If there is one thing Republicans and Democrats can agree on, it’s that the internet giants have become too powerful and need to be restrained. Many lawmakers also agree that the companies should be stripped of a law that shields websites from liability for content created by their users.
But members of the Senate commerce committee will almost certainly make wildly different arguments to drive home their points on Wednesday.
Republicans regularly accuse Facebook, Google and Twitter of censoring conservative viewpoints by labeling, taking down and minimizing the reach of posts by Republican politicians and right-leaning media personalities. They have the support of President Trump, who issued an executive order this summer aimed at stripping the technology companies of their safe harbor under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Three Republican senators — Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee — will almost certainly accuse the Silicon Valley giants of censorship. The senators have been among the most vocal about a perceived liberal bias inside the tech companies. Some of the hardest questions and finger pointing could be directed at Jack Dorsey, the chief executive of Twitter, for recent decisions to take down and label posts from Mr. Trump.
Don’t expect Democrats to touch the subject of censorship. They will instead focus on a range of issues that point to the problem of power held by the internet giants. Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the commerce committee, will call for the companies to help local news outlets, whose business models have been hollowed out by the rise of the internet. Expect Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut to accuse Google and Facebook of monopolistic behavior and to argue for the need for stronger antitrust enforcement. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Mr. Blumenthal will probably harp on privacy practices.
Another thing to watch for from the Democrats: possible signals of what the party will push forward if Joseph R. Biden Jr. wins the presidential election and the Senate flips to Democratic control.