Congress’ social media censorship hearing was a complete disaster

Nobody expected great things from the House Judiciary Committee hearing today about social media platforms that censor conservatives. The hearing came shortly after the multi-day session of the Congress with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, where lawmakers asked extensively about the issue. The claims about large-scale censorship are basically unforgeable, and none of the invited technology companies appeared. Everything seemed to be a kind of rostrum for vloggers Lynnette "Diamond" Hardaway and Rochelle "Silk" Richardson, who were invited to the audience along with some policy experts.

But the audience on social networks was not simple or tedious. It was depressing, almost deliriously bad: full of bad arguments, strange tangents and many screams.

Opening statements of the hearing, by President Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY), set the tone for the next few hours. Goodlatte spoke portentously about the power and responsibility of social media platforms, invoking quotes from Ronald Reagan and Mark Zuckerberg. Nadler, the highest ranking Democrat on the committee, was upset. "The central thesis of this hearing does not hold even under the most basic scrutiny," he protested. "This committee can do better."

Republican legislators such as Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) spoke vaguely in favor of bills to make companies "Responsible "of their actions, while admitting that private companies can monitor the platforms as they wish. Some mentioned Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the security rule that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) gravely misinterpreted during Zuckerberg's hearings. Most Democrats wearily dismissed the procedures or asked the panelists questions unrelated to Cambridge Analytica and bot regulation. "This is a stupid and ridiculous audience, the only reason I'm still here is because I want to enter some facts in the registry," said Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA), speaking convincingly to a large part of the committee. .

For Republicans, the day was primarily an excuse to lecture Silicon Valley and praise Hardaway and Richardson, though not always accurately: Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) addressed a question at one point to "Diamond and Spice. " It is not really clear what happened between vloggers and the Facebook policy team, and an analysis from ThinkProgress found that their traffic drops were probably linked to extensive algorithm changes. But the company's letter that called them "unsafe for the community," even if it completely retracted, seems plausibly sinister.

Diamond and Silk raised this complaint to an overwhelming conspiracy in which Mark Zuckerberg interfered in the elections of 2018 (we are not sure which) by manipulating the advertising preferences of conservative users to be the target of liberal advertisements. They proceeded to shout parties with several committee members, as the representatives pressured the couple to receive money from the Trump campaign, something they affirmed under oath that had never happened, before admitting that they had been reimbursed for the tickets. of airplaine. "We can see that you look at false news," Richardson mocked Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), when he read a line from an official finance presentation of the Trump campaign, stating that Diamond and Silk had been paid for consulting. "Are you calling this FEC document false?" Jeffries asked.

Various media have chronicled the false or dubious statements that Diamond and Silk made under oath during the hearing. They are characterized by lying in some stories, and at least, seemed indifferent to be particularly accurate. At one point, Hardaway complained that people said that Facebook was a private company and not a utility company, because "they were made public in 2012," meaning that the company was made public in the stock market.

After almost two and a half hours, the YouTube flow of the Judicial Committee froze, interrupting the end of the hearing. Business Insider journalist Joe Perticone posted a photo of the panelists sitting in front of an almost empty row of desks, saying that only one member of the committee was still listening. The truncated video is now online, along with copies of the panelists' testimony, and we know what we did this morning: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube improperly banned or restricted some conservative material, but there is little evidence that they are simple. Hold conservatives instead of making mistakes in all areas.

Beyond the able testimony of TechFreedom President Berin Szóka, NYU Law professor Ari Waldman and News Media Alliance CEO David Chavern, the best of this audience was a beautiful vision for the future of social networks , delivered by Rep. Lieu:

Ted Lieu: "Let's say you want to write an algorithm that promotes cats." Can the government prevent them from doing that? "

Berin Szóka:" Fortunately not. "

Point:" And let's say that Facebook realizes, you know, promoting cats means there are a lot more people to log in to Facebook than promoting Diamond and silk. Can the government intervene and prevent Facebook from doing that? "

Szóka:" No ".

Point:" And let's say that Twitter realizes, you know, we're going to promote nice and tender images of furry animals instead of dismembered body parts. Can the government say that Can not do that? "

Szóka:" No. "

Mr. Please sponsor a funding bill for this new exclusive service for cats.The world will remember you as a hero.