Republicans, Who Have Made Sure The Federal Election Commission Can't Do Anything, File A Complaint About Twitter's Moderation Practices

from the this-is-not-how-any-of-this-works dept

Last week, Senator Josh Hawley (who knows better) sent a ridiculous letter to the Federal Election Commission claiming that Twitter and Facebook’s decision (based on different reasons) to limit the sharing of a sketchy NY Post article was election interference. We explained why that was nonsense, but it appears that the Republican Party no longer gives a shit about what the law actually says when it can play the victim.

On Friday, the Republican National Committee filed a formal complaint with the FEC as well. Before we get into the details of why this complaint is horseshit, it is worth noting that the FEC cannot meet right now because it does not have enough members for a quorum. And this is on the Republicans themselves. Last year, the FEC also was without a quorum, which prevents it from issuing fines, making rules, or conducting audits.

Earlier this year, the FEC very briefly had a quorum, when the Senate confirmed Trey Trainor to a spot in May. Yet a month later another Commissioner, Caroline Hunter, resigned. And, once again the FEC cannot conduct most business. And while Trump has announced who he “intends” to nominate, there is no indication that that nomination was ever officially sent to the Senate. At the very least, the Senate has shown no sign that it is moving ahead with the nomination. And that means there will not be a functioning FEC from now until at least the election.

Given that, it does seem at least somewhat ironic that the Republicans are now demanding FEC action over Twitter’s content moderation practices. The FEC can’t actually do anything right now. Because Republicans in the Senate haven’t filled the seats.

And, of course, even if they did, this complaint would go nowhere for a variety of reasons (including that the person Trump is nominating has strong 1st Amendment credentials). But, more to the point, whether you agree with their policies or not, both Facebook and Twitter showed clear, long-standing policy reasons for why they slowed the spread of the NY Post story. And in neither case was it “because we want to help Joe Biden.” That wasn’t the rationale, and it’s silly for Republicans to pretend otherwise. And for it to be an FEC violation, it would have to have been “for the purpose of influencing an election.” There is no way that either company’s actions qualify for that, no matter how many whiny Republicans insist that that is the reason.

On top of that, not wishing to host certain stories is not, in any way shape or form, making a “contribution” to a political campaign. If it was, Fox News has spent most of its life “interfering” with Democratic candidates, and providing “contributions” in the form of news coverage “of value… for the purpose of influencing an election.” And, indeed, in the past some have argued that Fox News has violated campaign finance laws — but the FEC has responded by pointing out that this is allowed under the 1st Amendment.

The same thing is true of Twitter choosing not to host a link as well. It has a 1st Amendment right not to be compelled to host speech it disagrees with. You would think that the party that fought hard to make sure a baker didn’t have to bake a cake with a message it disagreed with would understand that concept.

Finally, this move goes against Republicans long-standing support for Citizens United, in which they insisted (and took to the Supreme Court and won) the claim that effectively says the 1st Amendment cannot be overruled by campaign finance law.

It is an incredibly ridiculous move for these very same Republicans who have long fought battles on the other side to now try to argue that Twitter’s totally justifiable (even if I think wrongly decided) policy decision is somehow a campaign finance violation. It’s not, and it’s both cynical and hypocritical for Republicans to claim otherwise.

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Comments on “Republicans, Who Have Made Sure The Federal Election Commission Can't Do Anything, File A Complaint About Twitter's Moderation Practices”

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58 Comments
Nathan F (profile) says:

If they believe that Twitter and Facebook doing moderation on the article is election tampering, shouldn’t they be going after the NY Post for election tampering also? Oh wait.. the original article was critical of their political opponent, thats just fine and hunky dory.

I really don’t understand how this many otherwise smart and shrewd individuals can’t grasp the notion that the 1st ammendment applies to the government. There is nothing in it that says an individual (and thanks to Citizens United, corporations get 1st amendment rights to) can’t censor and moderate speech however they want.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

The eternal hypocritical victims whine again

It’s simple really, corporations should be able to do anything they want only so long as that benefits the GOP or it’s donors. Much like their stance on basically everything these days, if it helps Trump’s GOP it’s acceptable, if it doesn’t it’s a terrible crime that needs to be shut down.

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Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Rebuilding will take decades

Yes, we’ve had this conversation dozens of times throughout history, that one tyrant can wreck the progress of ten generations of good governance.

But traditionalists these days feel that we can’t let the people govern themselves, nor can we equip them with the civic awareness and critical thinking skills enough to know their own best interests and speak / vote / adjudicate accordingly. No, rather they are all suckers to be played by would-be tyrants.

And so they elect tyrants and ten generations of progress gets wrecked when they do.

Funny how that played out. Shall we try again?

catsmoke (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Rebuilding will take decades

nor can we equip them with the…critical thinking skills enough to know their own best interests

Educated workers draw higher wages, so amoral capitalists wreck our institutions of learning.

Obsessed with money, and their default move is to exploit other people. Probably devoid of any sense of fairness. Remember Brett Kavanaugh throwing a tantrum and saying if he was denied a seat on the US Supreme Court, then that would be an injustice of seismic historical proportions?

Twisted and weird beyond my ability to comprehend.

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Koby (profile) says:

On top of that, not wishing to host certain stories is not, in any way shape or form, making a "contribution" to a political campaign. If it was, Fox News has spent most of its life "interfering" with Democratic candidates, and providing "contributions" in the form of news coverage "of value… for the purpose of influencing an election."

Twitter is supposed to be an open platform, while Fox News is not. If Twitter wants to not appear to be making a political contribution, then they need to stop engaging in editorialization while operating an open platform.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If their moderation was driven by politics, its not its driven by user complaints, so what, its not as though there are not alternative platforms with a GOP bias. The lack of users on those platforms is a good indicator of how popular that bias is.

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Koby (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The lack of users on those platforms is a good indicator of how popular that bias is.

The number of followers for Trump, along with other conservatives on Twitter, is the reason why Twitter is engaging in corporate censorship. Twitter has a political bias, and it drives them insane that they have as many followers as they do. They are desperate to prevent Americans to hear the other side of the argument.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

They are desperate to prevent Americans to hear the other side of the argument.

Then why doesn’t Twitter get rid of those conservatives? Twitter has that right. The conservatives can go to Parler and build their little shitpile there; they have no legal right to force Twitter into hosting speech.

(Answer: Twitter, like Facebook, is bending over backwards to be nice to conservatives so the service doesn’t appear “biased”. An account that reposts Trump’s tweets verbatim would get [and has been] suspended/banned for saying the same exact thing as Trump. How is that not “special treatment” for conservatives?)

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "Special treatment" for conservatives

According to Twitter’s justifications, it’s special treatment for VIPs. Trump’s twitter feed would not be tolerated if he were not President of the United States. Word has it President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey also says shit on Twitter that is only tolerated because he is an official leader of a country.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

They are desperate to prevent Americans to hear the other side of the argument.

When the other side of the argument is nothing but a bunch of concocted bullshit, then yes, they are desperate to prevent Americans from hearing and spreading said bullshit. Just because it doesn’t exist on Twitter, doesn’t mean the bullshit is not available online.

I mean look how gullible you are Kody, spewing bullshit you’ve heard from somewhere else regarding your views on internet censorship and section 230.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

They are desperate to prevent Americans to hear the other side of the argument.

The cannot do that, as they cannot prevent people also using other platforms. It not as if you cannot use one platform to stay in touch with family and another to follow the politics that you prefer. Also, quite few people will follow Trump not because they support him, but because he is a source of news, or that his latest tantrum will give a clue as to what stocks to buy and sell.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "the other side of the argument"

"What argument is that?"

Fuck Liberals of course.

The virtues of which are, apparently, self-evident to any upright god-fearing (white) christian. And if you can’t spot the virtue in it you must be a liberal leftie out to subvert the human race on behalf of your lizard lord paymasters in the global satanist pedo ring running the New World Order.

/s…because with Baghdad Bob back on the forum Poe’s Law reigns.

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Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 "Fuck the leftists"

I think that’s the point, Twitter may have figured out fuck the leftists is just like fuck the Jews (e.g. Blood Libel, or Holocaust denial), those aren’t conservative positions, but rumors to justify dismissing large swatches of population.

If Senator Cruz specified that Twitter was censoring him when he talked about the Deep State, or the Comet Ping Pong basement trafficking ring, or Satanists controlling the DNC, he’d be laughed off the floor.

But our Twitter-censorship conspiracy hypothesists know this, and so when they argue Twitter is censoring them they keep ambiguous about what is being censored.

Which makes it hilarious when Koby’s suggests that it’s a super-compelling argument that is convincing to anyone who hears it.

Let’s bring the UFOs and reptilians into the sunlight so we can all scrutinize their validity!

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 "Fuck the leftists"

"Let’s bring the UFOs and reptilians into the sunlight so we can all scrutinize their validity!"

All good conspiracy theories are, by now, religions all their own. They’d produce the same argument poor Galileo was delivered when he pointed out that according to his telescope the moon was NOT a perfect sphere because you could see mountains and craters.
The learned theologians, after careful observation of the moon through his device, then postulated that the moon must be covered by an invisible and undetectable substance evening out the uneven surface – because according to church doctrine the celestial bodies HAD to be perfect spheres.

A halfway convinced conspiracy theorist has been enlightened. He sees the fnords. He knows better than to trust his own lying eyes, let alone yours. Especially because if you doubt him you are part of the conspiracy. And, given the normal type of nutcase we discuss, probably a black jew on top of it.

At some point to uphold the conspiracy theory the actual adversaries become superhuman. They have to be to keep a lid on all their foul plans. The very least they’re capable of is mind control, but in some cases it’s obvious they also possess time travel and reality-bending powers.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"They are desperate to prevent Americans to hear the other side of the argument."

When the other side of the argument is telling me to inject chlorine, I tend to not be interested in hearing it – and it really is not much of an argument anyways.

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Rocky says:

Re: Re:

It’s interesting that your argument is that one company isn’t allowed to make "political contribution" while another one is. It’s almost like you think entities that doesn’t agree with your viewpoint should be "censored" for their political views. Didn’t you complain that all social media censor conservative views, and here we have you saying that social media should be silenced.

And if we are going to talk about "editorialization", which company does more "editorialization", Twitter or Fox? And why is one company’s "editorialization" ok while the other one’s aren’t?

You hypocrisy is astounding.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Poe’s Law;

"Without a clear indication of the author’s intent, it is difficult or impossible to tell the difference between an expression of sincere extremism and a parody of extremism."

Bluntly put you can’t satirize Koby about free speech topics because no matter how bad the satire you just appear to genuinely be Koby.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Does it still count as a mistake when it’s deliberate and intentional? I have no doubt that he’s been corrected on that in the past(multiple times at that), so at this point if he’s still saying it he’s doing so knowing that it’s not true.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Hmm, different definitions I suppose, as for me for something to be a mistake in that context it requires a lack of intent, for someone to not realize that they’re wrong, such that with that realization it goes from mistake to deliberate deception/lie.

Unless perhaps you mean mistake in the ‘he used it without realizing that his use hurts his argument rather than helps it’ sense, a mistake in tactics rather than terminology?

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You have a strange idea of "open platform"

Kobes, dude, open platform means that the company has made it free to sign up for and free to use their technology platform as long as you abide by their rules. Because they are not a government entity and this is not a de facto "public forum" like a courthouse or government owned square (no matter how many times anyone tries to say it is), they are allowed to exercise their 1st amendment rights and allow or disallow speech that breaks their rules just as much as any other company.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: You have a strange idea of "open platform"

It seems to depend on the platform.

When it’s the social media platforms people actually want to use then kicking people off for violating the rules is tyranny and trying to silence their perfectly acceptable speech, when it comes to shitholes like Parler then people getting kicked off is perfectly fine because they were violating the platform’s rules.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Twitter is supposed to be an open platform

What does that even mean? Do you not believe in private property any more? Should every website be forced to host all speech? Is Twitter allowed to remove spam?

If Twitter wants to not appear to be making a political contribution, then they need to stop engaging in editorialization while operating an open platform.

Does the 1st Amendment not mean anything to you Koby?

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Skybalonyx skapter says:

NOT SKETCHY. More quotes from Glen Greenwald.

https://theintercept.com/2020/10/15/facebook-and-twitter-cross-a-line-far-more-dangerous-than-what-they-censor/

That the First Amendment right of free speech is inapplicable to these questions goes without saying. That constitutional guarantee restricts the actions of governments, not private corporations such as Facebook and Twitter.

However, MASNICK claims the First Amendment empowers corporations to arbitrarily suppress the speech of others! MASNICK sez: "And, I think it’s fairly important to state that these platforms have their own First Amendment rights, which allow them to deny service to anyone."

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20170825/01300738081/nazis-internet-policing-content-free-speech.shtml

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Skybalonyx skapter says:

NOT SKETCHY. More quotes from Glen Greenwald.

https://theintercept.com/2020/10/15/facebook-and-twitter-cross-a-line-far-more-dangerous-than-what-they-censor/

That the First Amendment right of free speech is inapplicable to these questions goes without saying. That constitutional guarantee restricts the actions of governments, not private corporations such as Facebook and Twitter.

However, MASNICK claims the First Amendment empowers corporations to arbitrarily suppress the speech of others! MASNICK sez: "And, I think it’s fairly important to state that these platforms have their own First Amendment rights, which allow them to deny service to anyone."

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20170825/01300738081/nazis-internet-policing-content-free-speech.shtml

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

That constitutional guarantee restricts the actions of governments, not private corporations such as Facebook and Twitter.

Dude, Glen Greenwald literally said the law empowers corporations like Facebook and Twitter to “arbitrarliy suppress the speech of others” (i.e., moderate third-party speech). The First Amendment gives you the right to speak freely; it doesn’t give you the right to make someone give you a platform.

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Jess Watt-Chin says:

Greenwald refutes:

That actions by gigantic corporations are constitutional does not mean that they are benign.

Also "Constitutional" — as determined by lawyers — doesn’t mean that People must sit silently ahd be oppressed. America is explicitly founded on moral principle of individual humans having inalienable Rights which sum up to FAIRNESS regardless of wealth or status. — Don’t nag me that originally included slavery because I’m about to refute you: else Abolishment must have stopped with Supreme Court decisions, and neither would the Civil Rights Movement have any validity. The labor movements and anti-trust actions of last century were exactly to wrest arbitrary power from The Rich and their giant corporations.

But legalistic masnicks wish a return to royalism, just with corporate fronts. Masnick explicitly views even 1A as empowering the Rich to rule over the rest. While claiming he’s so for Free Speech that urges Facebook to host videos of murders, he doesn’t want neutral hosting of Public Forums in mere text! Masnick isn’t wishing for the gov’t to quit harassing corporations, he wants the gov’t to confer POWER on them!

Anonymous Coward says:

For the duration, the FEC may be un-sueable...

Posit: The FEC decides, screw it, we’re going to conduct business regardless.

Lawsuit: You can’t do that! It’s in your bylaws!

FEC: If you acknowledge our responding in this suit, you acknowledge our right to conduct business. If you declare we cannot respond to your suit because of our bylaws, we also cannot take any action in response to your suit.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Eve of destruction

The summary execution of Michael Reinoehl was a big fat spark, especially considering how Dear Leader mulled it over in public about that’s how we have to deal with rioters.

November is looking super exciting this year.

And you tell me over and over and over again, my friend…

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