At the Senate Judiciary hearing on April 10, Republican senators grilled Facebook and Twitter for denying their liberal biases.
Senators Ted Cruz, Ben Sasse, and Mike Lee each took turns roasting the tech corporations on multiple issues. When they tried to deny that a corporate culture of liberal bias exists, Cruz brought down the hammer and used Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s own testimony against them.
The hearing “Stifling Free Speech: Technological Censorship and the Public Discourse” featured a panel of 2 social media company representatives being questioned by Republicans and Democrats.
Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska noted that these big tech companies are largely located in liberal California. On one hand, he acknowledged their “unbelievable talent” but noted this genius is subject to a very specific set of “cultural and political views” for which Silicon Valley is well known. He cited Ted Cruz’s earlier references to censorship of pro-life content, saying “I think we all know it isn't the case there’s an equal number of accidental anecdotes that are on the abortion right side of the debate and on the pro life side of the debate.”
“Your companies are not at all representative of America.” Sasse observed. While he admitted that “It isn't your job to be an elected official that represents all of America” he also made it clear “it just isn't the case that you're sort of a neutral forum for speech.”
Senator Mike Lee of Utah argued: “I don't hear either one of you disputing or making any attempt to refute the idea that we do have a political bias issue here … insofar as you would have your users believe youre a politically neutral forum, that’s laughable. No one assumes that to be true and I don't hear you saying that.“
“Are we wrong? Could there possibly be something about your procedures that are not capable of monitoring and maintaining a politically neutral forum for discussion?”
Lee drove home the idea of how absurd it would be for a company to be based in one of the most liberal cities in the world and not be affected by an overwhelming set of cultural biases. He suggested that if he started his own social social media platform in his hometown of Alpine, Utah, it too would be influenced by local cultural norms and biases.
After both Twitter and Facebook’s representatives tried to deny that their California headquarters and corporate cultures at all caused an environment of bias, Ted Cruz hit them with their own CEO’s testimony. “Facebook CEO Zuckerberg, when he testified in his own words, characterized Silicon Valley in his own words ‘as an extremely left leaning place’ and so I think anyone is denying reality to suggest otherwise.”