Twitter’s Director of Public Policy and Philanthropy froze during a hearing, Wednesday, after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) grilled him on Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s previous declaration that the social network is not a neutral platform.
After Sen. Cruz asked Twitter’s Director of Public Policy and Philanthropy, Carlos Monje, Jr., “Does Twitter consider itself a neutral public forum?” Monje refused to provide a yes or no answer, and instead replied, “Twitter strives every day to be an impartial platform where all voices can come and speak.”
The following is a transcript of the rest of the conversation:
Cruz: “I don’t actually expect to get an answer, because I’ve asked you this before, but are you able to answer, yes or no, whether you consider yourself a neutral public forum?”
Monje: “Twitter is an open Internet platform where people of all stripes and political affiliations, all around the globe, come and speak.”
Cruz: “Okay let me help you… So recently the CEO of Twitter Jack Dorsey said, quote, ‘I don’t believe that we can afford to take a neutral stance anymore. I don’t believe that we should optimize for neutrality.’ Does this represent the policy of Twitter?”
Monje: “I have not seen that quote, sir.”
Cruz: “Do you agree with it?”
Monje: “That is not how he is building the platform and how everybody who comes to Twitter every day… I think it’s important to note, sir, that three quarters of our users are overseas, and that we are a global company that is staffed globally.”
Cruz then asked Monje why Twitter blocked a pro-life quote from Mother Teresa, asking both Monje and Facebook’s Public Policy Director, Neil Potts, whether they considered Mother Teresa to be a hate figure.
Cruz: “There have been multiple instances of, in particular pro-life groups, being disfavored. For example, here is a tweet that says, ‘Abortion is profoundly anti-women,’ and it’s a quote from Mother Theresa, and this tweet was blocked. Now it is fairly remarkable that Mother Teresa is now deemed hate speech. Do either of you agree with the proposition that Mother Teresa is issuing hate speech.”
Cruz: “Is this hate speech?”
Monje: “I believe that account is from Susan B. Anthony, and Susan B. Anthony is currently an advertiser in good standing on our platform…”
Cruz: “You’re very good at not answering questions. Is this hate speech?”
Monje: “I, uh, every, every tweet, uh, has context behind it, and every decision that’s made… Um, I can tell you we have actioned accounts on both sides of this debate, including tweets by pro-choice groups who have said that everyone who is pro-life is misogynistic. There are many pro-life groups that advertise on our platforms, currently in good standing, and advertisers across the board, whether they’re selling soap or NFL, sometimes have advertisements that are caught in our systems.”
After Potts was asked whether he believed the quote would be against Facebook’s rules, Potts replied, “Chairman, I don’t believe this was on our site, but looking at that quote right now, the lights are a little bright so my eyes are trying to zero in… that would not be a violation of our policies.”