U.S. Congressman LOUIE GOHMERT: Proudly Serving the First District of Texas

 

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Rep. Gohmert: Social Media ‘Anxious’ to ‘Help the Democrats’

Gabriel Hays | News Busters

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Washington, July 17, 2018 | comments

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, came out swinging at the House Judiciary hearing about censoring conservatives. He criticized Facebook’s eagerness to address Democrat questions about Russian use of the platform, but less so about GOP inquiries.

During the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, representatives from Google/Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter detailed the steps they had been taking to increase the general transparency, accessibility, and safety of their platforms. However, several of the Democratic representatives repeatedly switched the focus to what these companies were doing to combat Russian hacking during the election.

According to Gohmert, these social media representatives were almost too eager in their cooperation with the Democratic questioning.

Democratic congressman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., started his line of questioning by recalling the “abject humiliation” President Donald Trump brought upon himself during his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday. He then asked, “Now do each of you agree that Russian government exploited the social media platforms your companies provide to attack our democracy?”

All of the tech company representatives responded affirmatively. Monika Bickert, Head of Facebook’s Global Policy Management, stated, “We did find accounts run by the Russian Internet Research Agency, both before and after the 2016 election. And we did remove those accounts and report on them.” YouTube’s Global Head of Public Policy and Government Relations Juniper Downs claimed, "We did find limited activity on our services, limited because of the strong security controls we had in place leading up to the election.”

She also mentioned the shutdown of a couple Russian Internet Research Agency accounts, and several YouTube pages from Russian sources. Nick Pickles, Senior Strategist of Public Policy for Twitter, answered similarly, saying that they removed accounts “linked to the Internet Research Agency” and RT, formerly Russia Today.

However, when Gohmert took on a line of questioning that was critical to the Russian narrative, the social media spokespersons’ answers became a little muddy, to say the least.

He asked, “Did you ever find any indication of use of your platform, utilized by the Chinese, North Korea, or any other foreign country, intelligence or agency of that country?” Bickert began by giving a confusing statement, possibly alluding to the fact that Facebook hadn’t thought that information to be relevant.

Bickert: I would note, Congressman, that we are not in North Korea or China, in terms of whether we’ve seen attacks on our services. We are of course a big target. We do have a robust security team that, uh, wor...

Gohmert: Well, but that’s not my question. It’s just a very direct question: Have you found use? You don’t have to be in North Korea to be North Korean intelligence. We have foreign governments, intelligence agencies in this country. 

Gohmert mentioned that he felt each of the spokespeople to be “a little bit vague” in their assessments of finding hundreds of fake or bot accounts, and that they weren’t coming up with an answer to his specific questions. Still, Bickert clung to her statement that she didn’t have “the details.”

Gohmert: I’m asking specifically, were any of those other countries, besides Russia, using your platform inappropriately? It should be a yes or no.

Bickert: I don’t have the details. I know we definitely work to detect and repel attacks...

Gohmert: I know that but were any of them foreign entities other than Russia?”

Bickert: I can certainly follow you up on that.

The Texas Representative continued to grill Bickert, asking whether she even knew the answer to his question. He then brought his point home, remarking, “You sure seemed anxious to answer the Democrats’ questions about Russia influence, and you don’t really know of all the groups that inappropriately used your platform?”

Bickert mentioned that she knew that there were other groups, but that she would have to give Gohmert the answer some time later. The congressman piled on, asking “So you came prepared to help the Democrats establish about Russia, but you can’t point out any other country?”

Google’s Juniper Downs showed a similar struggle to give a straight answer. She touted the ability of her platform to combat all hostile foreign bodies, and mentioned that they really didn’t have research outside the Russia investigation. And Twitter’s Nick Pickles all but dodged Gohmert’s question entirely.

After the Media Research Center released its censorship report, more than 30 conservative organizations united to form the coalition Conservatives Against Online Censorship. The Senate held a hearing where Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave testimony in early April. Later in April, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing of social media platforms. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., testified about her personal experience of censorship on Twitter, while personalities Diamond and Silk gave their own testimonies about their fears of censorship.

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