Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on Monday announced an investigation into content moderation and censorship by large social media platforms.
Cruz sent a letter to Meta, Google, Twitter and TikTok launching an oversight investigation into the companies’ use of recommendation algorithms and alleged suppression of conservative voices.
Cruz is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) February 12, 2023
“The suppression of speech that happens across the world’s largest social media platforms is breathtaking,” the Texas Republican told reporters. He commended Twitter CEO Elon Musk’s work to expose bias at the company he acquired in October but said “the Twitter files are just the tip of the iceberg” of tech censorship. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE; Ted Cruz Introduces Three Bills To Accelerate Oil And Gas Permitting)
“I have launched a full investigation into censorship and content moderation practices by big tech companies,” Cruz continued, stating that his goal was to “end the censorship and collusion between big tech and partisan government employees.”
“In a world where seven out of ten Americans receive their political news from social media, the manner in which content is filtered through recommendation systems has an undeniable effect on what Americans see, think, and ultimately believe,” he said in the letter.
Cruz also noted that social media algorithms can serve objectionable content to young users.
“At their best, recommendations help users discover interesting or relevant content that they might not otherwise find on a platform,” he wrote in the letter. “However, recommendation systems can also fuel platform addiction by feeding users an essentially infinite stream of content. This can be especially dangerous when recommendations make it easier for vulnerable users, especially teenagers, to find objectively harmful content, such as content that promotes eating disorders and self-harm,” Cruz added.
The senator plans to ask the companies to provide information and documents explaining the scope of their recommendation systems and how they affect content distribution, according to the letter.
Cruz previously joined an amicus brief in Gonzalez v. Google, a case that raises the question of whether Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 has been incorrectly expanded to prevent tech platforms from being scrutinized for content recommendations.
The senator told reporters the investigation will inform future legislative efforts to reform Section 230 to ensure tech companies only receive protections if they act as neutral marketplaces of ideas rather than publishers.