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E&C Republicans Demand Hearing with Big Tech on Censorship Policies, Section 230


10.20.20

Washington, DC – Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans sent a letter to Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) demanding a hearing on social media censorship with the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook, and Google. This letter comes as these tech giants continue to selectively and inconsistently censor content during a major election cycle, resembling publishers rather than neutral public forums.

“This recent censorship controversy is just one more in a litany of instances in which these companies have shown utter disregard for being democratic public squares and seek to suppress speech that does not advance their particular agenda. Notably, these powerful platforms provide no transparency into what methodology their employees use to apply content moderation policies, how their employees identify what needs to be tempered in distribution, or what sources their employees rely on to decide that something may be false—all information necessary for the American people to understand when these actions are appropriate, or when they may be intended to interfere with the upcoming Presidential election in favor of their preferred-candidate,” the members wrote.

“These actions taken by Twitter, Facebook, and Google suggest that these companies do not enforce their policies consistently. Under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the courts have broadly interpreted the liability protection afforded to interactive computers services to apply to all content moderation actions taken by social media platforms. Section 230 was enacted nearly 25 years ago, before the Internet was the economic driver it has become today, and more importantly, before these social media companies existed, let alone before they became integral in disseminating information to the public in a selective manner without oversight or accountability. These companies must be accountable for their actions and that begins with oversight by Congress, on behalf of the American people,” the members continued.

Background:

The letter was signed by Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Republican Leader Bob Latta (R-OH), Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee Republican Leader John Shimkus (R-IL), Health Subcommittee Republican Leader Michael Burgess, M.D. (R-TX), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Republican Leader Brett Guthrie (R-KY), House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), Reps. Pete Olson (R-TX), David McKinley (R-WV), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Billy Long (R-MO), Larry Bucshon (R-IN), Bill Flores (R-TX), Susan Brooks (R-IN), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Tim Walberg (R-MI), Buddy Carter (R-GA), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), and Greg Gianforte (R-MT).

Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Greg Walden (R-OR), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Republican Leader Bob Latta (R-OH), and Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) released a statement after tech giants Twitter and Facebook censored a story published by the New York Post documenting alleged correspondence between Hunter Biden, son of Democrat Presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden, with representatives from the Ukrainian company Burisma. The emails referenced in the story, if authentic, contradict previous statements made by Biden about his engagement and awareness of his son’s foreign business endeavors, and Biden has yet to address these allegations.

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced they would, at the request of the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), propose rules to clarify the intent of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

At a Communications and Technology Subcommittee and Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee joint subcommittee hearing earlier this year titled “A Country in Crisis: How Disinformation Online Is Dividing the Nation,” Walden called out Google for moderating content based off inaccurate MSNBC reporting and Twitter for selectively blocking the president’s tweets. He said, “these recent actions make clear that the CEOs of these companies need to come before this committee to answer our questions, and if they will not come voluntarily, Mr. Chairman, perhaps it’s time we compel their attendance.”

Press Release