(Headline USA) On Wednesday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai trumpeted the tech monopoly’s partnership with the Associated Press to reassure members of the Senate Commerce Committee that it would be rigorously vetting information in its upcoming Election Day coverage.
Democrat conspiracy theorists have claimed President Donald Trump may alternately refuse to concede to Joe Biden in a timely fashion, due to Trump’s denunciations of widespread vote-fraud—or else that the president may prematurely declare victory himself.
In response to a question from hard-left partisan hack and fake military veteran Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., over whether the three tech platforms in the hearing—Google, Facebook and Twitter—had plans for countering any possible Election Day disinformation spread by Trump, all three said they had been carefully plotting their strategies.
“We have been planning for a while and we rely on outside news sources through moments like that,” Pichai said. “We have closely partnered with the Associated Press to make sure we can provide users with the most accurate information possible.”
Despite the claim, the once vaunted AP has itself become a demonstrably biased and unreliable source of information.
In fact, it recently rushed to revise its own longstanding definition of court-packing in order to fit with talking points promoted by radical left-wing activists, now claiming that the proposal to add justices to the Supreme Court in violation of longstanding precedent would simply be to restore “balance.”
The AP’s risible coverage of Wednesday’s hearing provided an excellent example of its lopsided “journalism.”
The misleading statements below were made in context by its editorializing reporters with additional emphasis and commentary where noted.
Original AP story (with commentary in italics):
Under fire from President Donald Trump and his allies, the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Google rebuffed accusations of anti-conservative bias at a Senate hearing Wednesday and promised to aggressively defend their platforms from being used to sow chaos in next week’s election.
Lawmakers of both parties, eyeing the companies’ tremendous power to disseminate speech and ideas, are looking to challenge their long-enjoyed bedrock legal protections for online speech — the stated topic for the hearing but one that was quickly overtaken by questions related to the presidential campaign.
With worries over election security growing, senators on the Commerce Committee extracted promises from Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai that their companies will be on guard against meddling by foreign actors or the incitement of violence around the election results.
Testifying via video, the executives said they are taking several steps, including partnerships with news organizations, to distribute accurate information about voting. Dorsey said Twitter was working closely with state election officials.
Headline USA note: The Journalism Code of Ethics established by the Society of Professional Journalists dictates that news outlets typically avoid coverage of topics in which they have a conflict of interest or else identify those conflicts in the reporting, which the AP failed to do.
“We want to give people using the service as much information as possible,” he said.
Republicans, led by Trump, have accused the social media platforms, without evidence, of deliberately suppressing conservative, religious and anti-abortion views, and they say that behavior has reached new heights in the contest between the president and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Headline USA note: The AP has frequently deployed this qualifying disclaimer as a common trope tantamount to saying it has failed to do its job as a reporting outfit. There is ample evidence that the social media platforms have suppressed conservative viewpoints.
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the committee’s chairman, said at the start of the hearing that the laws governing online speech must be updated because “the openness and freedom of the internet are under attack.”
Wicker cited the move this month by Facebook and Twitter to limit dissemination of an unverified political story from the conservative-leaning New York Post about Biden. The story, which was not confirmed by other publications, cited unverified emails from Biden’s son Hunter that were reportedly disclosed by Trump allies.
Headline USA note: The story has been corroborated by one of the key figures in it, Tony Bobulinski. Visual evidence, including photographs of Hunter Biden smoking from a crack pipe and engaged in sexual acts with an unidentified woman have also emerged on the internet. There is no evidence suggesting that these corroborating sources are false or unreliable.
It is not the AP’s normal practice to identify a rival news outlet’s perceived political leanings. While the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post is known for having a more conservative editorial board, which recently endorsed Trump, there is no evidence that its newsroom reporters are affiliated with a particular ideology.
“Twitter’s conduct has by far been the most egregious,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told Dorsey. Cruz cited Twitter’s limitations on the newspaper story as part of “a pattern of censorship and silencing Americans with whom Twitter disagrees.”
“Who the hell elected you? And put you in charge of what the media are allowed to report?” Cruz asked.
Dorsey told Cruz that he does not believe that Twitter can influence elections because it’s only one source of information. He tried to steer senators away from conventional notions of political bias, noting that “much of the content people see today is determined by algorithms.” He endorsed a proposal from computer scientist Stephen Wolfram that would allow third parties to guide how artificial intelligence systems choose what postings people see.
Headline USA note: Dorsey’s algorithm claim is a common deflection deployed by tech platforms to downplay their own agency in making biased, politically motivated decisions. However, several whistleblowers who denounced the companies’ cultures have disclosed the way the humans programming the algorithms intentionally plan and insert bias into the programs. It was recently revealed that Facebook’s “hate speech” algorithm, for instance, was being worked on by at least a half-dozen visa-holding Chinese nationals.
GOP senators raised with the executives an array of allegations of other bias on the platforms regarding Iran, China and Holocaust denial.
There’s no evidence that the social media giants are biased against conservative news, posts or other material, or that they favor one side of political debate over another, researchers have found. But Republicans aren’t alone in raising concerns about the companies’ policies.
Headline USA note: Once again, there is ample evidence of anti-conservative bias. The fact that the AP feels the need to belabor this false point calls to mind Hamlet’s statement “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
Although the AP vaguely cites ‘researchers,’ to support its claim it does not offer any further transparency as to who these researchers are or whether their so-called studies might have been biased as well.
Democrats focused their criticism mainly on hate speech, misinformation and other content that can incite violence, keep people from voting or spread falsehoods about the coronavirus. They criticized the tech CEOs for failing to police content, blaming the platforms for playing a role in hate crimes and the rise of white nationalism in the U.S.
Headline USA note: Despite the aggressive censorship campaigns driven by social media and legacy media outlets to spread Democrat disinformation, much of the political violence and turmoil in recent months has been propagated by radical leftists such as those affiliated with Antifa.
Democrats and their media allies also were responsible for spreading the falsehood early in the pandemic crisis that it would result in a projected 2 million or more US deaths, although the actual number is nowhere near that. The resulting distrust of crucial scientific information has been of their own doing since economy-wrecking lockdowns were predicated on their over-hyping of the virus’s impact.
Amid the debate, the Trump administration has asked Congress to strip some of the protections that have generally shielded the tech companies from legal responsibility for what people post on their platforms. The proposals would make changes to a provision of a 1996 law that has been the foundation for unfettered speech on the internet. Critics in both parties say that immunity under Section 230 of the law enables the social media companies to abdicate their responsibility to impartially moderate content.
Trump chimed in Wednesday with a tweet exhorting, “Repeal Section 230!”
The CEOs argued that the liability shield has helped make the internet what it is today, though Zuckerberg said he believes that Congress “should update the law to make sure it’s working as intended.” Dorsey and Pichai urged caution in making any changes.
But the executives also rejected accusations of bias. “We approach our work without political bias, full stop,” Pichai said. “To do otherwise would be contrary to both our business interests and our mission.”
Headline USA note: Breitbart is one of the many conservative outlets that have demonstrably documented the efforts of Google and its sister-company YouTube to target and deplatform conservative media. Alphabet, the platforms’ parent company, has been called out previously and forced to reverse some of its actions, but only under political pressure.
The companies in recent years have wrestled with how strongly to intervene with speech. They have often gone out of their way not to appear biased against conservative views — a posture that some say effectively tilts them toward those viewpoints. The effort has been especially strained for Facebook, which was caught off guard in 2016, when it was used as a conduit by Russian agents to spread misinformation benefiting Trump’s presidential campaign.
Headline USA note: The Associated Press here deploys a strawman fallacy to insert its own editorializing about the false claim that the tech platforms have overcompensated for their bias. There is no evidence to suggest that the platforms have consistently abandoned their well-documented practices of systemic, anti-conservative bias regardless of leftist attempts to portray a false equivalency.
Russian disinformation on Facebook and other social media platforms was largely ignored by the Barack Obama administration during the 2016 election under the presumption that it would benefit Hillary Clinton. Clinton also was colluding with Russia in soliciting Kremlin-linked sources for the Steele Dossier, which was commissioned by her campaign in order to smear Trump and distract from a politically damaging email scandal.
Wednesday’s session lacked the in-person drama of star-witness proceedings before the coronavirus outbreak. The hearing room was nearly empty except for Wicker and a few colleagues, as most senators took part remotely, but their questioning was sharp as tempers flared among members.
Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, went after Republicans, saying the hearing was a “sham.” With their questions, Schatz said, the Republicans “are trying to bully the heads of private companies into making a hit job” on political leaders.
All three companies have scrambled to stem the tide of material that incites violence and spreads lies and baseless conspiracy theories. In their efforts to police misinformation about the election, Twitter and Facebook have imposed a misinformation label on some content from the president, who has about 80 million followers.
Headline USA note: As several of the Republican senators pointed out, the platforms have made very little effort to stem the tide of global violence or conspiracy theories except to the extent that they apply to political conservatives in the US. The platforms continue to embrace both violence and conspiracies from world leaders such as the ayatollah of Iran.
Trump has refused to publicly commit to accepting the results if he loses the presidential contest. He also has raised the baseless prospect of mass fraud in the vote-by-mail process. None of the five states that mail ballots to all voters has seen significant cases of fraud.
Headline USA note: Trump has explicitly said he would accept the results of a free and fair election. However, evidence of vote fraud, augmented by the widespread use of absentee ballots is well documented, particularly in states such as California and Nevada that are mailing ballots to all those included on their outdated voter rolls.
Democratic activists in other states have sought to use voter-roll information to have ballots sent unsolicited to voters, including a Georgia family who said their cat received a ballot, despite being dead for 12 years.
Starting Tuesday, Facebook isn’t accepting any new political advertising. Previously booked political ads will be able to run until the polls close Nov. 3, when all political advertising will temporarily be banned. Google, which owns YouTube, also is halting political ads after the polls close. Twitter banned all political ads last year.