As the war on conservative voices online reaches fever pitch in the run-up to November’s presidential election, Silicon Valley’s oligarchy finally was called to account Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
“Big Tech is out to get conservatives” Ohio Republican Jim Jordan told the bosses of Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple. “That’s not a suspicion, that’s not a hunch. That’s a fact.”
Then he laid out a litany of censorship atrocities in a blistering opening statement before the congressional antitrust panel.
- Google removing conservative Web site Breitbart from its search results.
- Amazon’s video site Twitch suspending President Trump’s account “after he raises concerns about defunding the police.”
- Facebook removing posts from Trump’s re-election campaign.
- Amazon temporarily banning an e-book critical of coronavirus lockdowns written by conservative commentator Alex Berenson.
- Amazon charity site Amazon Smile “won’t let you give to the [pro-life, pro-marriage] Family Research Council . . . but you can give to Planned Parenthood.”
- Facebook admitting to banning pro-life advertisements in 2018 during Ireland’s abortion referendum.
- Former Facebook employees admitting to Gizmodo that the social-media behemoth routinely suppresses conservative views.
- Google and YouTube censoring content that conflicts with World Health Organization recommendations.
“Think about that,” said Jordan. “They can lie for China. They can shill for China. But you say something against them, you get censored.”
Then of course there is Twitter. CEO Jack Dorsey was absent from the hearing, despite an invitation, but that didn’t stop Jordan from excoriating the social-media giant.
He said Twitter “shadow-banned” four conservative members of Congress two years ago: Jordan and fellow Republicans Matt Gaetz, Devin Nunes and Mark Meadows.
“What did Mr. Dorsey tell us? ‘It was just a glitch in our algorithm’ . . .
“We’ve heard that excuse time and time again.”
Then he listed the times in the past several weeks that Twitter has censored President Trump’s tweets by affixing warning labels to them.
For instance, Twitter labeled as “abusive” a Trump tweet last month that read: “There will never be an “Autonomous Zone” in Washington, D.C., as long as I’m your President. If they try they will be met with serious force!”
While Twitter didn’t appear on Capitol Hill, in Israel’s Knesset, a Twitter spokeswoman during a hearing on anti-Semitism Wednesday was grilled about political bias.
She was asked why tweets from President Trump have been censored but not tweets from Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, calling for the genocide of Jews and the elimination of Israel.
World leaders indulging in “foreign-policy saber-rattling on military and economic issues are generally not in violation of our Twitter rules,” the spokeswoman said.
By contrast, she said Trump’s tweet violated Twitter’s policies “regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line of that tweet and the risk that it could possibly inspire harm.”
Which is clear as mud.
Jordan also pointed out that Khamenei, the leader of the largest state sponsor of terrorism, last week threatened American citizens in a tweet: “The Islamic Republic of Iran will never forget the martyrdom of Haj Qasem Soleimani” — the Iranian general suspected of carrying out terrorist operations who was killed by a targeted drone strike — “and will definitely strike a reciprocal blow to the US.”
There is no warning label affixed to Khamenei’s tweet.
Other highlights of the Capitol Hill hearing were Jordan ripping into Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google parent company Alphabet, about Google’s efforts to help Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
There is ample evidence. A video leaked to Breitbart in 2016, for instance, showed Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page lamenting Trump’s victory at a meeting of Google executives, and vowing not to make the same mistake again.
Brin promised that before the 2020 election Google would be “very vigilant and thinking about all these issues [to see] what we can do to lead to maybe a better quality of governance and decision-making.”
Jordan also cited a 2019 Project Veritas undercover exposé in which Google executives explained how they planned to undermine Trump and influence the 2016 election.
Jordan asked Pichai Wednesday about a 2016 e-mail from the head of multicultural marketing to Google execs referring to a “silent donation” the company had made to the Clinton campaign “and you applauded her work,” the Ohio congressman said.
“Can you assure Americans today you won’t tailor your features to help Joe Biden in the upcoming election?” Jordan asked.
Pichai denied any partisanship and said he and the company “support both campaigns today.” But eventually he offered a “commitment” to fairness.
Gaetz, a Florida Republican, was equally savage with Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg. Gaetz asked why the CEO fired virtual-reality wunderkind and Facebook exec Palmer Luckey, who during the 2016 election cycle had donated $10,000 to an anti-Hillary Clinton group.
“When you fire people as a consequence of their politics, do you think that impacts the culture and perhaps empowers some of the content moderators to also treat people worse as a consequence of their politics?”
Zuckerberg denied the charge, but Gaetz replied: “I’ve seen the messages where you have specifically directed Mr. Luckey to make statements regarding his politics to the benefit of your company . . .
“There is a serious question as to whether or not you are giving truthful testimony here or whether you’re lying to Congress.”
Maybe the tech giants have reasonable excuses for each incident of censorship and bias, but taken together there is a pattern of conduct which leads to the inescapable conclusion that they are in the business of trying to rig elections.
They must be brought to heel.
Save humans not sharks!
The shark attack that killed New York mom Julie Dimperio Holowach off the Maine coast this week has been described as “incredibly rare,” bad luck and due to a population explosion of seals.
All of which may be true, but what is not mentioned is that the global population of killer great whites also has been exploding in the 16 years since they were designated a protected species, to the detriment of humans.
An indication of the growing aggression of these apex predators came in Australia earlier this month when a great white leaped out of the water and snatched a 10-year-old boy from a fishing boat. The child survived only because his father jumped into the water to save him.
With six fatalities already this year, compared to just two in 2015, shark attacks in Australia have increased to the point of causing economic damage to coastal towns as tourists stay away.
Shark conservationists blame the victim for being in the shark’s territory but surely human life takes priority.
Great whites were protected in 2004 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. At the time, Japan opposed the move, saying there was zero evidence the shark numbers were in peril and warning that “overprotection” posed a risk to humans.
Let’s hope Holowach, 63, is the last great white victim on the East Coast but the Australian experience advises caution.
If there is one person to blame for the shabby, spiteful tone suffusing Congress, it is Nancy Pelosi.
She was at it again this week after her Capitol Hill colleagues’ boorish questioning of Bill Barr, indulging in her favorite sport of fattism.
“He was like a blob,” the House Speaker told MSNBC Tuesday, her face writhing with distaste, after the unflappable attorney general made a meal out of House Dems.
It’s not the first time Pelosi, 80, has insulted an opponent’s weight. A couple of months ago she snarked that the president was “morbidly obese.”
There are plenty of unflattering comments Barr could make about Pelosi’s appearance, not to mention her rectitude and intellect, but he’s too much of a gentleman.
For all her faux gentility, Pelosi sets the tone for her party.
While she constantly lambastes President Trump for indecorous behavior, she has done more than anyone to erode the norms of civility that used to define Congress.
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