Sen. Ted Cruz clashed with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey over the social media platform’s restriction of news stories involving Hunter Biden’s emails that reflect poorly on the presidential campaign of his father, Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden.
At a Senate hearing on Wednesday, the Texas Republican accused the social media executive of attempting to force media outlets such as the New York Post to conform to Twitter’s policy preferences in order to publish content online.
“Mr. Dorsey, who the hell elected you and put you in charge of what the media are allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to hear?” Mr. Cruz asked. “And why do you persist in behaving as a Democratic super PAC, silencing views to the contrary of your political beliefs?”
“We’re not doing that,” Mr. Dorsey answered.
Earlier this month, Twitter prevented users from sharing New York Post articles involving Hunter Biden or sending the news articles via Twitter direct message. Mr. Cruz said Wednesday that he viewed the restrictions as aimed at limiting the press’ ability to report news and information.
“The New York Post has the fourth-highest circulation of any newspaper in America. The New York Post is 200 years old. The New York Post was founded by Alexander Hamilton. And your position is that you can sit in Silicon Valley and demand that the media, that you can tell them what stories they can publish? You can tell the American people what reporting they can hear? Is that right?” Mr. Cruz asked.
“No,” Mr. Dorsey answered. “This was, every person, every account, every organization that signs up to Twitter agrees to a terms of service. A terms of service is published.”
Mr. Dorsey told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation that his company believed the New York Post articles violated its hacked materials policy, which he said he thought was first implemented in 2018.
“We didn’t want Twitter to be a distributor for hacked materials,” Mr. Dorsey said. “We found that the New York Post, because it showed the direct materials, screenshots of the direct materials, and it was unclear how those were obtained, that it fell under this policy.”
Mr. Cruz accused Twitter of hypocrisy and pressed Mr. Dorsey on why Twitter did not block the distribution of a New York Times story that he said “purported to be based on copies of President Trump’s tax returns.” Mr. Dorsey responded that the Times’ reporting did not violate the company’s policies.
“We didn’t find that a violation of our terms of service and this policy in particular because it was reporting about the material,” Mr. Dorsey said. “It wasn’t distributing the material.”
“They posted what they purported to be original source materials and federal law, federal statute makes it a crime, a federal felony, to distribute someone’s tax returns against their knowledge,” Mr. Cruz said. “So that material was based on something that was distributed in violation of federal law and yet Twitter gleefully allowed people to circulate that but when the article was critical of Joe Biden, Twitter engaged in rampant censorship and silencing.”
Mr. Dorsey responded by saying that the company had recognized errors in its policy and began changing its policy within 24 hours.
Mr. Cruz continued to dispute Mr. Dorsey’s version of events and noted that the New York Post remained unable to tweet. Mr. Dorsey noted that if the Post’s Twitter account deleted certain tweets, then its full functionality would be restored.
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