Sen. Mike Lee on Tuesday again lashed two of his favorite political targets: Twitter and Facebook. He said in a hearing that when they tag or remove what they say are questionable posts, they generally target just conservatives, Republicans and pro-life groups — not liberals.
He griped that he himself was unfairly tagged.
“I recently posted something about the election on Facebook,” he said. “My Facebook post was almost immediately tagged with the following: 'Election officials say that voter fraud, which is historically rare, has not affected the outcome in this election. … Mail-in voting was conducted in accordance with state voting rules.”
Lee’s office said it did not have the wording of that post. But among Lee’s posts still on Facebook is one that said, after all major news organizations called the election for Joe Biden, that candidates have the right to exhaust all legal remedies with challenges or recounts, and he would work with “whichever candidate emerges as the winner” of the process.
The Utah senator complained that the Facebook tag on his post “sounds a whole lot more like state-run media announcing the party line than a neutral company as it purports to be.” He added, “This kind of editorializing insulates people from the truth, and it insinuates that anyone concerned about voter fraud must be crazy. It also states it as if it were an irrefutable, neutral objective fact.”
Lee said such concerns may be out of the political mainstream at the headquarters of Facebook and Twitter, “but they’re not out of the mainstream with the rest of America.”
He added that he hopes such “manipulation” is unintentional, “but it’s getting harder and harder for me to accept the premise that it could be anything but intentional. And if it was intentional, it’s yet more evidence that Facebook’s actions surrounding this election [are] incongruent with the promises that you’ve made to your own users” to be politically neutral.
Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said repeatedly in the hearing that they tag or remove content found by third-party fact-checkers to be false, or that could benefit with links to other information to provide more context. They said their customers do not want false information online.
Lee brought up a few other instances where conservatives were tagged or blocked or had posts removed, where Facebook and Twitter have acknowledged they erred and tried to correct mistakes.
Zuckerberg told him, “Unfortunately, when we handle millions or billions of pieces of content a day, while we strive to to do as well as possible and be as precise as possible, we will make some mistakes.”
“I appreciate your acknowledgment of the fact that there are mistakes,” Lee said. “Those mistakes sure happen a whole lot more on one side of the political spectrum than the other.”
Pushing that political dagger in deeper, he added, “Maybe some of it has to do with your employees: 92.3% of Facebook employees who donated to federal candidates give to Democrats. At Twitter, it’s even more stark than that, as if it could get much more stark. But 99.3% of Twitter employees who donated to federal candidates gave to Democrats.”
Lee has attacked social media giants repeatedly in recent months. He has dangled the possibility of breaking up their possibly monopolies as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, which oversees legislation about monopolies.