Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, was under pressure on Tuesday, Nov.17, as he appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions, and got into a heated exchange.
Dorsey, complete with bushranger style beard and nose ring, came up against Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, who questioned whether Twitter considered itself a publisher.
Cruz asked Dorsey, “Is Twitter a publisher? No, we are not. We distribute information,” Dorsey said.
When asked to define “publisher,” Dorsey replied, “An entity that is publishing under editorial guidelines and decisions.”
Cruz then pushed home the point that by Dorsey’s admission, Twitter had taken on a publisher’s role when it censored the New York Post in October on several articles about Hunter Biden. However, it permitted the distribution of President Trump’s leaked tax returns printed in the New York Times.
“In the New York Times case, we interpreted it as reporting about the hacked materials,” Dorsey said.
He defended the Twitter decision to block the Biden articles, pursuant to a 2018 policy against disseminating hacked materials, reports JustTheNews.
“We made a quick interpretation using no other evidence that the materials in the article were obtained through hacking, and according to our policy, we blocked them from being spread,” Dorsey said in his testimony.”Upon further consideration, we admitted this action was wrong and corrected it within 24 hours.”
Cruz pressed the point, “So Mr. Dorsey, your ability is you have the power to force a media outlet—let’s be clear, The New York Post isn’t just some random guy tweeting,” he said, continuing: “The New York Post has the fourth-highest circulation of any newspaper in America. The New York Post is over 200 years old, founded by Alexander Hamilton. And your position is that you can sit in Silicon Valley and demand the media, that you can tell them what stories they can publish, and you can tell the American people what reporting they can hear.”
Twitter has also put up voter fraud disclaimers on numerous posts, and Cruz was scathing in his questioning.
“Mr. Dorsey, does voter fraud exist?” Cruz asked.
“I don’t know for certain,” Dorsey said.
“Are you an expert on voter fraud?” Cruz asked.
“No, I am not,” Dorsey said.
“Well, why then is Twitter right now putting purported warnings on virtually any statement about voter fraud?” Cruz asked.
“We’re simply linking to broader conversations that people have more information,” Dorsey said.
“No, you’re not. You’ve put up a page that says ‘voter fraud of any kind is exceedingly rare in the United States,’” said Cruz, holding up a printout of Twitter’s disclaimer.
“That’s not linking to a broader conversation, that’s taking a disputed policy position, and you’re a publisher when you do that.”
“You’re entitled to take a policy position, but you don’t get to pretend you’re not a publisher and get a special benefit under Section 230 as a result,” he added.
In October, during the Commerce Committee hearing, Cruz had asked Dorsey if he considered Twitter capable of influencing the elections.
Dorsey replied, “No, we are one part of a spectrum of communication channels that people have.”