Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told Sam Harris during a podcast last year, “I don’t believe that we can afford to take a neutral stance anymore.”
It was a curious remark, given that the basic idea behind Twitter and other social media companies is that third-party users can post content to a neutral platform. It’s a big reason why such companies get special protection from liability under federal law.
But now we know what Dorsey meant. He meant that Twitter is not going to be a neutral platform anymore, if it ever was to begin with. He meant that he’s going to use the immense power and reach of Twitter to influence the presidential election by doing all he can to help his preferred candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, win the White House. He meant, in other words, that Twitter was going to become an openly partisan political organization and stop pretending to be a neutral platform for third parties.
We also know that in practice that means banning media outlets that post stories critical of Biden. What began Wednesday with both Twitter and Facebook censoring the New York Post’s blockbuster story about Joe Biden’s son Hunter peddling his influence and access all over the world has turned into a thoroughgoing blackout not just of the Post but of any institution or prominent individual who references or links to the Post story.
On Thursday morning, Twitter blocked another Post report on Hunter Biden’s efforts to sell his family connections to a major Chinese energy firm. Sen. Ted Cruz, among others, pointed out that when they tried to share the story, this is what they got:
TODAY, blocking links to ANOTHER NYPost story alleging Hunter Biden sold access to communist China for millions. I just tried to share that story. Here’s Twitter’s response 👇 pic.twitter.com/NZpw4gmcb2
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) October 15, 2020
In the space of about 24 hours, Twitter has not just blacked out hugely important reporting from a major media outlet, it has censored or suspended the accounts of White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, the Trump campaign’s official account, and the account for House Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan, which published the Post story on its own website to get around Twitter’s censorship, prompting Twitter to block a link to the committee’s webpage.
Let that sink in. Twitter is blocking links to U.S. House of Representatives servers for hosting links to the Post’s bombshell story on Hunter Biden.
What that means is that Jack Dorsey is, quite literally, an enemy of the people and an enemy of the free press.
Facebook Is Also an Enemy of the Free Press
It’s not just Dorsey and Twitter, of course. Facebook is just as guilty of trying to influence the election by blocking access to the Post’s reporting on the Biden family. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has expended much effort to make his company appear more neutral than Twitter and portray it as a more welcoming place for the free exchange of ideas, even saying last year that Facebook would not censor political ads.
But of course, Facebook went right along with Twitter in blocking the Post’s Biden story under the ludicrous pretext that it needed to be “fact-checked” by the company’s third-party fact-checkers. The decision was announced Wednesday by Facebook’s policy communications director Andy Stone, a former Democratic congressional and campaign staffer who worked for Sens. Barbara Boxer and John Kerry.
And who are these third-party fact-checkers? I assure you, you have never heard of them. Earlier this week, Facebook blocked a rather straightforward Federalist writeup of a Centers for Disease Control report that found the majority of those who got the coronavirus wore masks. The report itself is somewhat unsurprising, since the vast majority of Americans are in fact wearing masks, but the report itself isn’t important here.
What’s important is that Facebook blocked our post after having it “fact-checked,” then told us it could not overturn the fact-check because it doesn’t want to be an arbiter of truth, and that we have to file an appeal with the independent fact-checker.
And who is that? It’s some group no one has ever heard of called Healthfeedback.org. It has no point of contact and lists no email addresses on its website, only a generic “contact us” form.
Never mind that what Healthfeedback.org actually posted about the CDC report was simply a blanket “fact-check” against any criticism of masks, and that our piece never made the claim that the “fact-check” purported to address.
The real scandal here is that this bizarre, no-name website with enormous power to banish content from Facebook has no point of contact. We know nothing about what standard it had to meet to gain this power and no way even to communicate with the people who made this decision.
But this is the new normal. We’ve now entered a new era of Big Tech in which social media companies like Twitter and Facebook are active partisan players in national elections, much like the mainstream media has been for some time now. This isn’t just routine enforcement of some boilerplate social media “community guidelines.” This is electioneering at a high level, likely with real-world consequences.
As this column goes to press, news is breaking that Sens. Cruz, Lindsey Graham, and Josh Hawley plan to subpoena Dorsey and possibly Facebook for censoring the Post’s Biden story.
Good. It’s time to hold Big Tech accountable and recognize, at long last, that they aren’t neutral platforms, they’re enemies of the American people. And right now they are trying to interfere in our presidential election.