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Opening Statements

Chairman Williams: “Under the Microscope: Examining the Censorship-Industrial Complex and its Impact on American Small Businesses”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House Committee on Small Business is holding a full committee hearing titled “Under the Microscope: Examining the Censorship-Industrial Complex and its Impact on American Small Businesses.”

Chairman Williams’ opening statement as prepared for delivery:

Good morning, and welcome to today’s hearing which will examine how the federal government is tipping the scales against certain businesses online.

I’d like to start off by thanking our witnesses for being with us today. Your attendance and input on these important issues is greatly appreciated.

The online marketplace is essential for small businesses to generate revenue in the modern economy. Business owners use social media and online platforms to reach their customers, earn revenue from advertising, and promote products.

Over a year ago, it was brought to this Committee’s attention that the government has funded certain third-party organizations that are making it harder for conservative businesses to succeed online.

When I first heard about this, it seemed simply un-American and against what we should stand for as a country. Our economy is based on competition where anyone that has a superior product, price, or customer service is able to build a successful business. However, during this Committee’s investigation, we found out that this simply is no longer the case.

The Committee uncovered a vast network of non-profits, research groups, and other entities that receive government funding with the goal of stopping misinformation. As these groups attempt to define what is true, there are many voices and businesses whose reach is being reduced simply because they believe something that is against the mainstream narrative.

An example of a viewpoint that would prevent the reach of a business or publisher online would be that the COVID-19 virus was man-made and came from a lab. Even though this is now a widely accepted theory about how the global pandemic began, this view expressed just 2 years ago would have been censored online and limited the reach of your business.

This issue has extremely consequential first amendment implications which are working their way through the judicial system, and this hearing will examine how these efforts have been trickling down to affect small businesses.

The Committee uncovered 3 main ways in which small businesses ultimately get effected by these censorship efforts. First, these misinformation organizations flag what content is acceptable to post on social media websites, thereby eliminating the reach to customers if they get in the crosshairs of these third parties. Second, there are government-led pressure campaigns to remove certain businesses from online marketplaces, preventing them from selling their products over the internet. And finally, these organizations hinder businesses from earning advertising revenue and other income streams by diminishing a businesses’ reputation, and in the case of media outlets, their circulation.

To put this plain and simple: the government has been caught collaborating with private entities to censor narratives they don’t like. And yes – your taxpayer dollars are being used to do this.

Main Street is constantly working as hard as possible to compete and thrive. The emergence of online marketplaces has provided millions of small businesses with new ways to make money and reach customers. However, we have found out that all businesses online are not given a fair chance to succeed in this new battleground.

If you do not agree with a company, the customer can choose not to do business with them. But when the government inserts itself into this process to tip the scales against certain businesses, it is simply unacceptable.

I want to thank you all again for being here with us today, and I am looking forward to today’s important conversation.

With that I will yield to our distinguished Ranking Member from New York, Ms. Velázquez.