AuthorLueders, Bill


Earlier this year, on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, accused the FBI of having paid Twitter "not one, not two, but three million dollars to censor American citizens."

Like much of what comes out of Jordan's mouth and Tweet-typing fingers, this claim, which erupted like a supernova across the rightwing firmament, was false. As USA Today reported in a fact-checking piece, it conflated two unrelated events. First, that "the FBI flagged Twitter accounts the agency believed violated Twitter's terms of service"; and second, that "the FBI paid Twitter $3.4 million for Twitter's processing of information requests... made through the Stored Communications Act."

Jordan offered this dishonest claim while hawking his resolution to create a select subcommittee to investigate "the Weaponization of the Federal Government." It passed, and Jordan, tapped as its chair, is now busily working to expose the wholesale abuses of power allegedly being committed by the administration of President Joe Biden. (Of course, Jordan never had a problem with the multiple overt actions of former President Donald Trump to wield the power of the state against his perceived enemies, just as Jordan allegedly looked the other way when he was a wrestling coach at Ohio State University while a team doctor sexually molested dozens of student athletes.)

Republicans see any effort made by Democrats to flag misinformation and disinformation as a brazen violation of the First Amendment. It's not. Democrats have as much right as anyone else to decry what they see as falsehoods and even to urge social media platforms to remove content and punish violators. (In fact, as Rolling Stone reported, Twitter kept an entire database of GOP calls to purge content.)

Take the case of Representative Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, who in November 2020 sent an email, unearthed in January by journalist Matt Taibbi, urging Twitter to remove posts and ban users who targeted a member of his staff for harassment. Twitter declined to do so. You'd think, from the reaction, that SchifF had gotten caught drinking the blood of children.

"[T]he former Democrat chair of the Intelligence Committee pressured Twitter to censor a journalist," Jordan shrieked in the same speech from the House floor. "You've got to be kidding me."

It's all part of the deeply partisan clash that is playing out over what role, if any, the...

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