Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is one of Big Tech’s harshest critics in Washington. He has called Big Tech the “Robber Barons” of today and the “single greatest threat to free speech ... and democracy.”
A free speech advocate who says the answer to bad speech is “more free speech,” Cruz has been highly critical of the industry’s bias against and censorship of conservatives. As a member of the Senate’s Judiciary and Commerce committees, he has frequently questioned Big Tech executives and spokespersons as well as people like radio host and PragerU founder Dennis Prager who have testified to mistreatment by social media companies. Prager and others attribute the censorship to their conservative views.
"What makes the threat of political censorship so problematic is the lack of transparency, the invisibility, the ability for a handful of giant tech companies to decide if a particular speaker is disfavored," Cruz said in April 2019 during a Senate Judiciary Committee on censorship.
He has also argued that if social media companies want to retain Section 230 protections, they need to behave as neutral public forums rather than as publishers.
“As I expressed to Mark Zuckerberg, as a private business Facebook has a clear First Amendment right to publish whatever it wants on its website within the bounds of the law. The company can support political causes and oppose ones it disagrees with, just like a private citizen can speak his or her mind or agitate against opposing views,” Cruz wrote in a 2018 opinion piece for Fox News. But if it censors “legal” speech, it “should be held accountable” and lose immunity.
Cruz is a Harvard Law School graduate. He worked as an attorney and held positions at the Dept. of Justice and Federal Trade Commission before becoming the longest serving Texas solicitor general. He became a senator in 2013.
- In October 2020, the Senate Commerce Committee (which Cruz sits on) unanimously voted to authorize subpoenas of the Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet CEOs if they continued ignoring requests to testify on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
- Cruz called for a criminal investigation into Twitter for possibly violating U.S. sanctions against Iran, by allowing its Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and foreign minister to use the platform. “Those sanction laws are designed to stop U.S. companies from facilitating Iranian terror," he told Fox Business Network host Stuart Varney.
- After Google booted ZeroHedge from Google Ads and threatened to refuse ad service to The Federalist over comments left on its website, Cruz blasted the company in the press and in a letter to its CEO Sundar Pichai. He said on Fox Business that “crossed a line” and “clearly violates” antitrust laws.
- The Texas senator joined free speech platform Parler in June 2020, saying, “This platform gets what free speech is all about, and I’m excited to be a part of it. Let’s speak. Let’s speak freely. And let’s end the Silicon Valley censorship.”
- He was one of seven lawmakers from both parties who wrote to Apple condemning it’s decision to remove Hong Kong mapping app (HKmap.live) from its App Store in late 2019. Hong Kong protesters were using the app to avoid dangers from the unrest.
- When Twitter decided to ban all political ads ahead of the 2020 election, Cruz called it “profoundly harmful.” He argued that ad bans only benefit incumbents and the “main-stream media.”
- Cruz and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate how social media companies make decisions about content. “They control the ads we see, the news we read, and the information we digest. And they actively censor some content and amplify other content based on algorithms and intentional decisions that are completely nontransparent,” the senators wrote.
- “If we have tech companies using the power of monopoly to censor political speech, I think that raises real antitrust issues,” Cruz said in an April 2019 hearing.