When The New York Post, the fourth largest newspaper in the country, wrote a series of articles about a laptop and emails said to belong to Hunter Biden, then-candidate Joe Biden’s son, Twitter and Facebook blocked access to them.
On Tuesday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted that that was wrong.
Dorsey said that the Post stories were blocked pursuant to a 2018 policy against disseminating hacked materials.
“We made a quick interpretation using no other evidence that the materials in the article were obtained through hacking, and according to our policy, we blocked them from being spread,” Dorsey said in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Upon further consideration, we admitted this action was wrong and corrected it within 24 hours.”
But that didn’t sooth Republican senators, who have sought to strip social media companies of legal protection because they are not defined as publishers under the law.
“That to me seems like you’re the ultimate editor,” committee Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.,said during his opening statement. “The editorial decision by the New York Post to run the story was overridden by Twitter and Facebook in different fashions to prevent its dissemination. Now if that’s not making an editorial decision I don’t know what would be.”
Sen. Ben Sasse, R. Neb., pressed Dorsey and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who also appeared remotely for the hearing, on the ideological makeup of their workforces.
Zuckerberg acknowledged that many of his employees are left-leaning, but then claimed Facebook tries not to let political bias guide decisions.
Dorsey said political affiliation is “not something we interview for” at Twitter but added that the company is trying to be more transparent.
“If people are questioning that,” Dorsey said, “it’s a failure.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, ripped Dorsey for repeatedly censoring posts from President Trump, especially those in which Trump alleges voter fraud.
“Does voter fraud exist?” Cruz asked Dorsey.
“I don’t know for certain,” Dorsey replied.
“Why, then, is Twitter right now putting purported warnings on any statement about voter fraud?” Cruz said.
Dorsey said Twitter is “simply linking to a broader conversation so that people have more information.”
“No, you’re not,” Cruz said. “You’ve put up a page that says, quote, ‘Voter fraud of any kind is exceedingly rare in the United States.’ That’s not linking to a broader conversation. That’s taking a disputed policy position, and you’re a publisher when you’re doing that. You’re entitled to take a policy position, but you don’t get to pretend you’re not a publisher and get a special benefit under Section 230 as a result.”