Is Social Media Engaged In Censorship Or Civic Responsibility?

It quickly became apparent at a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing Tuesday that the perception of whether social media is actively engaged in censorship depends upon party affiliation.

U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-SC, and other GOP Senators blasted Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for engaging in selective censorship of Republican content on their platforms to benefit Democrats in the Presidential election campaign.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, took the opposite view. He insisted the social media platforms were not engaging in censorship at all but merely exercising “moral and civic responsibility” to limit misleading content. He said the platforms must do far more to “fact check to avoid amplifying misinformation” in the future.

The hearing was held to discuss potential changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which exempts social media platforms from legal liability for content published on their platforms.

More or Less?

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, noted the irony that Democrats, one-time champions of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of free speech and a free press, are now demanding ever more censorship by social media platforms.

“Consistently the message from Senate Democrats is for Facebook and Twitter and Google to censor more… To silence voices that Senate Democrats disagree with more. That is very dangerous if we want to maintain a free and fsair democracy,” he said.

Cruz pointed to “absolute silence” by Democrats with respect to censorship of media outlets and citizens by big tech. “That’s a totalitarian instinct that I think is very dangerous,” he said.

Cruz asked Dorsey for a commitment to investigate and report upon how many times it has blocked content by Democrats as opposed to Republicans. Dorsey declined to do so.

Suppression of Hunter Biden Laptop

The GOP repeatedly returned to Facebook and Twitter’s allegedly selective enforcement actions with respect to GOP content as opposed to content by Democrats.

Dorsey admitted that Twitter made an “error” when it suppressed an article published in October by The New York Post about a laptop belonging to the son of Vice-President elect Joe Biden. Hunter Biden’s laptop contained emails indicating Biden’s family, and possibly Biden himself, was involved in an influence peddling scheme. Dorsey claimed Twitter corrected the mistake within 24 hours though it did not unlock The Post’s account for almost a week.

In addition to Facebook and Twitter, major media outlets suppressed the distribution of the story.

A recent post-election poll by the Media Research Center conducted by McLaughlin & Associates found that 36% of Biden voters were NOT aware of evidence linking Joe Biden to corrupt financial dealings with China; 13% of these voters said they would not have voted for Biden had they known.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-FL, said Twitter behaved as a publisher, not a neutral platform, when it was “editing, censoring and silencing” the content of the Post, the newspaper with the fourth highest circulation in the U.S.

A dictionary definition of “censorship” is to suppress or prohibit news that is “politically unacceptable.”

Cruz also asked why Twitter is now putting warning labels on tweets involving voter fraud in the Presidential election. “That’s taking a disputed policy position and you’re a publisher when you’re doing that,” he said. “[Y]ou don’t get to pretend that you’re not a publisher and get a special benefit under Section 230 as a result.”

Dorsey insisted Twitter was labelling materials so that voters could have “more context.”

There seemed near unanimity that social media platforms have too much power and need reined in. Several Senators talked about breaking up Facebook, claiming it has thwarted competition.

2 thoughts on “Is Social Media Engaged In Censorship Or Civic Responsibility?”

  1. It’s totally irrelevant what anyone calls it. Social media companies are private corporations and can censor — or not — anyone and anything they like. Broadcasting is the closest thing to social media, and Reagan deregulated broadcasting in the 1980s, and Clinton finished the job in the 1990s. Corporations can do whatever they like. In some instances they can be held responsible if they propagate lies and falsehoods: it would be violations of FTC regulations on false and deceptive advertising. The First Amendment only applies to government censorship. Lindsey Graham can go jump in a lake and if he’s so stupid that he never read the Constitution, it’s about time he did. I have no idea how anyone voted that idiot back into office. I am so tired of this hideous, freak show of an administration and their attempts to control everyone and everything to elevate a sociopathic, infantile, malignant, narcissistic and perpetually lying sack of crap that is “The Donald.” There is nothing he won’t do to try to control everyone and everything around him. That’s what abusive, sociopathic narcissists do. How anyone can fall for that con man is beyond me.

    1. It is a relevant issue because social media must be a neutral platform, and not a publisher, to continue to enjoy the considerable benefits of Section 230. It’s one thing to neutrally apply a platform rule but quite another to engage in censorship of one political party over another. And there is also an issue of whether social media is the new public square.

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