Republicans will continue to cherry-pick examples of anti-conservative bias at Facebook and Twitter — but right-wing misinformation breaks more rules online (FB, TWTR)

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The leaders of tech’s biggest companies are becoming well acquainted with congressional hearings — hearings that are consistently devolving into theatrics as lawmakers politicize regulation of the industry.

Republicans typically use their time during the hearings to demand to know why tech platforms “censor” posts from President Donald Trump, intentionally silence voices on the right, and stifle free speech. These talking points have proven to be effective messaging for senators seeking election, as well as for expanding the Republican Party’s reach online. Some senators have also questioned the political leanings of their employees and how that could influence their moderation decisions.

Democratic lawmakers have, in turn, used their time to scold their Republican colleagues for spouting such “baseless” claims and for bullying the left, as Sen. Mazie Hirono did during Tuesday’s hearing. If anything, Hirono and others have said tech firms do not do enough to crack down on the “lies” that Trump spreads online. Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said there are “more important” things to address than the alleged censorship. And Sen. Brian Schatz used his entire allotted time during an October hearing to accuse Republicans of politicizing Section 230 protections.

Twitter and Facebook have been fielding accusations over anti-conservative bias for years now, after Republicans’ criticism of the tech companies increased soon after Trump’s election in 2016. Facebook has even reportedly crushed traffic to left-leaning news sites, an attempt to appease Republicans and dispel the perception that the platform is biased against the right.

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And at Tuesday’s virtual hearing, Republicans wasted no time launching accusations of liberal bias at Zuckerberg and Dorsey, once again using a very public forum to turn attention to the alleged heavy-handed censorship of conservative voices. 

Republicans tell tech companies to ‘get out of the censorship business’

Tech’s harshest critics in Washington include Sens. John Kennedy, who told Dorsey and Zuckerberg to “get out of the censorship business,” Marsha Blackburn, and Joshua Hawley. But perhaps the most aggressive Republican lawmaker has been Sen. Ted Cruz. 

Cruz lambasted Dorsey over his firm’s decision to block a dubious New York Post story about Joe Biden’s son Hunter, which included personal contact information, thereby violating Twitter’s hacked materials policy. He demanded to know why Twitter didn’t also ban a New York Times story in late September about Trump’s taxes, a report that was published with materials leaked to reporters. 

“You’ve used this in a selective manner,” Cruz said during Tuesday’s hearing.

Twitter admitted it mishandled the now-infamous New York Post story by blocking the article without an explanation, in what was perceived as arbitrary enforcement of its moderation policies. One lawmaker even said on Tuesday that Twitter and Facebook’s reaction to the article amplified it even more than had they not acted.

The biggest consequence of Twitter and Facebook’s move was giving Republicans another talking point to deploy when accusing internet platforms of censoring right-leaning content. But as Media Matters for America president Angelo Carusone wrote for NBC News in October, many of the cherry-picked items that conservatives offer of censorship are …read more

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Source:: Businessinsider – Politics


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