GOP lawmakers react to Twitter, Facebook recent content removal decisions
Some Republicans see 'Big Tech as one of the leading threats to freedom in the US'
Republican members of Congress are again sounding the alarm on Big Tech after recent content removal decisions by Facebook and Twitter.
Twitter on Thursday permanently suspended Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe over alleged use of "fake accounts," and Facebook has barred users from sharing another New York Post story regarding Black Lives Matter (BLM) co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors’ property acquisitions for violating its "privacy and personal information" policy.
The decisions come after a senior Biden administration official said Thursday that the intelligence community only had "low to moderate" confidence in last summer's reports of Russia placing bounties on the heads of U.S. soldiers, meaning it is unproven and possibly untrue, after social media platforms allowed users to share this story without pause.
"Right now I think Americans need to understand they should treat the news on Facebook and Twitter with healthy skepticism," Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., told Fox News. "It shouldn’t be viewed as an accurate reflection of reality."
He added that Big Tech companies are "an arm of the Democratic Party" and "dangerous because their influence on political discourse is unmatched in American history and because they lie and claim to be [platforms that don't] make editorial decisions."
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"Justice Clarence Thomas, I think, has the right answer for dealing with Big Tech censorship, which is to treat them like common carriers like AT&T and other telecommunications companies and prohibit them from discriminating based on viewpoint," Banks continued. "The Republican Study Committee is the largest conservative caucus on Capitol Hill, and we’ve made fighting Big Tech censorship a key issue this Congress. I can tell you that RSC certainly sees Big Tech as one of the leading threats to freedom in the U.S."
Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky., told Fox News he thinks Big Tech is "drunk on power."
"These same companies that are suppressing factual information damaging to the Democrat agenda, politicians and activists have notoriously allowed their platforms to be used by terrorist organizations to spread propaganda, fundraise and even recruit for their cause," he said. "That is why I introduced legislation to ban terrorist social media accounts and start holding big tech accountable."
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Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., added that the latest instances of content decisions from Facebook and Twitter are more examples "of the Big Tech monopolies censoring conservatives and silencing viewpoints they disagree with."
"Time and time again, Facebook and Twitter have shown blatant disrespect for our freedom of speech and have manipulated the dissemination of public information. I will be taking action to stop this monopolistic behavior," he said.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, echoed the statement that tech platforms are acting as "an arm of the Democratic party," saying in a statement that they "face zero accountability for their actions."
"They have made it clear by their recent actions that their assault on free speech will continue until we reform the massive corporate welfare they receive under Section 230," he said.
A Twitter spokesperson told Fox News on Thursday that O'Keefe was "permanently suspended for violating the Twitter rules on platform manipulation and spam."
"As outlined in our policy on platform manipulation and spam, 'You can’t mislead others on Twitter by operating fake accounts,' and 'you can’t artificially amplify or disrupt conversations through the use of multiple accounts.'"
O'Keefe categorically denied Twitter's assertions, demanding the social media giant point to the "fake accounts" and insisting that the claims amount to "libel."
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"I am suing Twitter for defamation because they said, I, James O'Keefe, 'operated fake accounts.' This is false, this is defamatory, and they will pay," the Project Veritas founder said in a statement to Fox News. "Section 230 may have protected them before, but it will not protect them from me. The complaint will be filed Monday."
O'Keefe was referencing Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which gives liability protections to internet platforms and social media sites that allow third-party users to publish content on their websites. Lawmakers have highlighted the provision over the past year or so in relation to instances of Big Tech companies removing conservative users or posts from their platforms, arguing that Section 230 should be revised to give more powers to users.
Facebook told Fox News on Thursday that it barred the New York Post's report on BLM's Khan-Cullors’ properties from being shared on the platform for violating its "privacy and personal information policy."
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., tweeted about Facebook's decision on Thursday, referencing an instance in October of 2020 when Facebook and Twitter took unprecedented action by restricting sharing of the Post's explosive reporting on President Biden's son, Hunter, and his laptop, which contained emails showing his questionable business dealings overseas while his father served as vice president.
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Twitter cited its "hacked materials" policy, and Facebook said its independent fact-checkers were reviewing the post. They also permanently suspended the Post’s account for weeks.
Twitter later reversed course on its decision to bar users from sharing the story and block the Post from accessing its account, with founder Jack Dorsey calling it a "total mistake."
The platform also locked the account of sports journalist Jason Whitlock last week after he criticized Khan-Cullors.
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"She’s with her people!" Whitlock wrote sarcastically alongside a link for a story from celebrity blog site Dirt.com about Cullors' purchase. Despite the story not including an address and despite other news outlets' reporting on Cullors' new home, Whitlock was told Friday he had violated Twitter's rules against publishing private information."
Twitter later reversed the decision, claiming it was made in error.
Fox News' Joseph A. Wulfson contributed to this report.