratic leaders, blanket platforms and public officials with demands for documents and internal emails.

“I think Musk should be praised for being so transparent,” Comer said. “He’s putting stuff in there.”

Yet Democrats in the minority on the House Oversight Committee signal they plan to use the hearing to investigate Twitter’s former leaders over concerns about violence and misinformation.

“Elon Musk has made it clear that he will be completely on board with the right-wing propaganda agenda,” Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (Md.), the committee’s top Democrat, said in an interview with The Post on Thursday.

Raskin said the controversy over whether the government warned Twitter that Hunter Biden’s story could be foreign propaganda is a moot point, and that the GOP bill seeking to ban such interactions would only be Russian. Will work to benefit foreign leaders like President Vladimir Putin.

“I think it should be entirely up to the government to inform private media outlets about foreign propaganda and disinformation campaigns,” he said. “So this legislation … looks like it’s going to be very good news for Vladimir Putin.”

Jan 6 Twitter Witness: Failure to stop Trump led to ‘terrible’ election.

Meanwhile, discovery continues in the Missouri and Louisiana cases. Government lawyers have sought to dismiss the case, arguing that there is no reasonable evidence of coercion. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit has cast doubt on the states’ arguments in the case, urging a lower court to consider the federal government’s argument that it had already produced numerous documents during discovery. are and no first edit has been shown so far. Violation

The state attorney general leading the case said in a recent statement that the lawsuit is part of a broader strategy to defend constitutional rights.

“This case concerns the Biden administration’s blatant disregard for the First Amendment and its collusion with big tech social media companies with which it disagrees,” Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey said.

Bailey’s office has promoted emails between the White House and Facebook, in which a White House official flagged posts about coronavirus vaccinations that he found related to the company. In one message, the official says “the top post today about vaccines not working is from Tucker Carlson.” The White House and President Biden have previously publicly called on social media companies to remove coronavirus misinformation.

Barrett, the NYU professor, said political leaders and government officials have been negotiating with the companies for years, citing a dinner Trump had with Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg during his presidency. Often, communications between the government are not invasive, and may be fairly routine with the intent of obtaining information about how to vote, or important public health information.

“We don’t want to have some sort of impenetrable wall between these companies and the government,” Barrett said.

He added that Silicon Valley needs to be more transparent about its policies in dealing with governments and law enforcement, and that congressional hearings about the companies’ efforts to be “fair” to politicians from both parties. and concrete” questions may be the place to ask. Promoting authentic information.

But Barrett isn’t expecting that at Wednesday’s hearing, which he said “has all the earmarks of a purely partisan mudslinging exercise.”

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