Zuckerberg Hearings Should Be Just the Beginning

Forget Russian bots and inconsequential Facebook ads that didn’t affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Where our government should divert its attention is to the real election meddling that could be taking place in Silicon Valley — a technology epicenter run by activist liberals whom many suspect are using algorithms and other methods to silence or suppress speech, including political speech, they don’t like on their platforms.

When pressed about this during congressional hearings on Capitol Hill this week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave flimsy assurances that Americans are not being censored for their political leanings, thus doing little to assuage scores of Americans across the nation who’ve been unfairly blocked from posting conservative content on his platform.

In an op-ed for Fox News, Sen. Ted Cruz said this week, “For years it has been evident that Facebook has actively censored or suppressed conservative speech.” And during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, the senator from Texas laid out a series of bona fide examples in which conservative speech has been unfairly and unethically blocked on Facebook before its founder.

The list is long and should alarm every American.

If social media giants can censor conservative political speech, what’s stopping them from also suppressing libertarians and Bernie Sanders-supporting democratic socialists — or any viewpoint that goes against their own ideology or candidate of choice?

To protect our democracy — and citizens’ right to free speech — the government must investigate how many Americans are being discriminated against online for their political views. It also must assess whether Twitter, Facebook and others are effectively rigging future elections by allowing liberal users and content providers greater access to their platforms — and voters — while scores of conservatives are being marginalized.

Knowing that the majority of Americans today get their news online, it’s imperative that the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice step in and find out, because muting conservatives online not only violates their constitutionally protected rights and is discriminatory but also impacts elections by disproportionately shaping public opinion, giving one political party a seismic unfair advantage over the other.

Hardly the level playing field our Founding Fathers envisioned.

If skeptics think it’s far-fetched to suggest that social media networks are putting their thumb on the scale to advance a political agenda, consider a recent tweet by the CEO of Twitter. On April 5, Jack Dorsey tweeted the words “Great read” and a link to an article co-written by a Center for American Progress senior fellow who calls for “civil war” and the destruction of the GOP.

Does that sound politically neutral to you?

To preserve our rights — and the integrity of future elections — Congress must demand access to social networks’ algorithms and begin a top-to-bottom audit of their practices. In fact, many believe it’s time the government regulated social media as it does public utilities.

Consider this: By law, electric companies can’t restrict power to certain individuals or groups, as that’s discrimination. So how is it acceptable that social media can restrict dialogue and content distribution by conservatives?

Hauling Zuckerberg before Congress should be only the beginning. The next step should be inviting Dorsey to also testify before lawmakers — and a full investigation must ensue.

With midterms and the 2020 presidential election fast approaching, not a moment too soon.

About Adriana Cohen

Adriana Cohen is host of the “Adriana Cohen Show” heard Wednesdays at noon on Boston Herald Radio. Follow her on Twitter @AdrianaCohen16.