After Facebook and Twitter sparked outrage by censoring several New York Post reports on emails allegedly from Hunter Biden's laptop, Republican lawmakers want Big Tech CEOs to testify in Congress and explain why the Post's stories are being suppressed.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) formally requested on Thursday that the CEOs of Twitter and Facebook both appear before the U.S. Senate to testify on their companies' individual decisions to censor the Post's reports. The letters, written to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, invite the Big Tech bosses to testify before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism in a hearing called "Digital Platforms and Election Interference."
Hawley's letters announce an inquiry into whether Facebook and Twitter violated federal election law by suppressing the distribution of the New York Post story, "Smoking-gun email reveals how Hunter Biden introduced Ukrainian businessman to VP dad."
"As your company is no doubt aware, corporations are forbidden from contributing anything of value — financial or otherwise — to support the election of candidates for federal office," each letter states.
NEW — U.S. Senator Josh Hawley has formally requested @Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and @Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to… https://t.co/gzQz7MjeEb— Senator Hawley Press Office (@Senator Hawley Press Office)1602772374.0
The letter to Dorsey noted that Twitter "asymmetrically" applied its terms of service against the Post story and suspended the official Donald Trump presidential campaign account for sharing the article. The hearing "will also consider [Twitter's] decision to double down on that potential violation by, on October 15, 2020, suppressing the Post's follow-up story."
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and committee member Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also announced Thursday that the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on Tuesday to serve Dorsey a subpoena to testify the following Friday. Cruz characterized Twitter's actions as "election interference."
"The Senate Judiciary Committee wants to know what the hell is going on," Cruz said, noting that the Nov. 3 election is 19 days away.
Sen. @tedcruz: "Twitter is actively blocking, right now this instant, stories from the New York Post...on Tuesday,… https://t.co/98vnHjV94P— CSPAN (@CSPAN)1602775607.0
In the House, Judiciary Committee ranking member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) sent a letter to Facebook CEO Zuckerberg saying the actions taken by Facebook "raises questions about Facebook's commitment to free speech and free and fair elections."
Additionally, all House Committee on Oversight and Reform Republicans called on the committee's chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) to hold an emergency hearing before the Nov. 3 election on "Big Tech's censorship and election interference."
"Facebook and Twitter's censorship of American journalism is part of a broader pattern by Big Tech to selectively suppress news and silence conservative views that don't square with their liberal agenda. This is not the American way and cannot be tolerated," Oversight and Reform Committee ranking member James Comer (R-Ky.) said. "Big Tech's censorship is election interference and we call on Chairwoman Maloney to hold an emergency hearing immediately in order to hold them accountable and protect the integrity of the election."
On Wednesday, the New York Post published a story about a "smoking gun" 2015 email that appears to show Vadym Pozharskyi, an adviser to the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma, thanking Hunter Biden for setting up a meeting with his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden, the 2020 Democratic nominee for president. The email, if accurate, is significant because the elder Biden has repeatedly claimed he's never had discussions with his son about Hunter's "overseas business dealings," a claim that this email directly contradicts.
Biden's critics and the Post's reports accuse the former vice president of having used his office as leverage to pressure the Ukrainian government to adopt policies that were favorable to Burisma while Hunter Biden served on the company's board, benefiting the younger Biden.
After the Post's initial report on the email was published, Facebook limited the distribution of the story pending a third-party fact check review, preventing users from seeing it in their news feeds. Twitter followed suit and went even further, banning the story from being shared by users and locking the accounts of prominent users who shared it, including the Trump campaign, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, and the New York Post itself. On Thursday, Twitter even restricted access to an official government website after House Judiciary Committee Republicans re-posted the Post story and shared it on Twitter.
In response to the backlash Twitter received, Twitter CEO Dorsey admitted the "communication around our actions on the @nypost article was not great." He also said blocking the Post article's URL with "zero context" was "unacceptable."
Sen. Hawley found Dorsey's mea culpa unacceptable.
.@Twitter @jack this is not nearly good enough. In fact, it’s a joke. It’s downright insulting. I will ask you - an… https://t.co/Yoj4GDvffJ— Josh Hawley (@Josh Hawley)1602721547.0
Speaking on Fox News Wednesday evening, Hawley accused Facebook and Twitter of wanting to "rig an election."
"It's basically at this point, Laura, Big Tech versus democracy," Hawley told host Laura Ingraham. "These tech companies want to rig an election, they want to control what we read. They want to control journalists in this country. They want to control the news. And we just can't let them.
"That's why I will be inviting and asking Facebook and Twitter to come testify under oath to my subcommittee in the United States Senate," he added. "The American people deserve answers."