Senate Republicans are voting to summon Fb and Twitter CEOs for alleged censorship


Senate Judicial Committee Chairman Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks during the confirmation hearing of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on Jan. October 2020.

Susan Walsh | Pool | Reuters

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve subpoenas for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to testify on their handling of a recently unverified New York Post article about the son of former Vice President Joe Biden.

Twelve Republicans on the committee voted to approve the subpoenas, and ten Democrats suspended the serve in protest of the session's earlier vote on the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Zuckerberg and Dorsey will testify to the Senate Trade Committee next week with Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, on alleged bias and privacy issues.

The Justice Committee voted to force Facebook and Twitter CEOs to testify about their "suppression and / or censorship" of two recent New York Post articles containing unsubstantiated allegations of email allegedly coming from a computer owned by the son of the Democratic presidential candidate Hunter Biden. The first story alleged that the younger Biden tried to introduce his father to an executive at a Ukrainian company he worked for while he was in office as Vice President. The Democratic candidate has called the story a "smear".

The request for a summons does not contain a date for the certificate. Representatives from Facebook and Twitter declined to comment on the subpoena vote.

Facebook and Twitter took very different approaches to moderating the article, which included unedited email addresses in documents included in the story.

A Facebook spokesperson said shortly after the article got steam that it had been factually checked and would reduce its circulation in the meantime. Users could still share the story, but the algorithm wouldn't get a boost.

Twitter, on the other hand, initially prevented users from posting or sharing the story in direct messages. The company said it made the decision as part of its hacked material and private information policy because the story contained personal contact information and material allegedly taken from a laptop without the owner's consent. Users could still share articles commenting on the piece as long as it didn't contain the allegedly hacked or personal information.

The reactions sparked quick anger among Conservatives, who had long accused companies of suppressing their views, although stories from conservative outlets on the platforms often attracted the highest audience. Dorsey later said Twitter's communications about his actions were "unacceptable" and the company eventually allowed the story to be published because it was already so widespread.

The subpoena also calls on CEOs to submit statements about "other policies, practices, or measures to moderate content that may affect or affect the federal election" and other recent decisions to reduce distribution or block posts their services.

Andrew Bates, spokesman for the Biden campaign, responded in a statement to the New York Post story last week, saying multiple press and congressional investigations had found the elder Biden "did not commit any wrongdoing."

Bates alleged the Post did not ask the Biden campaign about important parts of the story, including the fact that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani allegedly received the materials used in the article. Biden's official schedules indicate that no meeting with Ukrainian executives has taken place as claimed by the Post, Bates said.

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Katherine Clark