Senate Judiciary to vote on subpoena for Twitter CEO next week
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Thursday the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote next week to subpoena Twitter’s CEO after Republicans accused the platform of censorship over a decision to limit the spread of New York Post stories about Hunter Biden.
Cruz was among several Republican lawmakers who criticized social media platforms for their decision to limit the spread of a story — portions of which Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign have disputed — published Wednesday.
Cruz said the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote next week to subpoena Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey after the platform took similar action on Thursday to prevent users from sharing a separate story about Hunter Biden published by the New York Post.
“The Senate Judiciary Committee wants to know what the hell is going on,” Cruz told reporters.
He accused Twitter’s actions of being “election interference” just 19 days out from Election Day. He said the committee will vote Tuesday on whether to subpoena Dorsey to testify later in the week.
“[Dorsey should] come before this committee and the American people and explain why Twitter is abusing their corporate power to silence the press and to cover up allegations of corruption,” Cruz said. “And let me be clear, I don’t know if the New York Post stories are true or not; those are questions Vice President Joe Biden should answer.”
Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the efforts to block the Post story “crystallizes the problem better than anything I can think of.”
“The point is, the power behind these platforms has been taken to a level that truly is dangerous,” he told reporters.
A spokesperson for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was not immediately available for a request to comment.
Biden’s campaign has pushed back on the Post’s Wednesday report, which includes allegations about the former vice president and Ukraine that hinge on an email reportedly retrieved from the hard drive of a laptop dropped off at a computer repair shop in Delaware in April 2019.
The campaign told Politico the Post never asked the campaign about “critical elements of this story,” and said that based on a review of the former vice president’s official schedule from that time “no meeting, as alleged by The New York Post, ever took place.”
Trump and his GOP allies have used social media giants’ moves to limit the spread of the story to renew allegations that platforms have an anti-conservative bias. Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Cruz sent letters to Facebook and Twitter questioning their decisions, and House Judiciary Committee Republicans are pushing for a hearing on “Big Tech’s censorship and election interference” ahead of Nov. 3.
Hawley also sent letters Thursday to Facebook and Twitter inviting Dorsey and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to testify over potential campaign finance violations, arguing that their actions may have violated campaign finance law by offering an in-kind contribution to the Biden campaign.
Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform at the Campaign Legal Center, told The Hill it is “hard to see” how an in-kind contribution would result as Facebook and Twitter appear to be applying pre-established, neutral policies.
Dorsey and Zuckerberg are already set to testify before the Senate during a Commerce Committee meeting on Oct. 28, less than a week after Cruz is seeking to have Dorsey testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Dorsey and Zuckerberg, along with Google’s Sundar Pichai, are scheduled to testify at the hearing which is set to focus on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a hotly debated law that allows platforms to have immunity from lawsuits about content posted on their sides by a third party.
The hearing may end up with Republicans questioning the CEOs about allegations of censorship and anti-conservative bias in light of the action taken on the Post stories. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a Commerce committee member, tweeted Thursday she is “looking forward” to asking the CEOs about “silencing media that go against their political beliefs.”
.@SenateCommerce I’m looking forward to asking Jack and Mark about silencing media that go against their political beliefs on October 28.
— Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) October 15, 2020
Twitter declined to comment in response to Hawley, and a spokesperson was not immediately available to respond to follow-up requests for comment regarding the vote to subpoena Dorsey.
A spokesperson for Facebook was also not immediately available for comment.