Wicker Calls Out Big Tech After Silencing Conservative Users

January 15, 2021

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today sent letters to Big Tech CEOs Sundar Pichai, Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, Jeff Bezos, and Tim Cook seeking detailed information regarding decisions to restrict or permanently ban accounts of conservative users, content, or public figures on social media platforms.

Excerpt from the letters to Big Tech CEOs:

In the wake of the fatal attack on the U.S. Capitol last week, social media companies made a series of decisions to restrict the use of their platforms and access to content. Although these decisions were initially targeted at preventing further violence, the restrictions expanded in the following days. The result was thousands of conservative users’ accounts and content being restricted or permanently removed from platforms and an entire platform being denied hosting services, causing it to shut down operations temporarily.

In October, you appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee to discuss Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, concerns around politically motivated censorship, and legislative proposals that would increase transparency and accountability. I am concerned that recent actions taken by your company only highlight the need for an update to the special liability protections afforded by Section 230. The current framework of Section 230 has shielded massive technology companies from any consequences for failing to protect the American tradition of free speech.

The opaque decision-making and denial of access to numerous users by companies like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, primarily targeted at conservative accounts and content, merit additional scrutiny. Americans deserve transparency and accountability for what appears to be politically biased censorship—silencing the voices of users and public figures alike. Accordingly, I request that you please provide detailed information in response to the questions below.

  1. YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter recently took actions in what appeared to be a series of closely timed decisions.  Did your company or employees coordinate or otherwise consult with the other platforms regarding restrictions or permanent bans on the accounts of any conservative users, content, or public figures? If so, how?
  2. What was the decision-making process around the removal or restriction of such accounts on your platform? Was this process consistent with your existing terms of service, community standards, or guidelines for the removal or restriction of accounts?
  3. What was the timeline for deciding to remove or restrict such accounts? Did you approve of those decisions at the time actions were taken?

Click here for the full letters.