Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) and Josh Hawley (Missouri) on Thursday said the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote next Tuesday to subpoena Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey over the platform recent actions in limiting users from sharing two New York Post “smoking-gun” articles regarding newly uncovered emails from Hunter Biden linking his father Joe Biden while as Vice President to his foreign corrupt business dealings.
In a news conference announcing the subpoena vote, Cruz called the actions from Twitter amounting to “election interference” being conducted just less than three weeks before Election Day. The vote on Tuesday, the Texas Senator said would order Dorsey to testify before the Judiciary Committee three days later before the election so the Twitter CEO can explain to the American people its abuse of “corporate power to silence the press and the cover-up allegations of corruption.”
“This is election interference and we’re 19 days out from an election,” Cruz said. “It has no precedent in the history of democracy. The Senate Judiciary Committee wants to know what the hell is going on.”
“Twitter and Facebook and big tech billionaires don’t get to censor political speech and actively interfere in the election and that’s what they’re doing right now,” Cruz added. “The full committee will be voting on subpoenas to subpoena Jack Dorsey to come before our committee next Friday, to come before this committee and the American people, and explain why Twitter is abusing their corporate power to silence the press and the cover-up allegations of corruption.”
On Wednesday, the New York Post revealed through emails from a damaged laptop that Joe Biden was introduced to his son, Hunter Biden’s top business executive, despite repeatedly denying any conflict of interests. The “smoking gun” article showed the uncovered email that Hunter Biden organized a meeting between one of his Burisma Holdings top executives with his father in April 2015.
The Biden campaign never disputes the authenticity of the article or Hunter Biden’s emails, giving a statement to only Politico, decrying the New York Post over one claim that the former vice president based on reviewing his “official schedules” never had a meeting with the Ukrainian executive.
Twitter took its most drastic step in limit the spread of a New York Post, blocking users from sharing direct or a shorten URL link in tweets or direct messages, without informing users that the company had determined that the article violated the platform’s policy on hacked materials. In some cases, some well-known conservatives figures accounts were locked, including White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany for sharing the article Wednesday evening and most recently the Trump 2020 Campaign account for tweeting a video about Joe Biden that links the article.
According to Twitter tweets posted Wednesday evening under its Twitter Safety account, the decision to block the sharing of the NY Post article was based on its platform’s “hacked materials policy” and “private information policy.” However, they state there are exemptions to this policy that doesn’t violate the rules, including discussion of hacks “including reporting on a hack, or sharing press coverage of hacking” all points that don’t justify the egregious action conducted by Twitter towards the NY Post.
Graham, who chairs the Judiciary committee cited the double standards from social media companies, refusing to block refuted stories towards President Trump such as the steel dossier, allegations of Russian collusion. The actions from Twitter, Graham said “crystallizes the problem better than anything I can think of.”
“What we’re going to do is we’re going to finally have an accounting that’s long overdue,” he said. “These social media platforms have a dominance in our lives… and this to me crystallizes the problem better than anything I could think of for the American people.”
The Judiciary chair said he hopes his fellow Democrats in the committee would join in and vote for the subpoena for a hearing, saying they aren’t immune from being censored from the social media platforms.
The point is that the power behind these platforms have been taken to a level that truly is dangerous,” Graham said. “Hopefully the Democrats on the committee will be as interested in this, as we are because it’s us today, it could be them tomorrow.”
Hawley urged the Judiciary Committee to consider issuing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg a subpoena to also testify next week, saying both platforms “engaged in censorship.”
“It is absolutely vital we believe in a free press in this country. We also believe in free elections, and the attempt to rig an election, which is what we’re seeing here by monopolies is unprecedented in American history,” Hawley said. “They have a lot to answer for, and I hope that we subpoena both Twitter and Facebook. They should both come. They’re both engaged in censorship and they should answer to the Judiciary Committee, they should answer to the full Senate, they should answer the American people.”
Facebook had also limited the NY Post article’s distribution pending fact-checking by third-party partners.
On Wednesday, Hawley wrote a letter to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), General Counsel to open an investigation regarding potential campaign finance violations, arguing the actions from the social media executives may have violated campaign finance law by offering an in-kind contribution to the Biden campaign with its actions in suppressing the distribution of the New York Post articles and briefly suspending President Trump campaign Twitter account.
“Federal law prohibits any corporation from making a contribution to a federal candidate for office. A ‘contribution’ includes ‘anything of value… for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office.’ Twitter’s and Facebook’s active suppression of public speech about the New York Post article appears to constitute contributions under federal law, Hawley wrote. “There can be no serious doubt that the Biden campaign derives extraordinary value from depriving voters access to information that, if true, would link the former Vice President to corrupt Ukrainian oligarchs. And this censorship manifestly will influence the presidential election. I ask that the FEC take immediate action to investigate these potential violations and, if appropriate, take remedial action to prevent further interference with the 2020 presidential election.”
Earlier this month, the Senate Commerce voted unanimously to authorize subpoenas for a hearing with the three executives to compel to testify before the committee on the issue of liability protections of Section 230, the same issue the Judiciary Committee are looking to press the tech giants over its latest suppression efforts with Conservatives, along with other issues Democrats in the panel see as more troubling with Silicon Valley including data privacy and media issues.
Section 230 is an outdated 1996 Act that shields social media platforms from lawsuits over users’ content while giving them a wide leeway to police contents the internet companies personally deem as factual.
Neither of the tech giants has yet to respond regarding the Senate Republicans upcoming subpoena committee vote or voluntarily like they have done so in the past with prior senate hearings by arranging the protocols before testifying.