Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw had two takeaways after watching the Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Wednesday with the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook ,and Alphabet, Google's parent company.
The first was that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey “is a partisan and a hypocrite” and the second was an observation made about the Senate Democrats present for the hearing.
“Not a single Democrat Senator defended free speech or freedom of the press today,” the Texas Republican noticed. “This should terrify Americans.”
Biggest take away from the big tech hearings:— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) October 28, 2020
1) Jack Dorsey is a partisan and a hypocrite.
2) There are no liberals left in the Democrat Party. Not a single Democrat Senator defended free speech or freedom of the press today.
This should terrify Americans.
Crenshaw’s observations came after Republican senators grilled the titans of Big Tech on the issue of censorship after their blatant efforts to block The New York Post’s bombshell report about Hunter Biden’s emails showing a web of shady foreign business dealings.
But Senate Democrats were none too pleased with the hearing, with Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz calling it a "sham."
“We have to call this hearing what it is: it’s a sham,” Schatz said. “This play my colleagues are running did not start today, and it is not just happening here in the Senate; it is a coordinated action across the government.”
Massachusetts Sen. Edward Markey, meanwhile, said the efforts “feed a false narrative about anti-conservative bias and to intimidate big tech so it will stand idly by” in the final days of the election.
“The issue today is not that the companies are taking too many posts down,” he added. “The issue today is that companies are leaving too many posts up.”
The hearing focused on Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which protects social media companies from being held liable for the content published on their platforms. Critics argue that by taking on roles of a publisher then they should no longer enjoy the protects afforded through Section 230.
Sen. Tom Cotton recently warned social media giants their actions were renewing a focus on rewriting Section 230.
“For all of those tech oligarchs who think they can get away with this, I will simply say that winter is coming. They have enjoyed total immunity,” Cotton said on a conference call with reporters, which the Trump campaign organized. “That is going to change soon because the millions of Americans who believe in God and believe in national sovereignty and believe in the Constitution will not tolerate these monopolists continuing to dictate the flow of information in this country.
“Big Tech oligarchs [are] declaring war on Donald Trump, on the Republican Party, and conservatives across America,” he added.
The Department of Justice sent a letter to congressional leaders this week expressing an openness to changing Section 230.
"The Department of Justice (Department) is encouraged by the emerging consensus in each branch of government and many parts of the private sector that the time has come to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996," Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd wrote in the letter. "Today’s large online platforms hold tremendous power over the information and views available to the American people. It is therefore critical that they be honest and transparent with users about how they use that power."
The letter cited the social media companies' efforts to suppress the Post's Hunter Biden story, calling it "quite concerning."
"Relatedly, the Department notes Justice Thomas’ recent call for the Supreme Court, in an appropriate case, to review lower court decisions that have construed Section 230 to confer sweeping immunity on online platforms," the letter continued. "As Justice Thomas noted, those decisions have 'emphasized nontextual arguments' in the service of expanding immunity 'beyond the natural reading of the [statutory] text.'"
During the hearing, all three CEOs spoke of the importance of Section 230 to the work they do.
"Section 230 is the Internet’s most important law for free speech and safety. Weakening Section 230 protections will remove critical speech from the Internet," Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said.
"Section 230 also allows us to work to keep people safe. Facebook was built to enable people to express themselves and share, but we know that some people use their voice to cause harm by trying to organize violence, undermine elections, or otherwise hurt people. We have a responsibility to address these risks, and Section 230 enables us to do this more effectively by removing the threat of constant litigation we might otherwise face," noted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai said, “Our ability to provide access to a wide range of information is only possible because of existing legal frameworks, like Section 230. The United States adopted Section 230 early in the internet’s history, and it has been foundational to US leadership in the tech sector. Section 230 protects the freedom to create and share content while supporting the ability of platforms and services of all sizes to responsibly address harmful content.”
In speaking to Fox News's Tucker Carlson about the hearing, Sen. Josh Hawley said the time for talk is over. "It will continue until Congress stops it, which is why Congress has got to act and do it now."