The companies are purging their platforms after Wednesday’s Capitol riot and break-in by Trump supporters, in the name of preventing more violence.
But skeptics fear potential government-sanctioned censorship and surveillance akin to the post-9/11 Patriot Act, which federal authorities secretly interpreted as allowing for the dragnet collection of domestic call records.
Big Tech aides pouring into the Biden White House and federal agencies will give the companies access to decision-makers, including the president, potentially conflating the policies of the large companies and the government. The influx also could influence other policies, including anti-trust actions and the future of Section 230 legal protections.
One of the most powerful figures in the White House later this month will be Jessica Hertz, a former Facebook lawyer who will serve as Biden’s White House staff secretary, vetting correspondence, regulations and appointments that will reach his desk.
Emily Horne, who will broker the White House National Security Council’s communications with the media, worked at Twitter from 2017 to 2018, according to her LinkedIn profile. The NSC has a large staff anchored on White House grounds, and significantly influences administration policy on defense and foreign affairs.
A fleet of other Big Tech vets are helping review appointments for Biden’s transition office and may follow him into office after Jan. 20.
Mark Schwartz from Amazon Web Services is helping vet appointments to the White House Office of Management and Budget, which controls spending policy across the federal bureaucracy.
Google global program manager Deon Scott is reviewing applicants to the Department of Homeland Security, Facebook strategic response aide Zaid Zaid is on the Biden vetting team for State Department jobs, Facebook associate general counsel Christopher Upperman is working on the Small Business Administration, and Facebook director of strategic response Rachel Lieber is vetting spy agency staff.
Amazon international tax director Tom Sullivan is vetting State Department appointments and Cynthia Hogan, who led Apple’s lobbying as vice president for public policy and government affairs, previously helped with Biden’s VP selection vetting.
In DC, a widely accepted axiom says “Personnel is policy,” and civil libertarians are expressing concern after the companies censored Trump and his allies.
Twitter canceled Trump’s account Friday night and purged many accounts belonging to right-wingers, as well as Trump allies Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell, who backed Trump’s claims that voter fraud gave Biden a win — despite court rulings to the contrary.
Facebook and Instagram, meanwhile, banned Trump from using the networks through at least Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, expressing concern that he would incite further violence.
As Trump fans migrated to upstart Parler to communicate, Google and Apple dropped the platform from its app stores and Amazon has booted the network from its servers, taking the site offline completely.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald, whose reporting on whistleblower Edward Snowden’s 2013 mass surveillance revelations won a Pulitzer Prize, tweeted, “History moves quickly. The 9/11 attack was 20 years ago. That means nobody under 35, maybe 40, has a real political memory of it. Liberals begging corporations to censor ‘extremist’ speech. Emotions exploited to demand quick new anti-terrorism laws & powers? The same dynamic.”
The American Civil Liberties Union’s senior legislative counsel Kate Ruane said, “We understand the desire to permanently suspend [Trump] now, but it should concern everyone when companies like Facebook and Twitter wield the unchecked power to remove people from platforms that have become indispensable for the speech of billions — especially when political realities make those decisions easier.”
Journalist Michael Tracey, a past supporter of socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, wrote, “The new corporate authoritarian liberal-left monoculture is going to be absolutely ruthless — and in 12 days it is merging with the state. This [is] only the beginning… The real ‘threat’ at this point is crazed oligarchs + politicians using the ‘crisis’ to consolidate power.”
He added: “Notice that the threat of ‘violence’ Twitter says justifies their political purge never applies to traditional forms of state violence — Trump’s tweets announcing bombings or assassinations were never seen as necessitating some disciplinary intervention in the name of ‘safety’.”
Before the Nov. 3 election, Republicans rallied in October to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act following Twitter and Facebook censorship of The Post’s reporting on documents from Hunter Biden’s laptop, which appeared to link the elder Biden, then the Democratic presidential candidate, to his son’s work in China and Ukraine.
Twitter claimed without evidence that Hunter Biden’s documents may have been hacked, although the records were sourced from a Delaware computer repairman who provided documents indicating the equipment was legally abandoned. Neither Hunter Biden nor the Biden campaign denied their authenticity. Facebook said it was throttling article distribution pending “fact checking,” but later relented.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a November hearing on censorship of The Post’s reporting, with Republicans accusing tech giants of censoring truthful information out of political bias while some Democrats pushed for additional censorship.
Trump has waged continuous efforts throughout his administration to repeal Section 230 in an effort to curb online censorship and political bias by tech companies. In December, he vetoed the annual defense spending bill because Congress did not repeal Section 230, citing it as a matter of national security and election integrity.
Democrats will hold the White House, Senate and House under Biden, though historically both Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) backed repeal of Section 230, which gives companies immunity for third-party content.