In an op-ed for The Hill published Thursday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) praised Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and slammed Twitter’s Jack Dorsey for their diverging approaches to political speech following the social media giants’ recent policy announcements.
“For those who care about free speech, the last couple weeks saw two major developments from two people who have enormous influence over our public discourse,” Cruz writes. “First, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, whom I have previously criticized, gave an important address in defense of free speech. In it, he explained Facebook’s new policy that they would not censor political speech, but would instead allow the marketplace of ideas, the back-and-forth of political debate, to resolve public policy disputes.”
Cruz is referencing in part Zuckerberg’s widely covered speech at Georgetown University two weeks ago in which he came out strongly in defense of free speech. “We can continue to stand for free expression, understanding its messiness, but believing that the long journey towards greater progress requires confronting ideas that challenge us or we can decide the cost is simply too great,” he said. “I’m here today because I believe we must continue to stand for free expression.”
Zuckerberg also made clear in front of Congress the next week that his platform will not be policing political ads.
Dorsey, however, announced on Twitter this week that his platform will take a far different approach: it will “stop all political advertising on Twitter.”
“We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally,” Dorsey announced Wednesday. “We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought. Why? A few reasons a political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet. Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money.”
The developments, Cruz writes, “come at a time when Big Tech companies, from Facebook and Twitter to YouTube and Google, have established a pattern of arbitrarily silencing voices – overwhelming conservative voices – with whom they disagree.”
Cruz notes that leftwing politicians and media influencers have condemned Zuckerberg’s defense of free speech and praised Dorsey’s new political ad ban, “urging Facebook and Google to follow suit and jump on board the censorship train by banning political ads as well.”
Cruz goes on to lay out why banning ads would be “profoundly harmful,” including that doing so “only stands to benefit two groups: incumbent politicians and the mainstream media,” both of whom have “huge megaphone[s]” for spreading their messages.
Not only does a Twitter-like ban give incumbents and the media massive advantage, it effectively suppresses the voice of the average citizen by preventing groups like “the Sierra Club, the NRA, Planned Parenthood, AIPAC, or a totally new not-for-profit group trying to advocate for a particular idea” from reaching people.
Cruz additionally argues that Dorsey’s ban “only further empowers Silicon Valley billionaires, who already have a stronghold on defining what is truthful or acceptable speech, to now define what is and what is not ‘political.'”
“It’s up to them to determine where to draw the line – and they won’t stop here,” the Texas senator warns. “Banning ads is just the beginning.” (Read Cruz’s op-ed here.)