(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, used his opening testimony at a hearing Tuesday on Google and censorship of its search engine results to call for re-examination of the special subsidy that they receive.
“This past April, this subcommittee held a hearing on social media bias with witnesses from Facebook and Twitter. As I noted then, any inquiry into Big Tech’s censorship practices must take an especially hard look at Google. That’s what we’re doing here today. Google’s control over what people hear, watch, read and say is unprecedented. Almost 90 percent of Internet searches in the United States use Google. Google’s domination of the search engine market is so complete that to Google is now a commonplace verb,” Cruz said.
“With that market power, Google can and often does control our discourse, and sometimes tech companies talk about their products and the effects of those products as though they’re forces outside of Big Tech’s control. As we’ve heard time and time again, Big Tech’s favorite defense is, ‘It wasn’t me. The algorithm did it’, but, Google’s search engine isn’t some supernatural force,” he said.
“It’s a computer program written and maintained by people, so everytime we search on Google, we see only the webpages that Google decides we should see, in the order that Google decides we should see them. Type a few letters into the search bar, and Google will tell you what you should be looking for. The same is true of Google subsidiary YouTube, the second most visited webpage in existence,” Cruz said.
“When you search on YouTube, programs written by people at YouTube provide you with the results. When you watch a video, a program written by the people at YouTube suggest what you should watch next, and when you submit a video, people at YouTube determine whether you’ve engaged in so-called hate speech, an ever-changing and vague standard meant to give censorship an air of legitimacy,” he said.
The senator said Congress gave tech companies “special subsidies that nobody else gets” when it passed Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
“If the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal were to publish an op-ed that liabled a private citizen, they can be held responsible. This is the case even when those organizations don’t write the content that breaks the law. They can be held responsible merely for publishing it, not so for companies like Google and YouTube. If someone uses one of those services to commit slander or to transmit classified material or to traffic guns or drugs, far too often, Google is off the hook. Section 230 makes it immune,” Cruz said.
He said Congress gave tech companies “immunity” in exchange for ensuring that they don’t favor speech of any side.
“Big Tech gets a perk, a subsidy, that no one else does - Fox News, MSNBC or anybody else. This immunity, however, was part of a deal. It was a trade. Section 230, the text of it, refers to the Internet as ‘a forum for true diversity’ of political discourse. That was the trade at the heart of Section 230,” Cruz said.
“This is because we expected tech companies in the business of carrying other’s speech wouldn’t favor any side when they did so. There wouldn’t be a conservative Internet and a liberal Internet. There’d just be the Internet. That bargain today is falling apart,” the senator added.
“Big Tech continues to reap the benefits of a Section 230 subsidy, but the American people do not. The American people are instead subject to both overt censorship and covert manipulation. I believe it’s time to rethink that deal,” he said.
“If Big Tech cannot provide us with evidence, clear compelling data and evidence that it’s not playing Big Brother with its vast immense powers, there’s no reason on earth why Congress should give them a special subsidy through Section 230,” Cruz added.