Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testified Wednesday that Twitter does not have the ability to influence elections because voters can find political information elsewhere.
The claim came during testy questioning from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during a hearing in which Dorsey appeared virtually alongside Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
The hearing also invoked a statement by Zuckerberg after the 2016 election but before revelations about Russian election interference that it was “crazy” to think Facebook could sway an election.
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Here is the exchange:
Cruz: Mr. Dorsey, does Twitter have the ability to influence elections?
Cruz: You don’t believe Twitter has any ability to influence elections?
Dorsey: No. We are one part of a spectrum of communication channels that people have.
Cruz: You are testifying to this committee right now that Twitter, when it silences people, when it censors people, when it blocks political speech, that has no impact on elections?
Dorsey: People have a choice of other communication channels.
Cruz: Not if they don’t hear information. If you don’t think you have the power to influence elections, why do you block anything?
Dorsey: We have policies that are focused on making sure that more voices on the platform are possible. We see a lot of abuse and harassment which ends up silencing people and having them leave from the platform.
Cruz, a frequent antagonist of tech companies and Twitter in particular, has attacked social media companies for throttling a New York post article about the Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s son Hunter, which cited unverified emails reportedly uncovered by allies of President Trump.
“Who the hell elected you and put you in charge of what the media are allowed to report?” Cruz said to Dorsey.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Senate Republicans accused leaders of the nation’s top internet companies of politically motivated bias and suppression, and warned them of upcoming challenges to decades-old legal protections that shield them from liability for what users post on their platforms.
“The time has come for that free pass to end,” Sen. Roger Wicker, chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said in his opening remarks.
Conservatives have complained for years that social media companies systematically silence the political speech of right-leaning users despite consistent evidence that conservative voices and viewpoints dominate the conversation on these platforms.
Tech leaders deny any partisanship, saying their policies strike a balance between allowing users to freely express themselves and keeping hate, abuse and misinformation off their platforms.