Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz launched a Commerce Committee investigation into Big Tech last month as House Republicans probe government influence over online speech platforms. On Thursday, the Texas senator followed up with Silicon Valley’s major players to explain their initial responses to congressional inquiries were not adequate.
Cruz, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, launched the GOP probe in the upper chamber with letters to Meta, Google, Twitter, and TikTok requesting information about content regulation.
“As you are well aware, social media companies rely on algorithms to not only moderate content, but also to surface personalized recommendations to users,” Cruz wrote to the four tech giants. “Recommendation systems play an increasingly ubiquitous role in selecting content for individual consumption, including by promoting some content, using product design elements to prominently display recommendations, and downranking or filtering disfavored content and account.”
Cruz highlighted concerns about addiction and exposure to harmful content in particular.
“At their best, recommendations help users discover interesting or relevant content that they might not otherwise find on a platform,” Cruz wrote. “However, recommendation systems can also fuel platform addiction by feeding users an essentially infinite stream of content. This can be especially dangerous when recommendations make it easier for vulnerable users, especially teenagers, to find objectively harmful content, such as content that promotes eating disorders and self-harm.”
Cruz promised viewers on Fox News the investigation would pursue revelations exposed in the “Twitter Files” that brought light to government collusion with Silicon Valley platforms. House Republicans on the Select Weaponization Committee signaled a broader investigation into big tech at their second hearing last week.
“The Senate Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over about half the U.S. economy,” Cruz said. “We are going to take what Elon Musk has made public and use that as a roadmap to go after Facebook, to go after Google, to go after YouTube, to go after TikTok, to go after all of Big Tech that is trying to silence conservatives.”
Cruz followed up with three out of the four corporate tech giants Thursday to demand companies comply with congressional oversight requests sent Feb. 13. TikTok, Meta, and Google each received additional letters from the Texas lawmaker, who admonished the Silicon Valley power players for failure to answer 18 out of 20 questions presented.
“The American people have a vested interest in the policies and practices that govern their speech on large social media platforms,” Cruz wrote to executives of each company. “As content moderation has grown in both scale and complexity, the need for sunlight — particularly on politically-charged moderation questions — has become an imperative.”