Facebook and Twitter Are 'Woke Capitalists' That Want to Rig U.S. Election: Sen Hawley

Republican senators are calling for urgent investigations into Facebook and Twitter over their "suppression" of a controversial New York Post story, with executives from the online tech giants branded as "woke capitalists."

Several politicians were fuming this week after the social networks restricted or blocked the spread of unverified claims in an article linking Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden to a Ukrainian energy firm, obtained via Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani.

As the report started to go viral, Facebook limited its distribution for fact-checking while Twitter took the more aggressive approach of stopping users from sharing it altogether, warning the contents of the link had been flagged as "potentially harmful."

Criticism was swift, with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) spearheading calls for CEOs Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey to explain themselves under oath.

Since the story broke, Hawley has released a string of press releases and done several media appearances in which he suggested Americans should be allowed to sue tech firms despite their current legal protections in the U.S., and urged the Federal Election Committee to investigate his assertion the firms made an "in-kind contribution" to the Biden campaign—a possible finance violation—by silencing the story.

"We have got to take action right now to hold these big tech companies accountable. They are going to continue to do this," he said in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday, referring to Facebook and Twitter as monopolies.

"If Republicans don't stand up and do something about this these companies are going to run this country. That's their desire, these woke capitalists, they want to run America. Big government, big tech... we have got to stop them, we have got to do something."

Broadly, woke capitalism refers to companies that proclaim to hold progressive ideals but in reality remain focused on one underlying motivation: making money.

In a second interview, this time with Fox News host Laura Ingraham, Hawley pitched the situation "big tech versus democracy" and alleged it was election interference. He said: "These tech companies want to rig an election, they want to control what we read. They want to control journalists in this country, they want to control the news." He forecast the investigations would "pull the lid off" the "corruption surrounding big tech."

Twitter, specifically, has faced a barrage of criticism for blocking the sharing of the Post story, even as disinformation experts warned that the article's sourcing was suspicious. Dorsey himself appeared to concede yesterday that mistakes were made.

Dorsey tweeted: "Our communication around our actions on the @nypost article was not great. And blocking URL sharing via tweet or DM with zero context as to why we're blocking: unacceptable." Hawley told Ingraham the response was "insulting."

"We are not stupid, we can see that Twitter rushed to suppress this story, to censor it, on behalf of the Bidens, just like Facebook rushed to do the same thing," the senator said.

Twitter's official statement released yesterday said that images in the newspaper's story had broken policy by including personal and private information. The platform said it viewed materials in the article as violating its rules on "hacked materials."

Vijaya Gadde, Legal, Twitter's trust and safety Lead, published a thread today that tried to clarify how the company's new approach to future cases could work.

"So, what's changing? We will no longer remove hacked content unless it is directly shared by hackers or those acting in concert with them. We will label Tweets to provide context instead of blocking links from being shared on Twitter," Gadde wrote.

Over the last 24 hours, we’ve received significant feedback (from critical to supportive) about how we enforced our Hacked Materials Policy yesterday. After reflecting on this feedback, we have decided to make changes to the policy and how we enforce it.

— Vijaya Gadde (@vijaya) October 16, 2020

The later statement came after the platform temporarily blocked the Trump campaign's account for posting a video clip hat was focused on details from the Post's story.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said yesterday that Facebook and Twitter "crossed a line that is very dangerous" by suppressing the story, framing it as the firms "actively interfering in this election in a way that has no precedent in the history of our country."

In a video posted to Twitter, Cruz said the Senate Judiciary Committee "wants to know what the hell is going on" and said Dorsey would be subpoenaed to testify.

Twitter and Facebook have been contacted for comment by Newsweek.

At a campaign rally yesterday, president Donald Trump once again threatened to strip technology companies of Section 230 protection, which provides partial immunity from lawsuits in the U.S. based on content posted by their user bases. "When government granted these protections, they created a monster!" Trump tweeted.

Biden, for his part, has previously indicated that he wants to totally revoke the internet legislation, telling the New York Times Facebook knowingly spreads false information. "I've never been a big Zuckerberg fan. I think he's a real problem," Biden stated.

Sen. Josh Hawley
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) listens while Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 13, in Washington, D.C. Hawley has been spearheading calls for CEOs Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey to explain themselves under oath this week after the sites "suppressed" a news story. Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty