WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) spoke on the Senate floor to advocate for free speech and call attention to the censorship of conservative voices on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
To watch Senator Blackburn’s speech, click below or here.
You can read the transcript recorded in the Congressional Records below or click here.
MRS. BLACKBURN: Mr. President, I think everyone has been watching a
lot of news lately, and I will tell you I have talked to some
Tennesseeans this weekend who feel like they can tell that the
journalists working at our mainstream media outlets are getting
frustrated by how much pressure we are putting on big tech companies
like Facebook, Twitter, and Google. But, you know, we are putting
pressure on them. It is important for them to be in their lanes. It is
important that if they are going to be news sources, that they do
something like hire a news director.
I think they have fallen into the same trap that a lot of people fall
into when a story dominates the headlines for awhile, and then it
doesn't resolve itself quickly. You know, they get pretty sick of
hearing about it. They saw the initial reports of censorship, bias, and
antitrust concerns. They didn't feel that personal sense of outrage
about what was happening and either checked out of the conversation or
let their frustration breed resentment against those who would very
much like for their tweets to stay put.
But they knew something was going on out there that made them a
little bit uneasy. They were hearing about censorship. They were
hearing about blocking and throttling and shadow banning, and, you
know, they were a little unsettled by lack of privacy and data mining and data
But we shouldn't use these basic notions of privacy, security, and
open debate as a political football. These are, indeed, universal
concerns that anyone who owns a smartphone, uses social media, or uses
search engines really should care about. And, yes, people are right to
feel a little bit uneasy about what is going on in the virtual space.
Why shouldn't we be allowed to ask powerful tech CEOs questions about
what is going on behind the scenes?
We had a hearing in the Commerce Committee a couple of weeks ago--a
few weeks ago, just prior to the election. Chairman Wicker was in
charge of that hearing, and people listened and thought: Why won't they
answer the question? Why don't they admit that they are data mining?
Why don't they admit their advertising practices? We click onto our
search engines, and suddenly our screen populates with things that we
have recently searched and things we have been talking about.
So we have another hearing that is coming up tomorrow at the
Judiciary Committee. We are going to receive testimony from Facebook
CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey about their now
infamous censoring and throttling of the New York Post's social media
accounts, their blocking of a story that was relevant to the American
people and to the election process.
Now, keep in mind, this wasn't some conspiracy site or some anonymous
blog known for posting hacked information or stories that are extreme.
This was the New York Post, a trusted source in news here in the United
States since 1801, when it was founded by none other than Alexander
Hamilton. It is not sensationalism. It is news brought to you as a
trusted source since 1801.
And you are probably thinking, that has been around for awhile. And,
yes, indeed it has. It is America's oldest continuously published
newspaper. But, apparently, random fact checkers 3,000 miles away,
sitting in their posh environs in the Silicon Valley, decided that the
Post editors' time-tested vetting processes simply were not good enough
for them. They think they know better. They think they are smarter than
everyone else. They think--since they control and have power in the
virtual space, they think they get to play God. They think they can
determine what qualifies as free speech.
Now, I have spoken before at length about why this is a problem, and
right now I want to focus on what happened on the other side of that
The Post fought both Facebook and Twitter on this content moderation
decision. They questioned it. They demanded answers. And after enormous
pressure, both from the Post and in the public square, both Facebook
and Twitter eventually walked back their moderation decisions and
allowed their users to share this article. That they decided to censor
the Post is bad enough; that they couldn't even cite a policy that they
could back up their decision under pressure is even worse. They
couldn't tell you why they took it down, what it violated in their
community standards, and what they violated in their terms of service.
They did not know.
What did they know? What they did know was that they were on Joe
Biden's team. They wanted him to win, so they took issue with anything
that they did not agree with. It did not fit their narrative.
Big Tech companies like Facebook and Twitter have an enormous amount
of control over the flow of information. They were designed to be this
way from the beginning. Millions of Americans used their feeds as a
main source of news updates.
Bear in mind, the internet is a title I function of the 1996
Telecommunications Act--a title I. It is an information service. It is
not a telecommunications service. It is not a news service.
This is something. It is a wonderful resource that should be the
public square but only as long as you can count on it to put factual
information in the pipeline, to not censor, and to not take sides.
This is why Americans have so many questions about how the companies
make their content moderation decisions, and this is why the Judiciary
Committee will hold this hearing tomorrow. If either of their companies
had been able to come to the table with a simple, defensible
explanation of why they chose to censor the New York Post, I don't
think they would be in the position they are in right now. But they had
no explanation. They didn't repent. They did cave, eventually, but they
could not explain why they blocked it.
Mr. Zuckerberg and Mr. Dorsey are competent CEOs who know their
businesses inside and out, and it is time for them to get down to the
nitty-gritty and explain what happened. How is it that their content
moderation practices are still so full of holes as to allow a content
moderator--a single individual--to put their opinion in front of a
post, to panic and blacklist an admittedly sensational but certainly
newsworthy story without any evidence that it contained misinformation
or hacked information or false or defamatory information? They did it
because they could. They just did not like the story.
The ensuing scramble to walk back that decision is an indictment of
their internal moderation processes. Whether it is algorithms or
individuals, it is subjective.
The people who are responsible for this owe us answers, and we hope
the hearing tomorrow will help lead to those answers.
It bears repeating that these companies are not just entertainment or
social media companies. They have an inordinate amount of control over
the flow of information, and because of this, they control what we see,
what we hear, even what we say, and, thereby, what we think and how we
I yield the floor.