Government

Sen. Chuck Grassley frustrated by social media limiting access to stories

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, answers questions Oct. 20 from members of the Marion-East Cedar Rapids Rotary Club at
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, answers questions Oct. 20 from members of the Marion-East Cedar Rapids Rotary Club at Legacy Mfg. in Marion. Grassley on Wednesday said he was not pleased with social media platforms “censoring” stories that raised questions about former Vice President Joe Biden’s involvement in his son’s business dealings. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Sen. Chuck Grassley, one of the U.S. Senate’s most prolific Twitter users, voiced his displeasure with the social media platform for “censoring” stories that raised questions about former Vice President Joe Biden’s involvement in his son’s business dealings.

Twitter, along with Facebook, took steps to limit the spread of a New York Post story that reported on emails it said were found on a laptop computer that might have belonged to the presidential nominee’s son, Hunter Biden, at a computer repair shop.

The story suggested that the younger Biden arranged for top executives at the Ukrainian energy firm he was affiliated with to meet with his father, who was vice president at the time. The Biden campaign denies there was such a meeting.

Twitter initially banned links to the story, and Facebook deprioritized it. Their actions touched off a firestorm of criticism from conservatives that the companies were censoring news. Defenders of Biden suggested it was part of a Russian disinformation campaign. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said there is no information to support that claim.

Rather than speak to the authenticity of the story Wednesday, the Iowa Republican focused on what he called the danger of social media companies limiting access to news.

“In a sense, these platforms are like a one-stop shop for information, particularly for younger people,” Grassley said, adding that at his age — 87 — that includes anyone younger than 40.

Although the social media platforms aren’t typical news outlets, “most of the people under 40 don’t get the information you and I get from newspapers.”

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His concern is that the actions of Twitter and Facebook “are curbing public discussion of things that when we used to have hundreds of thousands of people buying the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Des Moines Register they were subjects of conversation.”

So-called Big Tech companies are being called to appear before the Senate Commerce Committee, Grassley said. The Judiciary Committee, of which Grassley is a member, is considering subpoenaing company executives if they don’t appear voluntarily.

It’s too soon to know what action, if any, Congress might take, he said.

While he has “great concern” about their ability to limit access to news and information, Grassley said he “wouldn’t go to the point of using the words ‘breaking up’ ” the social media companies.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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