FOI Letter to Senate Commerce Committee Ahead of January 17 Hearing

This morning, Free Our Internet’s executive director, Christie-Lee McNally, sent a letter to members of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee ahead of their hearing entitled “Terrorism And Social Media: #IsBigTechDoingEnough?” The letter encouraged members to press representatives of Twitter, Facebook, and Google on the violence and harassment fostered by their platforms. The panel included Ms. Juniper Downs, Global Head of Public Policy and Government Relations at YouTube. These Silicon Valley giants have been negligent in their allowance of this conduct online all while banning and blocking conservatives.

You can view the letter here:

January 17, 2017

Honorable John Thune
Chairman
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation
512 Dirksen Senate Building
Washington DC, 20510

Honorable Bill Nelson
Ranking Member
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation
512 Dirksen Senate Building
Washington DC, 20510

Dear Senators –

As the executive director of a nonprofit whose mission is to educate citizens about true internet freedom, I am pleased to see your committee holding a hearing on combatting extremism online. At this hearing, you will ask the important question: Is big tech doing enough? Despite what they will tell you, it is clear from the way Silicon Valley companies have conducted themselves in the past that the answer is a resounding “no.”

While combatting terrorism specifically is the focal point today, it’s also important to take into account how companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Google have aligned their priorities. While allowing accounts from violent Islamic extremists to grow and spread their hatred and recruit others to their cause, big tech has at the same time played a central role in censoring conservative speech online. Whether taking down advertisements or content simply because it expresses a pro-life viewpoint while allowing violent threats against officials, Google, Facebook, and Twitter have at best turned a blind eye to this escalating trend. Free Our Internet previously addressed the growing issue of violence on its platform in a letter to Twitter that, unfortunately, went unanswered.

Perhaps one of the most prominent examples of venomous, hateful and extremism on social media platforms comes at the expense of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai following the recent decision to roll back Obama-era “net neutrality” rules. Chairman Pai has faced and continues to receive thousands of direct death threats on Twitter and Facebook, many that included threats to his family, as well as debasing harassment, racist attacks and the sharing of his personal information. The vast majority of these tweets and posts violate these platform’s policies, yet they have been ignored and no accounts have been suspended, except for a handful that were only removed after news reports surfaced. Instead, Facebook and Twitter’s efforts have focused on censoring conservatives by banning and blocking those users whose views don’t align with their political ideology. The blatant inconsistency in the application of their policies further reveals Twitter and Facebook’s agenda. Extremism comes in many forms, and the treatment of the FCC Chairman, his wife and his children on these dominant platforms is simply the latest example.

Google’s YouTube was also recently caught displaying inconsistencies in the treatment of content on its network. Following last month’s net neutrality vote, Chairman Pai released a parody video with the Daily Caller. The video was taken down shortly after being posted to YouTube. Compare that to how YouTube handled the case of Logan Paul, one of its most lucrative creators who generates a lot of ad revenue for Google. Paul uploaded a video showing a suicide victim in Japan.  It was only after celebrity outrage that Paul removed the video himself, and it took YouTube a week to officially apologize.

During today’s hearing, I encourage you to press representatives of Twitter, Facebook, and Google on the violence and harassment fostered by their platforms, why content that clearly violates their policies isn’t removed in a consistent manor, and to clarify their commitment to freedom of expression on their platforms across the entire political spectrum. 

Sincerely,

Christie-Lee McNally
Executive Director
Free Our Internet

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