House

McCarthy leads GOP charge against Silicon Valley

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is leading the charge against President Trump's new favorite punching bag: big tech.

The California Republican, who hopes to replace Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) next year, has been aggressively promoting a campaign to "stop the bias," referring to what critics say is a pattern of discrimination against conservative voices on social media.

To that end, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill this week at a hearing requested by McCarthy.

"I've had many conversations with the president about how we have to stop this bias," McCarthy, one of Trump's closest allies on Capitol Hill, told Fox News on Thursday.

"I've spoken to Jack Dorsey throughout the month," McCarthy added. "He and I philosophically disagree, but we do agree on one thing: We believe in the First Amendment. But we also believe in transparency and accountability."

The majority leader's recent crusade against social media comes at a time when Trump has ramped up his own rhetoric against the tech industry. His eagerness to champion the cause could endear him to both the White House and conservative lawmakers - two constituencies that could be crucial to securing the Speakership.

Trump recently asserted that Google and other platforms are "rigged" against him, an accusation that Google rejected, and one that came on the heels of allegations from conservatives that Twitter has been "shadow banning" certain Republicans so that their accounts are less visible to users.

That controversy started after prominent conservatives aligned with Trump, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) failed to appear on Twitter's auto-populated drop-down search box when users typed in their names.

The company said that it does not "shadow ban" according to political ideology, but acknowledged that its attempts to crack down on hate speech have unintentionally reduced search results for lawmakers from both parties.

McCarthy was quick to take up the mantle on the issue, tweeting more than a dozen times last month with the hashtag "stop the bias." He also made the media rounds to step up pressure on Dorsey to publicly testify on Capitol Hill.

But not all of McCarthy's efforts on that front were successful. One of his tweets attempting to demonstrate censorship of conservatives drew criticism for being misleading.

After sharing a screenshot of a tweet from Fox News host Laura Ingraham that was covered by language warning of "potentially sensitive content," Twitter users were quick to point out that Ingraham's tweet was covered up due to settings in McCarthy's own Twitter account, not because of a company campaign to silence conservative voices.

Still, the crusade to keep the issue of alleged anti-conservative bias in the spotlight could earn McCarthy some political capital. One of the lawmakers who Republicans say has been targeted by Twitter's "shadow banning" practice is Jordan, a leader of the Freedom Caucus who is also running for Speaker.

While Jordan may struggle to secure the 218 votes needed to win the gavel, his far-right group has the power to veto any Speaker hopeful if Republicans retain control of the House in the midterm elections.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday will hear testimony from Dorsey, but it's unclear whether Congress or the Trump administration will take any action against tech and social media companies, which lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been reluctant to regulate further.

Proposed steps for regulation, however, could include making Facebook and other social media platforms a public utility, forcing Google to be more transparent about its algorithms and making it easier for individuals to sue technology companies.

McCarthy says all options are on the table.

"Congress is going to look at everything, because of how powerful they have become," he told Fox News.

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