Show an ad over header. AMP

Conservatives plot to punish the tech industry for deplatforming Trump

Capitol Hill conservatives are gaming out a multi-front war on the tech industry as retribution for deplatforming President Trump and others on the right, congressional sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: When you're in the minority, you figure out who you are as a party. With Republicans now looking up at the Democrats, they're searching for a unifying issue. This is one, at least for now.


What we're hearing: Members are talking anew about breaking up companies, repealing their legal protections and calling their leaders in for testimony. They've been biting their tongues, though, to prevent further damage to their brand after the Capitol siege.

But, but, but: Some are starting to go on the offensive against the companies, at least online and in conservative media.

  • Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), who will lead Republicans on the Senate Commerce Committee, demanded answers by Tuesday from the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Twitter about their treatment of conservatives.
  • During an appearance on Fox News last week, Wicker said, "It already is bigger than Donald Trump. It amounts to a stifling of free speech."

What they're saying: Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who became the poster boy for Republican overreach following the election, said Congress should consider breaking up the companies and adopting Trump's call to repeal Section 230.

  • That part of the Communications Decency Act shields platforms from liability over the content their users post.
  • "We’ve known for some time now that the tech monopolies were moving toward shutting down conservative voices. Now they’ve banned or censored multiple conservatives in a matter of days," Hawley told Axios.

Other Republicans agree, although it's unclear what they can do in the congressional minority.

  • "The censorship of President Trump proves just how much power Big Tech has over speech in America," said Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.). "The way forward to rein in Big Tech is to tackle the blatant antitrust offenses and support state efforts to hold these companies accountable."

Yes, but: Complaints about bias only go so far, especially since right-leaning pages perform especially well on Facebook.

  • Democrats and progressives, in particular, are complaining Big Tech has given safe haven to the worst elements of the right, including white supremacists.

Hill damage control: Apple has reached out to GOP offices attempting to explain and justify its suspension of Parler. Facebook also has reached out after banning Trump to discuss conservative claims of censorship, a GOP House aide said.

  • Apple CEO Tim Cook told Fox News if Parler "gets its moderation together," it'll be back on the App Store.
  • For Facebook, the Trump ban is a clear sign the company is well aware of the Democrats' ascendance in Washington, but making amends with conservatives will have to remain a priority as well.

Report: U.S. urges UN-led Afghan peace talks and warns of Taliban "territorial gain" threat

Secretary of State Antony Blinken proposed in a letter to President Ashraf Ghani steps including a UN-facilitated summit to revive stalled peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, Afghanistan's TOLOnews first reported Sunday.

Why it matters: Blinken expresses concern in the letter, also obtained by Western news outlets, of a potential "spring offensive by the Taliban" and that the "security situation will worsen and the Taliban could make rapid territorial gain" after an American military withdrawal, even with the continuation of U.S. financial aid.

Keep reading... Show less

Harry and Meghan accuse British royal family of racism

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle delivered a devastating indictment of the U.K. royal family in their conservation with Oprah Winfey: Both said unnamed relatives had expressed concern about what the skin tone of their baby would be. And they accused "the firm" of character assassination and "perpetuating falsehoods."

Why it matters: An institution that thrives on myth now faces harsh reality. The explosive two-hour interview gave an unprecedented, unsparing window into the monarchy: Harry said his father and brother "are trapped," and Markle revealed that the the misery of being a working royal drove her to thoughts of suicide.

Keep reading... Show less

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has taken the coronavirus vaccine

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla tells "Axios on HBO" that he recently received his first of two doses of the company's coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: Bourla told CNBC in December that company polling found that one of the most effective ways to increase confidence in the vaccine was to have the CEO take it.

Keep reading... Show less

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse: SEC lawsuit is "bad for crypto" in the U.S.

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse tells "Axios on HBO" that if his company loses a lawsuit brought by U.S. regulators, it would put the country at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to cryptocurrencies.

Between the lines: The SEC in December sued Ripple, and Garlinghouse personally, for allegedly selling over $1.3 billion in unregistered securities. Ripple's response is that its cryptocurrency, called XRP, didn't require registration because it's an asset rather than a security.

Pfizer CEO: "It will be terrible" if COVID vaccine prices limit access

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told "Axios on HBO" that it "will be terrible for society" if the price of coronavirus vaccines ever prohibits some people from taking them.

Why it matters: Widespread uptake of the vaccine — which might require annual booster shots — will reduce the risk of the virus continuing to spread and mutate, but it's unclear who will pay for future shots or how much they'll cost.

Keep reading... Show less

Lindsey Graham intends to "lean into" climate change during Biden era

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told "Axios on HBO" he intends to "lean into" climate change and that he has already discussed potential common ground with President Biden's special climate envoy John Kerry.

Behind the scenes: In a follow-up interview with Axios, Graham said Kerry called him in November, around the time Kerry's new position was announced, to see if there were openings to work together.

Keep reading... Show less

Lindsey Graham: Trump could make the GOP "stronger" or "destroy" it

Sen. Lindsey Graham told "Axios on HBO" that Donald Trump has a "dark side" but he tries to "harness the magic" because he succeeded where Republican candidates like John McCain and Mitt Romney failed.

Why it matters: The South Carolina Republican gyrates between support and criticism of the former president, even after Trump harshly criticized McCain — Graham's longtime friend — and helped spark the Capitol insurrection.

Keep reading... Show less

Senate plots its own earmark comeback

With the Senate done battling over President Biden's coronavirus rescue package, it's preparing to tackle another priority: earmarks.

Driving the news: Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the top members on the Senate Appropriations Committee, are expected to work out a deal restoring the congressional spending tool in the coming weeks, committee aides tell Axios.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories