Republicans Invite Parler’s CEO to Weigh in on Bipartisan Antitrust Probe of Big Tech

Updated: 2020-07-10 20:30:21

House Republicans have asked the head of a new “non-biased free speech” social media company to weigh in on the House Judiciary Committee’s bipartisan antitrust investigation into social media and tech giants Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Google.

Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) sent a letter on Wednesday afternoon to John Matze, the CEO of upcoming social media competitor Parler, asking him to share the company’s’ values and “competitive practices.”

“As the Committee continues to evaluate the size, competitiveness, and role of social media companies in our society, the perspective of Parler would significantly inform and advance the Committee’s work,” the letter starts. “At a time and in a medium that are mutually convenient, we ask that you arrange to provide the Committee with Parler’s views on the value it offers to consumers, its competitive practices, and how it views the state of competition in social media.”

Parler has marketed itself as an advocate of the first amendment, and an alternative to Twitter. A number of well-known conservatives have joined Parler, including Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

“I will be on PARLER celebrating Independence Day with the rest of the patriots!” Nunes wrote in a tweet on Independence Day.

“Parler advertises itself as an alternative to social networks, such as Twitter, that aggressively—and discriminatorily—censor their users’ speech,” the letter states. “While Parler does have rules and policies concerning the use of its platform by users, you have said that Parler is ‘a public square’ that does not ‘censor or editorialize’ and that ‘only . . . weed[s] out . . . pornography, threats of violence against someone, and obscene material,’” the letter continues.

The two Congressman on Wednesday also sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey asking for documents, including explanations of all content moderating decisions made in the United States over the last year and internal communications about how decisions are made to fact-check and apply warnings to President Donald Trump’s tweets.

Republicans and other conservatives have long argued that Twitter censors their comments, which Twitter denies. The network has barred a number of conservative accounts for allegedly violating its terms of service.

“Twitter, Inc., a market leader in online social networking, has increasingly exerted editorial control over the accounts of prominent conservative users, including President Donald Trump,” the letter states. “Twitter has manipulated user-generated information with so-called ‘fact checks,’ censored user-generated information, and even blocked some user-generated information altogether.”

On the other hand, conservatives argue, Twitter does not censor left-leaning users.

The GOP lawmakers’ letters to the heads of social media companies come ahead of the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust hearing with the CEOs of Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google parent company Alphabet. The hearing could change the laws governing these giants.

There has been bipartisan support by the members of the Judiciary Committee to investigate and analyze the companies for anti-competitive practices, the findings of which are expected to be released in a report this summer.

But Democrats do not share Republicans’ concerns about partisan social media censorship.

According to the letter to Dorsey, Twitter “has sought to silence conservative voices, including the President of the United States, on its platform,” while allowing “violent extremists to use its platform with apparent impunity.” The letter highlights anti-Semitic tweets posted by Ali Khamenei, the Islamic leader of Iran.

Jordan sent a letter Tuesday to the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee raising related concerns about the hearing and Democrats’ handling of the tech probe. The letter accused Democrats of negotiating in bad faith with the tech companies and with Republicans.

Jordan asked the Chairman to convene the hearing with the full committee so all members could participate “equally.”

“Although Republicans look forward to this hearing, we were surprised to learn it would not occur at the full Committee—the venue that makes the most sense given the scope of the Committee’s investigation, the broad interest from Members of both parties who do not serve on the Subcommittee, and the significance of the witnesses who will testify,” Jordan wrote.

“Therefore, on behalf of Republican Members who you propose to exclude from participating in this hearing, I respectfully request that you reconsider this matter and convene the hearing at the full Committee so that all Members may participate fully and equally,” Jordan added.

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