Jul 29, 2020 - Technology

Conservatives turn antitrust hearing into venting session about bias

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — the two highest-ranking Republican members on the House Antitrust committee — used their first few minutes during their opening statements at the hearing with Big Tech CEOs Thursday to call out tech companies for unproven allegations of political bias against conservatives.

Why it matters: Previous hearings with tech executives have devolved into partisan bickering over political bias, instead of focusing on serious issues. The hope was that this hearing, conducted by a specialized subcommittee, would be more substantive.

“Big tech is out to get conservatives,” Jordan said at the very beginning of his opening remarks.

  • Jordan then proceeded to get into a heated exchange with the Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who tried to move the hearing along after Jordan's rant about political bias.
  • Rep. Sensenbrenner's opening remarks started out tempered, noting that "Being big is not inherently bad.” But he quickly pivoted to issues of bias.
  • "[R]eports that dissenting views, often conservative ones, are targeted or censored is seriously troubling. The power to influence debate carries with it remarkable responsibilities," he said.
  • Rep. Sensenbrenner later uses his first question to wrongly ask Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg why Facebook took action on Donald Trump Jr.’s account. "That happened on Twitter,” Zuckerberg replied.
  • Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), in his first line of questioning, referenced reports that by Google had warned The Federalist, a conservative website, about being demonetized for violating its rules.

Our thought bubble: Tech execs have recently gotten a free pass from being pressed on serious, substantive issues when they go to the Capitol because conservatives are obsessed with unproven allegations of political censorship.

Flashback: When tech executives testified in Congress last year, Senate conservatives did the same thing.

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