Facebook and Twitter Squirm, Struggle to Answer Senator Cruz’s Questions

At the Senate Judiciary hearing on April 10, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) grilled Facebook and Twitter on their censorship policies, especially of conservative and pro-life content during the Senate Judiciary hearing on April 10.

He announced that in previous hearings, Facebook refused to answer questions that CEO Mark Zuckerberg had promised would be answered in hearings in April of 2018. As he grilled the two representatives for Facebook and Twitter, Neil Potts and Carlos Monje, it seemed that both the witnesses found it difficult to directly answer the Chairman.

The senator announced his frustration with Facebook, saying “I will note that when Mr. Zuckerberg testified before the full committee, I submitted that question and a number of other questions to Facebook, and you at the time refused it. The company instead gave legal boilerplate and refused to answer the question.” At the hearing in April 2018, Zuckerberg answered some questions by saying Facebook would answer them in writing.

During the hearing, Cruz started his questions by asking both representatives if their companies “considered themselves to be neutral public forums?” Twitter’s director of Public Policy, Carlos Monje, gave a long response but did not answer the question.

Cruz asked Monje about Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s stance on neutrality. He summed up by the Dorsey quote, “I don’t believe that we should optimize for neutrality”  Monje pleaded ignorance. answering, “I have not seen that quote, sir.” When Cruz asked if he agreed with it, Monje gave another non-answer, saying “That is not how he is building the platform.”

When Facebook Public Policy Director Neil Potts was asked the same line of questions, he said that Facebook “represented a diversity of viewpoints.” Cruz pointed out that this was also not an answer. He said, “I’m trying to get a yes or no answer.” Neither representative gave an affirmative or a negative.

The hearing turned to questions about the censorship of pro-life groups on both platforms. Cruz brought up a tweet from the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List that was blocked for hate speech. The tweet was a quote from Mother Teresa, that “Abortion is anti-woman.”

 

 

Cruz commented, “Now it is fairly remarkable that Mother Teresa is now deemed hate speech. Do either of you agree with the proposition that Mother Teresa is issuing hate speech?”

A long silence followed. Monje tried to say that the account that tweeted the quote “was an advertiser in good standing.”  Cruz stopped him and said, “Mr. Monje, you’re very good at not answering questions. Is it hate speech?”

Monje elected to not answer the question.

Google was also criticized by the chairman, who announced that the committee would have to have another hearing on censorship at Google. Cruz said, “As the ranking member observed, Google declined to provide a witness of comparable seniority and responsibility in the company as the other two witnesses here. And so accordingly this committee will be holding a separate, subsequent hearing on Google.”

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