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Huizenga, Big Tech Task Force Call on New Twitter CEO to End Censorship of Conservatives

Yesterday, Congressman Bill Huizenga (R-MI), a member of the Republican Big Tech, Censorship and Data Task Force, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Chairwoman of the task force, and Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (R-NY) released a letter sent to Twitter Chief Executive Officer Parag Agrawal pressing him to clarify how he will end censorship of conservatives, uphold the First Amendment, and ensure the company does not interfere in future elections.

“Censoring of conservatives on social media platforms poses a serious threat to free speech in the public square and the First Amendment rights of all Americans,” said Congressman Bill Huizenga. “A double standard clearly exists in how Twitter applies its rules to Americans with a conservative viewpoint. While Americans are silenced, officials in places such as Iran and China, where the platform is banned, are permitted to repeatedly violate Twitter’s standards and practices. If Twitter is unwilling to equally apply its standards, perhaps it should no longer be afforded the liability protections it currently enjoys under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.”

“We need transparency from Big Tech. We need open dialogue to ensure people have access to reliable information, said Big Tech Task Force Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). We need these companies to cherish free speech – not attack it. Censoring Americans is not the American way.” 

“Twitter’s track record of censoring conservatives on its platform while providing free reign to the Supreme Leader of Iran and Chinese government officials, who ban the platform in their own countries, demonstrates a clear failure of leadership and accountability,” said Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (R-NY). As a member of the Republican Big Tech, Censorship, and Data Task Force, I am seeking answers from Twitter’s new CEO and hope he will take this opportunity to be transparent in explaining how he will ensure that free speech is protected in the digital public square. Nameless big tech censors cannot continue to trample our First Amendment rights while hiding behind special legal immunities.” 

Complete text of the letter is below and a signed copy can be found here.

Dear Mr. Agrawal:

            We are hopeful that your ascent to the position of CEO will turn a new page at Twitter, which has been marred by acts of censorship, particularly when it comes to individuals and entities with conservative viewpoints. Such examples include the de-platforming of a sitting U.S. President, suspending the New York Post’s official account for reporting on then-Democrat nominee Joe Biden’s son’s scandals shortly before the election, and censoring many other conservative voices, while not applying the same standards to liberal-progressive content. It is also worth noting that while conservative content is being banned or otherwise censored, brutal and anti-Semitic despots like Iran’s Supreme Leader continue to find a home on Twitter.

Your transition is an opportunity to right the ship. However, your past comments raise serious questions regarding your interest in re-opening the platform you lead to free expression. On the issue of censorship, you noted in an interview last year that Twitter should, “focus less on thinking about free speech.”[1] We found this to be deeply disappointing and troubling. The free exchange of ideas is one of the most foundational aspects of our Constitutional Republic. In our modern age, in which social media and other internet companies serve as the gatekeepers of the digital public square, these liberties must be respected by both our corporate and governmental institutions. While the First Amendment does not bind your decisions, the principle of preserving free speech should. Platforms like Twitter should allow Americans to engage with a diversity of ideas no matter whether or not those viewpoints are shared by Silicon Valley corporate elites.

As you know, Twitter enjoys liability protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Unfortunately, Twitter has abused these privileges time and again. Despite your past comments supporting censorship, we remain hopeful that your time leading Twitter will be spent working to uphold the ideals that made your platform’s success possible and that have made our country the most prosperous in the world.

Accordingly, please answer the following questions about Twitter’s commitment under your leadership to upholding free speech by December 30, 2021:

1.     Will you commit to applying your content policies fairly, no matter the political leaning of the speaker on your platform? If no, why not?

2.     What is your plan to avoid the past mistakes made by Twitter in censoring conservative voices and causes?

3.     How do you plan to use Twitter’s role as an important cultural institution to uphold the spirit and principle of the First Amendment?

4.     In light of how Twitter influenced the 2020 presidential election, what changes to your policies do you intend to make to ensure Twitter remains neutral in future elections?

After providing written responses, please make arrangements to schedule a briefing for staff of the undersigned. If you have any questions, please contact Haim Engelman or Bijan Koohmaraie. Thank you for your attention to this request.

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