In testimony before a congressional committee, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey denied any political bias against conservatives and Republicans on their platform. Yet Twitter’s legal and policy chief Vijaya Gadde told Politico that while the company offers leeway for world leaders because their statements are so newsworthy, that “is not a blanket exception for the president or anyone else.”
Dorsey was testifying along with other tech giants, Google and Facebook, at Senate investigations into alleged meddling in the 2016 elections, particularly the presidential elections. The House of Representatives is investigating charges of political bias. Dorsey said that Robert Mueller, the special counsel who is examining evidence of alleged Russian government meddling in the last elections, has been in contact with Twitter, but he refused to be more specific.
Trump has said that Twitter, Facebook, and Google are politically biased, and these social-media platforms are “treading on very, very troubled territory and they have to be careful.”
Dorsey only agreed to testify after committee staffers threatened a subpoena. He told the committee that Twitter did not intentionally slant its platform against conservatives or any other political affiliation or group. He rejected the charge that they were censoring certain content. “I don’t know why they [Republican leaders in Congress and the president] are repeating it, but for our part, we can do a better job of explaining our principles.”
Dorsey added, “And anytime we recognize mistakes, we’ve been fairly vocal about it, and then correcting. So that’s what we’re going to focus on.”
Some have suggested that Twitter and other Internet companies are like public utilities, such as power companies, and should be subject to government regulation. Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have publicly said that they are considering altering Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which gives the tech giants legal immunity from what is posted on its site by the general public.
Dorsey disagreed, arguing that the present law has allowed the Internet economy to grow, saying that tech start-ups would cease otherwise. Congress has already passed a bill, which Trump signed into law, that is intended to roll back online sex trafficking. Internet companies fear that set a precedent for additional legal curbs.
Charges of political bias raise the likelihood of sympathy for additional regulations. Dorsey said that an article by the Wall Street Journal claiming he was personally involved in any decision to keep Alex Jones, a colorful commentator to be sure, and Richard Spencer, a white supremacist, on or off the site was not true.
Some have tried to argue that some of Trump’s tweets violate the terms of service of Twitter — such as its refusal to run threats of violence. They cite examples such as when Trump tweeted in July that Iran President Hassan Rouhani of Iran should “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.” Twitter subsequently explained that they are reluctant to bar any world leader from its site, because that “would hide important information people should be able to see and debate.”
Dorsey responded to a congressional query as to whether he would ever remove Trump. “We have to balance it with the context that it’s in. So, my role is to ask questions and make sure we’re being impartial, and we’re upholding consistently our terms of service, including public interest.”
Were Twitter to actually ban the president of the United States, the outrage would be enormous, and would certainly energize Trump’s base. As it stands now, the bias against Trump in the mainstream media is overwhelmingly negative. All one has to do is turn on a computer and receive a steady diet from Google, Yahoo, AOL, and others of “stories” that are full of vitriol against Trump. Late night “comedians” such as Stephen Colbert devote their opening monologues to vicious “jokes” about him. Even athletic shoe and athletic apparel manufacturing executives seem determined to risk profits to advance a leftist political viewpoint. Popular entertainers and sports stars make so many critical remarks about Trump that it can hardly be classified as “news,” since there is nothing “new” about it.
Trump supporters often resort to social media as a way of striking back at the clear bias against the president in the media. If Twitter — not to mention Facebook and Google, which runs YouTube — opt to censor conservative tweets and posts, then it should not be surprising for Trump’s fans to believe tech giants are just the willing tools of the liberal establishment.
Image of Jack Dorsey: Screenshot of CSPAN video