Everyone expects a sh*tshow from a Senate hearing, but who could have guessed that Jack Dorsey wouldn’t come prepared to answer the most basic questions about why some dubious information gets banned and other dubious information remains free as a bird?
It’s only the core critique of Twitter’s attempt to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story, after all. And it’s *been* the core critique of the platform ever since they began their policy of appending advisories to propaganda pushed by certain world leaders (Trump) but not others (literally everyone else). If Trump tweets nonsense about the fraudulence of mail-in ballots, they’re johnny on the spot. If the Chinese government tweets nonsense about Americans having seeded the coronavirus pandemic in Wuhan, they’ll *maybe* get around to flagging it. Eventually. After they’ve flagged some Trump tweet first and need to find someone else to flag in order to seem evenhanded.
What’s the difference between a vicious anti-semitic lie about what was done to Europe’s Jews in World War II and a not-yet-discredited story about Joe and Hunter Biden trying to drum up business in China? Answer: Only one of those affects the Democrats’ chances of winning next week’s election, and so that’s the one that needs to be suppressed.
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) October 28, 2020
Did this guy prepare for this hearing at all?
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) October 28, 2020
He was asked why the New York Post is still locked out of its account many days after the Hunter Biden story broke. He said that all they need to do is delete their initial tweets promoting it, which were banned at the time. Then, once they’re reinstated, they can go ahead and tweet about the story under Twitter’s new policy, which calls for labeling posts that rely on possibly hacked materials instead of suppressing them outright. But … if it’s okay for the Post to tweet about the story now, why can’t they just have their account back and have the original tweets stay up?
And if it’s okay to tweet about the Post story now, why was Ted Cruz still having a problem doing so a few hours ago?
18 USC 1621 makes it a felony to lie under oath to the Senate. https://t.co/BDHRB8CEzy
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) October 28, 2020
The problem appears to have finally been fixed after today’s hearing, quite conveniently.
Dorsey was also asked whether he thinks Twitter has the power to influence elections and answered … no. But less than three weeks ago the company announced “[a]dditional steps we’re taking ahead of the 2020 US Election” to make it more difficult for users to amplify misleading information before and after the vote. The point of suppressing the Hunter Biden story was to appease critics who’ve spent the past four years insisting that social media didn’t do enough to restrain Russia misinformation and hacked material like the DNC/Podesta emails published by Wikileaks — that is, to make sure that Twitter can’t influence the presidential election again this time. Dorsey’s team is so eager to correct, or overcorrect, for its possible influence last time that they’re not even waiting for assurance that the Biden laptop materials actually were hacked to try to limit their influence this time.
Because all Senate hearings are sh*tshows, there was also stupidity from the questioners. Here’s Cruz, grandstanding to a degree even he rarely approaches:
.@tedcruz to Twitter's Jack Dorsey: "[Y]ou can censor the @nypost, you can censor @Politico, presumably you can censor the @nytimes… Mr. Dorsey, who the hell elected you & put you in charge of what the media are allowed to report & what the American people are allowed to hear?" pic.twitter.com/fX4DRgbXmC
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) October 28, 2020
Judging from the reaction on conservative social media, it worked. Righties are tossing bouquets at him for asking a business owner “who the hell elected you” and — let me quote exactly — “put you in charge of what the media are allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to hear.”
Did I miss Lord Dorsey’s edict to the media that they’re not allowed to report on the Hunter Biden story? Didn’t Fox News do a primetime interview with Tony Bobulinski just last night?
No one elected the Walton family and put them in charge of what happens inside Walmart stores. No one elected the Sulzbergers and put them in charge of what reporters are allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to read in their own newspaper. They’re business owners. They run their business the way they want to run it, within the bounds of the law. And no, Twitter’s nothing like a monopoly. Not only are they a small part of the total social-media landscape — a dwarf compared to Facebook — they have competition even in their own niche of social media. Why, just ask this guy:
I’m proud to join @parler_app — a platform gets what free speech is all about — and I’m excited to be a part of it. Let’s speak. Let’s speak freely. And let’s end the Silicon Valley censorship. Follow me there @tedcruz! pic.twitter.com/pzUFvhipBZ
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 25, 2020
Dave Burge knows what Dorsey should have said to Cruz:
I'd have a shit-ton more respect for Jack Dorsey if he just said, yes, Twitter is completely biased against Trump, and will continue to block information, true or not, that would help re-elect him, and the First Amendment means there's not a fucking thing you can do about it
— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) October 28, 2020
“They can repeal Section 230!” you might say. Right, that’s Cruz’s and Josh Hawley’s trump card, that these hearings are proper because social media companies like Twitter depend on Congress’s largesse in exempting them from liability for material posted on their platforms by third parties. But here’s a dirty little secret I’ll let you in on before you toss another bouquet Cruz’s way: Neither he, Hawley, nor anyone else have any intention of repealing Section 230. If the GOP were serious about doing that, they would have made an issue of it when they had total control of government. Cruz knows that ending Section 230 would force comment sections across the Internet to close (including ours). To the extent that any remained open, users who seem unusually prone to defaming others — like, say, the president — would be banned straightaway. The Hunter Biden laptop story would be verboten too; the facts simply aren’t certain enough to take a legal risk by publishing it.
The Section 230 hubbub is a con, in other words, and we Republican primary voters are the marks. Slamming Twitter for its thuggish attempt to suppress the Hunter Biden story isn’t a con; they deserve it, and they got enough of it to make them change their minds about it within a few days. But this theatrical nonsense from Cruz about Twitter being “in charge of what the media are allowed to report” is nothing more than an audition for the 2024 primary. He and Hawley have absorbed a key lesson from the Trump era: To get ahead you need to hate whom your base hates and you need to make a big show about it, but you don’t actually need to do anything about it. In that sense, the applause for Cruz today from the base is justified. If a senator’s job in 2020 isn’t to legislate but merely to perform, then why shouldn’t he be cheered for an especially impassioned performance? He did his job!
Meanwhile, the odds of a stimulus deal passing Congress before late January while laid-off workers try to figure out how to keep the lights on are approaching zero. Today’s hearing is thus a sterling demonstration of priorities. If you think Cruz playing to the cheap seats on his side is a better use of the Senate’s time than working something out with the House, good for you. You’re well-suited to politics in 2020.
I’ll leave you with this from Hawley, who also understands what’s needed to succeed in a primary in a post-Trump GOP. And decorum certainly ain’t it.
This level of idiocy confirms the widespread impression that Jack’s primary food source is weed https://t.co/EREVsyKLty
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) October 28, 2020