Senator Ted Cruz on Tuesday blasted Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey over his company’s censorship of an exposé published by The Post that implicated President-elect Joe Biden in his son Hunter Biden’s business deals in China and Ukraine.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey denied that the company acts as a publisher when it selectively censors distribution of news stories — including The Post’s reporting last month on a Hunter Biden hard drive.
Sen. Ted Cruz said uneven enforcement of a “hacked materials” policy makes clear the company is indeed behaving like a publisher.
“Is Twitter a publisher? No, we are not. We distribute information,” Dorsey told Cruz (R-Texas), who pressed him at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on why Twitter censored The Post’s articles on Hunter Biden.
Dorsey claimed without evidence the source material was hacked, but did not shut down the New York Times’s recent report on alleged tax returns for President Trump.
“Your policies are applied in a partisan and selective manner,” Cruz said. “You claim it was hacked materials and yet you didn’t block the distribution of the New York Times story that alleged to talk about President Trump’s tax returns, even though a federal statute makes it a crime to distribute someone’s tax returns without their consent. You didn’t block any of that discussion, did you?”
Dorsey said, “in the New York Times case, we interpreted it as reporting about the hacked materials.”
Cruz noted that Twitter also did not prevent distribution of articles based on documents leaked in 2013 by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
The Texas senator noted that censorship of The Post’s Hunter Biden reporting extended to other journalists who circulated The Post’s stories — including locking accounts until reporters deleted tweets linking to the stories.
“Were you being a publisher when you force Politico and other journalistic outlets to take down their tweets on a topic that you had deemed impermissible?” Cruz asked.
“No, we were enforcing our policy and our terms of service,” Dorsey said.
A Delaware computer repairman provided the Hunter Biden hard drive to The Post via Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani. The repairman, whose identity The Post confirmed before publication, provided documentation of a contract that said Hunter Biden would legally abandon the hard drive if he failed to pick it up within 90 days. Hunter Biden has not denied owning the laptop or providing it to the store.
Dorsey told Cruz a publisher is “an entity that is publishing under editorial guidelines and decisions” — but Cruz said that definition doesn’t square with the definition within Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a foundational internet law that shields companies that host third-party content.
Supporters of reforming Section 230 say tech giants should lose protections if they operate as a publisher rather than as a neutral platform.
In a previous hearing in October, Cruz grilled Dorsey over the same issue of selective enforcement of the platforms terms of service and censorship.
“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?” Cruz thundered at the social-media mogul. “Why do you persist in behaving as a Democratic super PAC, silencing views to the contrary of your political beliefs?”
Cruz drew a sharp distinction between Twitter striking down a fringe social-media voice and a major news outlet like The Post.
“Let’s be clear: The New York Post isn’t just some random guy tweeting. 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,” he scolded Dorsey.
“And your position is that you can sit in Silicon Valley and that you can tell them what stories they can publish, and you can tell the American people what reporting they can hear, is that right?”
Dorsey again cited Twitter’s since-amended “hacked materials” policy as the impetus for the original takedown, despite The Post clearly spelling out in its stories that the documents were sourced from a laptop that formerly belonged to Hunter Biden.
“We didn’t want Twitter to be a distributor for hacked materials,” he claimed. “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.”
Cruz blasted Dorsey for erring on the side of censorship.
“They [The Post] weren’t hiding what they claimed to be the source,” the lawmaker said. “Is it your position that Twitter, when you can’t tell the source, blocks press stories?”
“No, not at all,” Dorsey responded. “Our team made a fast decision. The enforcement action, however, of blocking URLs, both in tweets and in DMs — in direct messages — we believe was incorrect, and we changed it.”
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