Senate Republicans vote to subpoena Facebook and Twitter CEOs about alleged censorship

  • Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to authorize subpoenas for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to testify about their handling of a recent unverified New York Post article about former Vice President Joe Biden's son.
  • Twelve Republicans on the committee voted to authorize the subpoenas and ten Democrats sat out the markup in a protest of the session's earlier vote on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
  • Zuckerberg and Dorsey are already set to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee next week alongside Google CEO Sundar Pichai about alleged bias and privacy matters.

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to authorize subpoenas for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to testify about their handling of a recent unverified New York Post article about former Vice President Joe Biden's son.

Twelve Republicans on the committee voted to authorize the subpoenas and ten Democrats sat out the markup in a protest of the session's earlier vote on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Zuckerberg and Dorsey are already set to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee next week alongside Google CEO Sundar Pichai about alleged bias and privacy matters.

The Judiciary Committee voted to compel the CEOs to testify about their "suppression and/or censorship" of two recent New York Post articles involving unverified allegations about emails supposedly taken from a computer belonging to the Democratic presidential nominee's son, Hunter Biden. The initial story alleged the younger Biden attempted to introduce a top executive at a Ukraine company he worked for to his father while he was serving as VP. The Democratic nominee has called the story a "smear."

Facebook and Twitter took very different approaches to moderating the article, which contained unredacted email addresses in documents included in the story.

A Facebook spokesperson said shortly after the article gained steam that it was subject to a fact-check review and in the meantime would have its distribution reduced. Users could still share the story, but it would not get a boost from the algorithm.

Twitter, on the other hand, initially blocked users from posting or sharing the story in direct messages. The company said it made the decision under its hacked material and private information policies since the story contained personal contact information and material allegedly taken from a laptop without the owner's consent. Users could still share articles commenting on the piece as long as it did not contain the allegedly hacked or personal information.

The responses caused quick fury from conservatives, who have long accused the companies of suppressing their viewpoints, even as stories from conservative outlets often top viewership on the platforms. Dorsey later said Twitter's communication about its actions was "unacceptable" and the company eventually allowed the story to be posted since it had been so widely shared already.

The motion for a subpoena also asks the CEOs to testify about "any other content moderation policies, practices, or actions that may interfere with or influence elections for federal office" as well as other recent decisions to reduce distribution or block posts from their services.

Andrew Bates, spokesman for the Biden campaign, responded to the New York Post's story in a statement:

"Investigations by the press, during impeachment, and even by two Republican-led Senate committees whose work was decried as 'not legitimate' and political by a GOP colleague have all reached the same conclusion: that Joe Biden carried out official U.S. policy toward Ukraine and engaged in no wrongdoing. Trump Administration officials have attested to these facts under oath," Bates said.

"The New York Post never asked the Biden campaign about the critical elements of this story," he added. "They certainly never raised that Rudy Giuliani — whose discredited conspiracy theories and alliance with figures connected to Russian intelligence have been widely reported — claimed to have such materials.

"Moreover, we have reviewed Joe Biden's official schedules from the time and no meeting, as alleged by the New York Post, ever took place."

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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