Ted Cruz announces ‘full investigation into Big Tech’ after Elon Musk exposed censorship
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today sent a letter to social media companies Meta, Google, Twitter, and TikTok launching an oversight investigation into these companies’ use of recommendation algorithms and their reported use of “blacklists,” “de-emphasizing,” and other means of “reduced distribution” of content from users, including many conservatives.
In his letter to these Big Tech companies, Sen. Cruz wrote:
“As you are well aware, social media companies rely on algorithms to not only moderate content, but also to surface personalized recommendations to users. Recommendation systems play an increasingly ubiquitous role in selecting content for individual consumption, including by promoting some content, using product design elements to prominently display recommendations, and downranking or filtering disfavored content and accounts[…]
“The design of these systems is especially important in light of the Gonzalez v. Google LLC case before the U.S. Supreme Court this term, which concerns whether Section 230 immunizes platforms when they make targeted recommendations of third-party information.
“Recommendation systems are separate and distinct from algorithms that rank or otherwise organize content that a user is already following or subscribed to. Taken as a whole, these systems have an outsized impact—whether positive or negative—on the reach of content and accounts and, by extension, speech[…]
“At their best, recommendations help users discover interesting or relevant content that they might not otherwise find on a platform. 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[…]
“In addition to my concerns about the addictive nature of these systems, I am equally concerned with how censorship within recommendations impacts the distribution of speech online. 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.”
As part of his investigation, Sen. Cruz is asking for Meta, Google, Twitter, and TikTok to provide information and documents regarding the scope of these companies’ content recommendation systems, the effect on distribution of content, manual intervention into the recommendations process, how political speech is treated, and what protocols for transparency and due process currently exist regarding these algorithms.
Read the full text of Sen. Cruz’s letter here.