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Rep. Khanna slams Twitter for censoring politics: 'Simply not what we do in this country'

By Sarah May
|
December 13, 2022

Amid all the outcry from the left that has followed Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter, Democrat Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) has stood apart from the pack by slamming the blatant censorship the company's CEO has revealed went on at the social media giant for several years, as Fox News reports.

Appearing on America's Newsroom Friday, Khanna reacted to the recent release of internal Twitter documents that demonstrated deliberate blacklisting and suppression of certain users and content types, and in doing so, mounted a commendable defense of the First Amendment.

“It's problematic”

Discussing what has been learned about the conduct of Twitter executives – particularly regarding New York Post reporting about first son Hunter Biden – during the run-up to the 2020 presidential election and beyond, Khanna leveled a harsh critique of the situation, saying, “It's problematic...they're effectively a modern public square and they should not be engaged in censorship.”

Khanna continued, “Now, it's one thing for them to say, 'Don't put up sensational pictures of Hunter Biden.' I understand that. But to censor the New York Post?”

“Look, the New York Post hasn't written a positive article about me, I think, in my six years in Congress. But I would never dream of saying shut them down or don't allow them to publish articles. I mean, that's the whole essence of democracy. And we need to stand up for the First Amendment,” the congressman continued.

While making it clear that he stands in opposition to social media platforms turning into a hotbed of racist or anti-Semitic content, Khanna added, “[b]ut my understanding is that it's going beyond that. It's not just that they're taking down speech that is hate. And Elon Musk has said he wants to take that down.”

“It's that they're censoring based on viewpoint,” Khanna pointedly observed. “And that's simply not what we do in this country.”

Lone voice of concern

Khanna's recent comments are in keeping with revelations from one of the aforementioned releases of internal Twitter communications dating back to 2020, which identified him as perhaps the sole Democrat who voiced any concern whatsoever about the platform's censorship of the Hunter Biden laptop story, as Fox News reported separately.

Journalist Matt Taibbi, tapped by Musk to disseminate the blockbuster materials, suggested that Khanna was the only Democrat he found in the documents who took issue with Twitter executives' conduct at the time.

In an email dated Oct. 14, 2020, Khanna wrote to high-ranking Twitter official Vijaya Gadde and said of the story's suppression by the platform, “Generating huge backlash on [Capitol] '[H]ill re speech.”

Despite Gadde's attempt to quell Khanna's concerns, the congressman replied, “this seems a violation of the 1st Amendment principles...to restrict the distribution of...material, especially regarding a Presidential candidate, seems not in the keeping of the principles of NYT v Sullivan,” referencing a pivotal U.S. Supreme Court free speech precedent.

Khanna continued, telling Gadde, “In the heat of a Presidential campaign, restricting dissemination of newspaper articles (even if NY Post is far right) seems like it will invite more backlash than it will do good.”

“It is wrong to censor”

Despite a veritable blackout from mainstream media outlets in terms of covering the bombshell revelations facilitated by Musk, Khanna has signaled at least some willingness to explore the matter further in a formal fashion.

Appearing on Fox News' Sunday Morning Futures with host Maria Bartiromo over the weekend, Khanna opined, “It is wrong to censor newspapers. It is wrong to censor journalists,” adding that Twitter's conduct in 2020 “just offended the basic principles that our country is based on.”

Khanna then explained his belief that “[t]here are two competing values. On the one hand, we don't want censorship. We don't want to have people censored or boxed out, shadowboxed, and removed from Twitter because of their viewpoint,” but also stated, “we don't want accounts that are filled with anti-Semitism or just spewing racism or hate on these accounts.”

In a somewhat surprising move, the California Democrat then said. “I think Congress should have an honest, thoughtful conversation about how we uphold both of those values.”

GOP vows action

Whether Khanna is serious about his willingness to pursue the matter of social media censorship in Congress remains to be seen, but it appears all but certain that soon-to-be Republican House majority stands prepared to act, as the Daily Mail noted.

Rep. James Comer (R-KY) has already pledged, “We are going to have every person at Twitter in front of the House Oversight Committee...[e]very employee at Twitter who was involved in suppressing the Hunter Biden laptop story will have an opportunity to come before Congress and explain their actions to the American people,” in what millions of Americans view as a reckoning that is long overdue.