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Marco Rubio slams Big Tech for censuring stories about the origins of COVID and Hunter Biden

Marco Rubio has called for limits to the power of social media and tech companies, pointing to the silencing of conservative voices and controversial opinions, after Facebook reversed its policy last month of removing posts that claim COVID-19 is man-made.

The Florida senator appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show on Thursday night, and told of the dangers now posed by ‘unelected, unaccountable anonymous people deciding what we are allowed to say to one another and what we are allowed to share.’

Rubio described big tech firms as ‘the new gatekeepers of the public square in American politics’.

Marco Rubio on Thursday night appeared on Fox News to complain about the power of social media and tech companies. He said five firms – Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter and Amazon – could control who was allowed to voice opinions and who was silenced, and could control which stories were allowed to proliferate and which were blocked

Rubio, senator for Florida, appeared on Sean Hannity's show on Thursday evening

Rubio, senator for Florida, appeared on Sean Hannity’s show on Thursday evening

Since January, Donald Trump has been banned from most social media platforms amid concern at his ability to whip up unrest, which resulted in the Capitol riot. Other conservative figures such as Steve Bannon, Trump’s 2016 campaign manager, and lawyer Sidney Powell, who has promoted baseless election fraud conspiracy theories, have also been removed.

‘Five companies in America now have the power to basically wipe anybody out and silence them,’ said Rubio.

‘Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple – they all get together and decide: we are going to wipe somebody out.’

Rubio said the impact of being kicked off social media was dramatic.

‘You are done. You can’t communicate to outside world,’ he said.

Trump has agreed, telling OAN last month that being blocked was an obstacle to fundraising. He has said he is planning on launching his own, rival, social media network. On Wednesday a blog which was thought to be a precursor to the new network was permanently closed, his spokesman Jason Miller confirmed.

Rubio said that, beyond silencing people, social media companies were also determining what could be reported and promoted.

Stories about Joe Biden's son Hunter (above, pictured in April 2016) were blocked by Twitter

Stories about Joe Biden’s son Hunter (above, pictured in April 2016) were blocked by Twitter

Hunter Biden's laptop was left in a Delaware repair store, and handed over to journalists before the election. It provided a series of damning stories about the troubled businessman's crack habit, spending on prostitutes and relationships. There were also photos (above) and emails and texts with his father

Hunter Biden’s laptop was left in a Delaware repair store, and handed over to journalists before the election. It provided a series of damning stories about the troubled businessman’s crack habit, spending on prostitutes and relationships. There were also photos (above) and emails and texts with his father

Photos, videos, and audio recordings of Hunter were discovered on his abandoned laptop last year - including pictures of him with a crack pipe (pictured). He says he was so hooked on drugs and alcohol at the time that he doesn't know if the laptop is even his

Photos, videos, and audio recordings of Hunter were discovered on his abandoned laptop last year – including pictures of him with a crack pipe (pictured). He says he was so hooked on drugs and alcohol at the time that he doesn’t know if the laptop is even his

He referenced to articles about Joe Biden’s son Hunter in The New York Post, which were removed from Twitter when the platform deemed that they had been obtained by hacking. The move was made shortly before the election, and critics of Twitter said it was designed to protect the Democratic presidential candidate from unflattering stories.

CEO Jack Dorsey later apologized for their mistake, and reversed the ban on mentions.

‘They now have put themselves in a position of determining what news can be re-reported,’ said Rubio.

‘Remember those articles about Hunter Biden?

‘They quashed the New York Post story, they would not let it spread.’

And he noted how Facebook last week reversed its ban on discussions of the ‘lab leak’ theory.

Facebook had previously banned discussions of the 'lab leak' theory, suggesting that COVID-19 escaped from a Wuhan lab (pictured), rather than evolving naturally. The ban was implemented because scientific consensus was previously that the 'lab leak' idea was a conspiracy theory. Now the idea is gaining legitimacy, and last week Facebook reversed its ban on discussion

Facebook had previously banned discussions of the ‘lab leak’ theory, suggesting that COVID-19 escaped from a Wuhan lab (pictured), rather than evolving naturally. The ban was implemented because scientific consensus was previously that the ‘lab leak’ idea was a conspiracy theory. Now the idea is gaining legitimacy, and last week Facebook reversed its ban on discussion

ORIGINS OF COVID-19: THE THEORIES 

 US state officials have given momentum to the idea that COVID-19 either leaked from a lab or was man-made by China as some kind of weapon against humanity. 

A Wuhan wet market was first thought to be the breeding ground of the virus, where the selling of live, wild animals would have given the perfect opportunity for it to naturally spread between species.

It is thought the virus first developed in bats before passing on to a creature such as a pangolin that then came into contact with humans and transmitted the virus.

Once it entered humans, the coronavirus is likely to have mutated to survive and then escalated out of control as a result of an unprepared population.

There are also theories that the virus was genetically engineered by scientists, or that it has actually been around for years and even killed people in the past.

Two high security laboratories in the city – the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control and the Wuhan Institute of Virology – have been the subject of many conspiracy theories.  

President Donald Trump claims he has seen evidence the virus, which he solely blames China for, came from Wuhan Institute of Virology – but he is not allowed to reveal it. 

The Institute has denied the claims from the early days of the outbreak.  

In April, Trump said: ‘We are doing a very thorough examination of this horrible situation that happened.’

Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, claimed in May there is ‘enormous evidence’ the coronavirus outbreak originated in a Chinese laboratory – but failed to provide any of the alleged evidence.

‘They go back and remove a ban on stories about the origins of the COVID-19 virus, because they have proven to be true,’ he said.

‘This is the danger here.

‘You have unelected, unaccountable anonymous people deciding what we are allowed to say to one another and what we are allowed to share. That is a very dangers moment.

‘They have assumed basically governmental powers without being accountable to anyone.’

Facebook said in a statement last week that the company would continue to shift its policies based on new information.

‘In light of ongoing investigations into the origin of COVID-19 and in consultation with public health experts, we will no longer remove the claim that COVID-19 is man-made from our apps,’ spokeswoman Dani Lever said.

‘We’re continuing to work with health experts to keep pace with the evolving nature of the pandemic and regularly update our policies as new facts and trends emerge.’

Critics of the power of Big Tech have seized upon the litany of complaints to call for more regulation.

Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill generally agree that changes need to be made to Section 230, a provision in the Communications Decency Act that gives legal protections to social media companies.

It protects social media companies, unlike newspapers and broadcasters, from being sued for the content that is posted on their platforms.

Republicans have widely called for the reform or repeal of the law because of their perception that the Silicon Valley powerhouses are biased against conservative views and work to censor conservatives.

Democrats, meanwhile, agree that reforms are needed, their argument is that Section 230 prevents social media companies from doing more to moderate their platforms, such as taking down or limiting hate speech and disinformation.


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