First, conservatives are working the refs. If conservatives put media executives on their heels, constantly defending themselves or excusing themselves or apologizing for misunderstandings, then these companies are likely to bend toward conservatives out of fear or just exhaustion. This strategy has succeeded before. The liberal media critic Eric Alterman has documented campaigns in the 1990s and early 2000s that resulted in mainstream outlets like The New York Times pushing unjustified right-wing causes like the Whitewater investigation and the invasion of Iraq.

Working the refs is still effective. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter are not wise enough to understand what’s happening. So both Facebook and Twitter have allowed themselves to be worked. Platforms do make some intentional decisions to moderate the content that appears on their websites. But Facebook, Twitter, and Google staff try to do so based on principles and standards that they agonize over. Calls to violence or gender-based harassment should not be considered expressions of political ideology. More often than not, these companies under-filter hate speech because they have such strong concern for free speech. Far from rushing to suspend even conspiracy slingers and hatemongers like Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopoulos, executives at Facebook and Twitter hemmed and hawed for years about whether to enforce their own terms of service.

Surely Cruz and Hawley don’t mean to make Alex Jones’s cause their cause, right? If they did, they’d be equating American conservatism with ethno-nationalist trolling and loony fantasies like Pizzagate.