Senate Democrat to accuse Republicans of 'bullying' tech CEOs to help Trump

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A top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee plans to plead with the CEOs of Google, Facebook and Twitter to “stand up to this immoral behavior” of the Republicans for hauling them in for Wednesday’s hearing on alleged censorship so soon before the Nov. 3 election.

“What is happening here is a disgrace,” Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, the top Democrat on the telecom subcommittee, will say, according to prepared remarks. “It is a scar on the Committee, and it is a scar on the United States Senate.”

“What we are seeing today is United States senators attempting to bully the CEOs of private companies into carrying out a hit job on a presidential candidate by making sure they push out foreign and domestic misinformation meant to influence the election,” he will add.

The Democratic lawmaker will forgo asking tech CEOs questions given what he calls a “disgrace” and “sham” of a proceeding.

Instead he will explain at length what he sees as GOP coordination to intimidate the tech industry over the last six months, singling out President Donald Trump (for his May executive order aimed at cracking down on social media and tweets about repealing tech’s liability shield); the Justice Department (for offering a legislative plan to narrow online liability protections and suing Google over antitrust violations); Hill Republicans (for trumpeting GOP-only bills targeting tech’s statutory safeguards); and the Federal Communications Commission (where Trump killed the nomination of a GOP commissioner who questioned whether the government should police online speech and FCC Chair Ajit Pai is planning a rulemaking to target the tech industry, which the administration requested).

Schatz will also argue that the attacks are effective, causing the tech companies to have “bent over backwards” trying to disprove allegations of anti-conservative bias by hiring GOP operatives and courting GOP leaders. Those actions have influenced how they treat right-wing and progressive voices online, he’ll argue, in ways that favor the former and hurt the latter.

“Simply put, the Republicans have been successful at working the refs,” Schatz will say. “And so, during one of the most consequential elections in American politics, my colleagues are trying to run this play again. And it’s BS.”

The tech companies have said they do not make calls based on the political bent of content and independent analysts have found no evidence of systemic bias on the platforms.

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