Republicans renewed on Wednesday their fight against major social media platforms this time targeting Twitter. During a congressional hearing, GOP lawmakers slammed the platform for being “biased” against conservative voices even though Democrats present issued a stern rebuff. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey appeared in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and denied all these accusations.
However, Republicans wouldn’t have it. In an intense grilling session, they accused Dorsey and his company for developing algorithms that suppressed and discriminated against conservative viewpoints on the platform. However, Democrats read political mischief in all this. Representative Mike Doyle, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, said that this recent onslaught by GOP lawmakers towards Twitter is simply designed for political gain and nothing else.
The Trump administration has also been steadfast in making such accusations. At one point the president himself accused Facebook and other social media sites of blocking political content with a conservative viewpoint. The Justice Department also confirmed that it’s planning on holding a meeting with state attorney generals in an effort to establish if social media companies are intentionally hurting competition by stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms.
But the move is likely to come under massive pushback from Democrats and the media too. Most of them believe that any policy change towards social media sites is misguided and a knee-jerk reaction to constant accusations of bias by the president against these platforms. The notion that social media sites are censoring conservatives has been here for a while and not just at the highest office. For example, a few days after being banned from major social media platforms, conservative conspiracy theorist Alex Jones accused these companies of censoring him. Jones also appeared during the hearings on Wednesday to decry how “unfairly” he was treated because of his political views.
The hearings were hotly debated with back and forth exchanges between the concerned parties. However, this was part of a new trend in which executives of big tech companies are starting to appear in front of lawmakers more frequently than before. Just a few months ago, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg also appeared in front of the Senate to answer questions on a massive data leak involving millions of its users.
The outrage from lawmakers towards these companies appears to just be getting started. Such hearings with such explosive outcomes could become a common thing, especially now that social media has become a central pillar in US politics. But any decisive move to try and take action against what GOP lawmakers see as “bias” may run into several challenges. The big tech companies have maintained for a long time now that their platforms are free for anyone to express themselves. But they’ve also insisted that there are rules and regulations that govern the conduct of users on the platforms. If these rules are breached, the companies do reserve the right to ban certain users. But so far it seems that many conservatives see this as a direct target towards their viewpoints.