Although Rep. David Cicilline puts no stock in Republican allegations that Big Tech discriminates against conservatives, he is happy to argue that his anti-monopoly legislation would rule out such bias through greater competition and to accept their support.
"If you thought anti-conservative bias did exist, then having these platforms have the kind of monopoly power and market dominance they have, it would just facilitate that," the Rhode Island Democrat said during an interview with the Washington Examiner.
The congressman, who has lead the antitrust panel since 2018, said earlier this week that he will introduce bills to beef up antitrust agency resources and expand their authority, make tech user data portable, and stop unfair product discrimination as the first four parts of his flurry of new anti-monopoly legislation that will drop next month.
He said that if social media companies were trying to censor conservative speech, then they "are miserable failures at it," noting that many of the content creators with the highest engagement on social media were conservative news outlets, such as Breitbart, Fox News, and Dan Bongino.
TOP DEMOCRAT LAYS OUT PRIORITIES FOR BIG TECH ANTITRUST PUSH
Cicilline and other Democrats cite studies that have concluded that social media companies don't discriminate against conservatives and, in fact, boost their content. The chairman said in March he would not "develop a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist. That’s not a useful, productive use of our time.”
However, Cicilline acknowledged that his Republican colleagues on the antitrust subcommittee believe there is an anti-conservative bias and noted that "all of the antitrust reforms that we're doing will just bring more competition and make that less likely," he said.
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, the top Republican on the Judiciary antitrust panel, wrote a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in March in which they said the platform “plays a leading role in silencing and censoring political speech of conservative Americans.”
Jordan and Buck said Twitter “throttled the dissemination of a mainstream newspaper article critical of then-candidate Joe Biden’s son and later took the unprecedented step of de-platforming the sitting President of the United States.”
The House Judiciary Republicans also accused Amazon of bias against conservatives.
Jordan and Buck cited seven instances in which Amazon censored conservative views, including temporarily banning former President Donald Trump from video streaming service Twitch due to "hateful conduct" in June 2020, delisting a bestselling book about transgender issues titled When Harry Became Sally in February, and removing a documentary about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during Black History Month without explanation.
"These editorial decisions give the appearance of a coordinated effort to cancel conservative speech on Amazon's platforms," the Republicans, who asked Amazon to provide documents and communications related to these decisions, wrote in the letter.
Top Republicans in February went so far as to say that, left by Democrats with few other options, their party is entertaining the idea of breaking up Big Tech companies in the hope of countering unfair censorship.
Democrats have largely been dismissive of Republicans' concerns.
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"The evidence is anecdotal so far, [and] we don’t operate on anecdotes. We operate on facts and data," Cicilline told the Washington Examiner in March.