Facebook, Google, and Twitter May Face a Flurry of Probes If GOP Retakes House

From a Washington Post analysis by Christiano Lima headlined “Tech companies may face a flurry of probes if GOP retakes House”:

Republican officials have long accused social media companies of stifling conservative viewpoints. But if the GOP retakes the House in this year’s midterm elections, those grievances may fuel an onslaught of congressional investigations.

Top House Republicans signaled in a Friday op-ed that they plan to probe how tech companies initially limited the circulation of a 2020 New York Post article detailing emails purportedly sent from the laptop of Hunter Biden, son of President Biden, if they regain the majority.

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio) and James Comer (Ky.) claimed that Facebook, Twitter and media outlets “colluded to hide details about The Post’s article just as Americans were making up their minds about the presidential election.”

“A Republican majority will be committed to uncovering the facts the Democrats, Big Tech and the legacy media have suppressed,” they wrote.

While GOP allegations of Silicon Valley “censorship” are not new, recent remarks by Republican leaders suggest they’re becoming a bigger part of the party’s platform.

When Republicans controlled the Senate in 2020, they repeatedly hauled in the CEOs of Facebook and Twitter to testify about the Post incident — after threatening to subpoena the companies if they did not comply with their requests for testimony.

And in 2018, when Republicans last controlled the House, they summoned Google CEO Sundar Pichai to appear to address previous allegations of “bias” by the company.

But these sessions were largely one-off hearings by different congressional panels across both the House and Senate — not a dedicated investigation.

That’s poised to change if Republicans retake control of Congress, particularly the House, whose leaders have increasingly dragged tech companies into their core messaging railing against “cancel culture” and an alleged “silencing” of conservatives.

In November, Jordan raised the specter of creating an investigatory panel within the House Judiciary Committee to “go after big tech,” among other issues. “What big tech in collusion with big government is doing in this ‘cancel culture’ world we live in is so wrong,” he said. Jordan reiterated his desire to “investigate” the topic during an April appearance on Fox News.

The remarks suggest that tech companies may face an investigation closer in sweep to the sprawling antitrust probe a bipartisan group of House Judiciary lawmakers led last Congress than the more-sporadic hearings under past GOP rule.

While House Republicans may turn the screws on tech companies if they retake the chamber, they have indicated they have little interest in advancing the legislative proposals most threatening to giants like Facebook and Google.

McCarthy and Jordan are vocal opponents of a surging antitrust push to ban the tech companies from giving their own products a boost over those of their competitors.

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), who is leading the bipartisan antitrust push along with other lawmakers, has lamented that if his party retakes the House, his bills are doomed.

“The antitrust bills that we are currently considering will not move forward under Republican leadership, and that’s been a very clear signal that has been sent, and I believe the tech companies are trying to run out the clock,” Buck told me in March.

He added, “The best we can hope for with antitrust in the future is either a watered-down version or trying to perhaps address some other area that hasn’t been raised yet.”

The remarks suggest that a potential GOP-controlled House may mean more “investigative” hearings, but potentially fewer laws targeting tech companies.

Cristiano Lima is a business reporter and author of The Washington Post’s Technology 202 newsletter, focusing on the intersection of tech, politics and policy. He previously served as a breaking news reporter and tech policy reporter for Politico.

Speak Your Mind

*