Senate Republicans call on Twitter, Facebook bosses to testify amid censorship claims, say subpoena in works

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Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham and Josh Hawley on Thursday called on the heads of Twitter and Facebook to testify, and said a subpoena was in the works, as critics claimed the social media platforms have been censoring reporting critical of Democrats.

“This is election interference and we're 19 days out from an election,” Cruz, R-Texas, said. “It has no precedent in the history of democracy. The Senate Judiciary Committee wants to know what the hell is going on.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee leaders announced they will vote on a subpoena Tuesday for Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, to testify before the committee on Friday, Oct. 23. Hawley said he hoped the committee would also vote to subpoena Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg too. 

The action comes as both Twitter and Facebook took steps to stop the widespread dissemination of an explosive New York Port report this week that purports to show emails from Hunter Biden linking his father his Ukraine business dealings. 

Republicans blasted the social media platforms for censorship and implied the tech giants were in cahoots with the Biden campaign to suppress a negative story.

They blasted the social media companies for doing nothing to suppress reporting on the Steele dossier that was damaging to President Trump or to flag reporting on Russia collusion. They point to the power the tech giants wield and how their decisions on content can influence voters' understanding of the candidates.

“What we're going to do is we're going to finally have an accounting that's long overdue,” Graham, R-S.C., said.

“The power behind these platforms have been taken to a level that truly is dangerous.”

Twitter has blocked the spread of the New York Post and even locked the account of the Trump campaign for tweeting out a video on Joe Biden that cites the story.

On Wednesday night, Twitter sent a series of tweets clarifying why the New York Post articles were in violation of its "hacked materials policy."

The company's 2018 policy prohibits the distribution of content "obtained without authorization." Twitter doesn't want to incentivize hacking or circulating "possibly illegally obtained materials."

"Commentary on or discussion about hacked materials, such as articles that cover them but do not include or link to the materials themselves, aren’t a violation of this policy," Twitter said. "Our policy only covers links to or images of hacked material themselves."

Twitter's Dorsey also shared the update and said the company had not done a good enough job of communicating why it took the actions it did.

The GOP lawmakers say while they don’t know if the New York Post reporting is true, they believe in a free press.

Hawley already invited Dorsey and Zuckerberg to testify before his subcommittee and said a subpoena for Dorsey to appear before the full committee next week is the right first step.

"We believe in a free press in this country and we also believe in free elections," Hawley, R-Mo., said. "The attempt to rig an election, which is what we're seeing here by monopolies, is unprecedented in American history. They have a lot to answer for."

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, racial unrest and a Supreme Court nomination, the Twitter suppression effort adds one more layer to an already unfathomable year.

“2020 can’t get any stranger,” Graham quipped.

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