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.