Rep. Jim Jordan is having a rough go at conjuring up a scandal to stick on Democrats in his role leading the GOP-devised House subcommittee on the “weaponization of government.”
My MSNBC colleague Hayes Brown published an excellent write-up on some of the top-line issues plaguing Jordan’s committee — in particular, the Ohio Republican’s tendency to overpromise what the panel could unearth. And another colleague, Steve Benen, wrote a nice follow-up to that, on Thursday’s subcommittee hearing, which centered largely on baseless claims that the federal government has pressured Twitter to silence conservative voices.
If you’re experiencing a bit of déjà vu, thinking Jordan and House Republicans already held such a hearing, don’t fret: The House Oversight Committee did, in fact, meet in February to discuss the right-wing “Twitter Files” conspiracy theory promoted by Elon Musk.
Jordan was essentially trying to rehash the same topic. And he picked a particularly awful time to do so.
Multiple reports from this week don’t just undercut Jordan’s claims that Republicans are unfairly targeted on social media — they illustrate examples of what should warrant government scrutiny.
For example, The Associated Press and Gizmodo both reported on a study by Israeli cybersecurity firm Cyabra, which found a bot army of fake Twitter accounts that are expressing support for Donald Trump and targeting people seen as his biggest challenges to gaining the Republican presidential nomination next year. Specifically, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley are mentioned as targets.
Besides posting adoring words about the former president, the fake accounts ridiculed Trump’s critics from both parties and attacked Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador who is challenging her onetime boss for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. When it came to Ron DeSantis, the bots aggressively suggested that the Florida governor couldn’t beat Trump, but would be a great running mate.
Citing the study, AP said the bot army — reminiscent of the ones Russia deployed on Trump’s behalf ahead of the 2016 presidential election — could include hundreds of thousands of fake accounts. And on the same day as the AP report, Rolling Stone published a report on swarms of Twitter bots programmed to try to sell users guns.
In addition, as I noted Wednesday, there’s an intensifying Federal Trade Commission investigation into Twitter’s handling of users’ personal data after Musk’s raft of firings at the company, including employees responsible for the platform’s security.
Republicans, who’ve become infatuated with Musk for his right-wing views, have framed the FTC’s investigation as harassment of Twitter.
At Thursday’s hearing, Democratic Rep. Gerald Connelly of Virginia perfectly summarized the projection at play by House Republicans on the “weaponization” committee, noting that Trump was the one responsible for the only known incident of federal officials pressuring a social network to remove content merely because they didn't like it.
In an exchange with journalist Matt Taibbi, who was at the center of the “Twitter Files” flop, Connelly asked why Taibbi hadn’t included details of Trump’s White House allegedly pressuring Twitter to delete a tweet disparaging Trump.
As Taibbi began to respond, Connolly offered a pretty convincing reason of his own: “Probably because it didn’t confirm the bias that this is all about ... ‘the left’ attempting to control content.”