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Committee on Small Business Holds Hearing Examining the Censorship-Industrial Complex and its Impact on American Small Businesses

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Chairman Roger Williams (R-TX) led a full Committee on Small Business hearing titled “Under the Microscope: Examining the Censorship-Industrial Complex and its Impact on American Small Businesses.” Chairman Williams issued the following statement regarding today’s hearing.

“For over a year now, the Committee has been investigating the federal government’s efforts to interfere with American small businesses’ ability to compete online,” said Chairman Williams. “Today’s hearing only reaffirmed our concerns surrounding the use of taxpayer dollars to fund organizations that pick winners and losers based on what they believe to be true and false. We must ensure that all small businesses are given a fair opportunity to compete in the marketplace and make it clear that the federal government has no place censoring the free speech of small businesses.”


Watch the full hearing here.

Below are some key excerpts from today’s hearing:

Chairman Williams: “Many of these advertising companies look at the ratings that NewsGuard gives media companies when deciding where to place a small business. So Ms. Sheffield, if I'm a small business owner, which I actually am in Texas and looking to place advertisements to online to a conservative audience, but the advertising partner I'm working with is partnered with kind of like NewsGuard, am I going to have issues reaching out to the audiences I need to reach out to?” Ms. Sheffield: “Well, so in the industry, there's a term called brand safe. And a lot of times, especially for a small startup or a medium sized business, a lot of these big brands like, say, a Nike or some of the bigger marquee brands, they aren’t going to be familiar with smaller startups. And so they rely on some third parties to determine whether or not this organization or this media outlet is quote unquote, brand safe. And that brand safe designation can really make or break, the future of a business. as I said earlier in my testimony, that 40 percent of small and medium business publishers say that digital ad, sales drive over half of their overall revenue. So this could be the death knell if they're not considered brand safe.”

Rep. Van Duyne: “Mr. Weingarten, do you think the Global Disinformation Index is a fair assessment?” Mr. Weingarten: “I don't, but even if it was, the government shouldn't be funding it.” Rep. Van Duyne: “So, given that opinions are often difficult to separate from fact, and that facts evolve over time would it even be possible to assess the accuracy of a media outlet in a truly objective fashion?” Mr. Weingarten: “It's an inherently subjective exercise as outlets put out news and views that are varying, and to have some sort of ministry of truth or ministries of truth out there with the government's blessing is incredibly chilling.”

 Rep. Crane: “Ms. Younes, what do you have to say about what Dr. Franks just said [regarding first amendment rules and principles]?” Ms. Younes: “First of all, I want to be clear that this wasn't just about NewsGuard and GDI. The government was funding hundreds, at least 300 tools and technologies that were designed to censor speech. Some of them weren't even pretending to censor foreign disinformation, quote unquote, disinformation. Of course, that's a subjective term. They were hosting Covid disinformation challenges where they were giving grants to companies who showed that they were the best at censoring Covid disinformation. Covid is not really a national security or foreign topic, even if you know it has some tinges of that. So, this was about the government using its authority. The government can't use its authority, can't use its power, and can't use its money in order to censor views it doesn't like. It's the government. Yes, it has its right to censor, sorry to express its own views, but not to use those views to censor. That's where it stops.”