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US tech bosses subpoenaed in Republican hunt for liberal conspiracy

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House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, who defied a congressional subpoena in 2022, is demanding testimony documents from Big Tech companies./AFP
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Feb 16, 2023 - 02:53 AM

WASHINGTON — US lawmakers issued subpoenas to top Silicon Valley executives on Wednesday as Republicans seek to establish an unproven conspiracy theory that Big Tech and the government have colluded to suppress conservatives’ free speech.

The Republican-led House Judiciary Committee wrote to the CEOs of Google, Amazon, Apple, Meta and Microsoft demanding numerous documents, including any White House communications related to the regulation of content, by March 23.

“The House Judiciary Committee has repeatedly attempted to engage with the five companies since last December. Unfortunately, the companies have not adequately complied with our requests,” the panel said in a statement.

“Congress has an important role in protecting and advancing fundamental free speech principles, including by examining how private actors coordinate with the government to suppress First Amendment-protected speech.”

The panel is part of a broader Republican effort — launched when the party took over the House in January — targeting President Joe Biden, Silicon Valley, the intelligence community and an alleged “woke” leftist takeover of federal agencies.

It is led by Ohio congressman Jim Jordan, a favorite of the hard right who last year defied orders to testify to the Democratic-led panel probing the 2021 assault on the US Capitol.

Last week, the House Oversight Committee grilled former Twitter executives about the company’s decision, reversed in 2021, to limit the dissemination of a New York Post article critical of the president’s son, Hunter Biden.

Hard right lawmakers had set out to establish censorship by social media companies cowed by Democrats.

But the move backfired as they produced no evidence to back up their claims and the witnesses, testifying under oath, cast Republicans as the villains.

The committee heard that Twitter had gone to extraordinary lengths to protect former president Donald Trump from sanctions, dropping a racist phrase he used from its catalogue of banned language so that it could avoid punishing him.

Witnesses testified that while they had no knowledge of the Biden White House pushing for censorship, the Trump administration had pressured Twitter to delete an insulting tweet from the model Chrissy Teigen.

Microsoft and Meta issued statements to US media saying they had already been producing the requested documents and were cooperating with the committee.

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