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STATEMENT OF RANKING MEMBER JERROLD NADLER FOR THE HEARING ON “EXAMINING SOCIAL MEDIA FILTERING PRACTICES AND THEIR EFFECT ON FREE SPEECH”

Apr 26, 2018

“House Republicans have no time for substantive oversight of the Trump Administration, or election security, or privacy policy, or even a discussion about the wisdom of regulating social media platforms—but they have made time for Diamond and Silk.  They have prioritized this spectacle over every other conversation we could be having today.”

 

“The notion that social media companies are filtering out conservative voices is a hoax—a tired narrative of imagined victimhood as the rest of the country grapples with a feckless President and an out-of-control Administration.  The Majority designed this hearing to perpetuate that hoax.  Conservative commentary—including conspiracy theories of a conservative bent—regularly rank among the most far-reaching posts on Facebook and elsewhere.  To argue otherwise is to ignore the facts, or to act in bad faith, or both.”

 

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, delivered the following opening statement at a hearing entitled, “Examining Social Media Filtering Practices and their Effect on Free Speech”:

Thank you.

Priorities matter, Mr. Chairman.

Over the course of the past year, the Majority has refused to hold hearings or conduct oversight of any kind on any topic related to social media.  They have turned a blind eye both to discrete cases—like the theft of millions of Facebook user profiles by Cambridge Analytica—and to broader questions—like the flawed policies that allowed those user profiles to escape in the first place. 

Time and time again, House Republicans have attempted to turn the Committee’s attention away from these issues, either ignoring or hoping to distract from the serious conversations we should be having. 

Over the past year alone, the Majority has:

  • Refused our request to hold hearings on how Russian operatives leveraged social media to influence the 2016 elections;
  • Refused the Congressional Black Caucus’s request to hold hearings on how those Russian influence pieces targeted minority voters;
  • Blocked the Minority’s access to those advertisements when Facebook offered them to us, since they were offered on the condition that the Chairman join us in requesting them;
  • Refused to issue subpoenas—or even ask, really—for information from Cambridge Analytica and Giles-Parscale, two consultants for the Trump Campaign that appear to have coordinated with foreign actors during the 2016 campaign;
  • Promised us briefings with various social media companies, but never delivered;
  • Decided that we should be the only committee of jurisdiction not to hear from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg directly, after his appearances before the House Energy & Commerce Committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the Senate Commerce Committee;
  • Refused to call Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie before the Committee for a transcribed interview; and
  • Just this week, declined my invitation to participate in an interview with Mr. Wylie, after Democrats arranged for the interview on our own.

In short, House Republicans have no time for substantive oversight of the Trump Administration, or election security, or privacy policy, or even a discussion about the wisdom of regulating social media platforms—but they have made time for Diamond and Silk.  They have prioritized this spectacle over every other conversation we could be having today.

Now, to be clear, Ms. Hardaway and Ms. Richardson are entitled to say whatever they would like about President Trump or anyone else. 

But the Majority has called them here to stand for the baseless proposition that Facebook, Google, and Twitter are engaged in a Silicon Valley plot to censor conservative voices. 

Let’s review the facts. 

Based on what I understand to be a single communication from Facebook to Ms. Hardaway and Ms. Richardson—an email that the CEO of the company has already admitted was sent in error—our witnesses will claim that Facebook is censoring their posts. 

Of course, Ms. Hardaway and Ms. Richardson primarily make that argument on Facebook—where they have 1.4 million followers, in a post that has 100,000 “likes” and 60,000 “shares.”  Nearly 350,000 additional users have “liked” their Facebook page in the past three weeks alone.

Most of my colleagues—on both sides of the aisle—would kill for that kind of reach on social media.

The witnesses will complain that Facebook has limited the ability of their followers to interact with their Facebook page.  But the data show that their Facebook page received more total interactions in March 2018, when they were supposedly being censored, than in March 2017, fresh off of President Trump’s victory. 

So the censorship argument—the central thesis of this hearing—doesn’t hold up under even the most basic scrutiny.

Which is not to say, Mr. Chairman, that the Committee shouldn’t have a hearing about how filtering works on private social media platforms.  “Social Media Filtering Practices and Their Effect on Free Speech” is a fine topic for discussion—and one I would encourage you to schedule—but that isn’t what today’s hearing is about, and the Majority knows it.

The notion that social media companies are filtering out conservative voices is a hoax—a tired narrative of imagined victimhood as the rest of the country grapples with a feckless President and an out-of-control Administration.  

The Majority designed this hearing to perpetuate that hoax.  Conservative commentary—including conspiracy theories of a conservative bent—regularly rank among the most far-reaching posts on Facebook and elsewhere.  To argue otherwise is to ignore the facts, or to act in bad faith, or both.

And to make matters worse, the Majority has prioritized this hoax over matters that this Committee should have investigated long ago. 

Their decision to host this hearing, while still ignoring questions of substance that have been squarely before us for months, does real and lasting damage to this esteemed Committee.  What are House Republicans so afraid of that they will not even join us in asking questions about Facebook, or Russian advertisements, or a host of other issues that are clearly a priority for the public?

Priorities matter, Mr. Chairman.  We should be holding a bipartisan hearing on any one of a long list of other topics.  We could have easily worked on that project together.

This Committee can do better, Mr. Chairman.  I yield back.

115th Congress