Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey this morning, calling on him to conduct a third-party audit of his platform’s suspension policies. Sen. Hawley’s letter was prompted by Twitter’s recent suspension of the account affiliated with the pro-life film, Unplanned, on its opening weekend.
Hawley’s letter notes that Twitter has repeatedly targeted pro-life organizations. He also questions whether Twitter deserves the “sweetheart deal” it receives under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 provides tech companies with immunity from liability for illegal content posted by third parties because they provide “a forum for a true diversity of political discourse.”
In his letter, Senator Hawley writes, “I am rapidly losing confidence that Twitter is committed to the free speech principles that justify immunity under section 230. It is time for Twitter to prove it is truly committed to free speech: conduct a third-party audit and release the results to the public, in full.”
Full text can be found below.
April 3, 2019
1355 Market Street, Suite 900
San Francisco, CA 94103
Dear Mr. Dorsey:
Last week, Twitter suspend the account of the pro-life movie Unplanned—on opening weekend, no less—raising yet more questions about your supposed commitment to free speech. Just as bad, after you lifted the suspension, 99 percent of Unplanned’s followers mysteriously disappeared.
In light of these events, and in view of Twitter’s history of de-platforming conservative voices, it is time for Twitter to open itself to a third-party audit of how and when the company enforces its suspension policies.
Those who exercise their First Amendment right to advocate for the inherent worth and dignity of all persons, regardless of size or age, are used to biased treatment from big corporations. But platform companies like Twitter are supposed to rise above that partisan nonsense. In 2018, you told Wired that your “purpose is to serve the public conversation” by “defending freedom of expression as a fundamental human right.” Congress has given you a sweetheart deal—immunity from liability for illegal content posted by third parties—because tech companies like yours promised to provide “a forum for a true diversity of political discourse.” 47 U.S.C. § 230(a)(3).
Yet your company has repeatedly abused that privilege. You often refuse to allow pro-life organizations to purchase ads because you deem it “inflammatory” when these groups advocate for the right to life, but you allow those on the other side to advocate for late-term abortion—a practice opposed by more than 80 percent of Americans. And when you “fully admit” that Twitter’s “bias … is more left-leaning,” is it any wonder that this kind of political censorship disproportionately harms conservatives?
Given this troubling history, the decision to suspend the account for a pro-life movie on opening weekend is too much to be a coincidence. I am rapidly losing confidence that Twitter is committed to the free speech principles that justify immunity under section 230.
It is time for Twitter to prove it is truly committed to free speech: conduct a third-party audit and release the results to the public, in full.
An internal audit would be inherently biased. Indeed, you admit that your organization has a left-leaning prejudice. The public deserves an audit untainted by self-interest. And free speech requires a platform that is truly open to all viewpoints.
For that reason, it is imperative you open Twitter for an audit by a neutral third-party organization and make the results public. I look forward to your response.