House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., questions witness FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok, during a joint hearing on

A House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday on monitoring social media content immediately broke down into partisan bickering and theater Tuesday, with minority Democrats highlighting instead President Trump’s Monday press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

Republican lawmakers planned the hearing[1] on “content filtering practices” as a follow-up to one in April on the same topic at which most social media giants did not participate. On Tuesday, executives with Facebook, YouTube and Google were present.

Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, the committee chairman, opened the hearing by noting Facebook recently censored a Texas newspaper’s posting of quotes from the Declaration of Independence, which a company algorithm flagged as hate speech.

“The online environment is becoming more polarized – not less; and there are concerns that discourse is being squelched – not facilitated,” Mr. Goodlatte read in his opening statement. “Moreover, society as a whole is finding it difficult to define what these social media platforms are and what they do. For example, some would like to think of them as government actors, as public utilities as advertising agencies, or as media publishers – each with its own set of legal implications and potential shortfalls.”

It was clear the Republican members hoped to laser in on myriad other examples in which conservative tweeters, video makers or social media posters have been “shadowbanned,” through which their audience has declined, and on reports left-wing outfits like the Southern Poverty Law Center had been hired as a kind of arbiter for Facebook on what constitutes “hate speech” or “fake news.”

Democrats countered with examples of their own, such as the conspiracy-laden InfoWars, and Facebook’s recent hiring of former Republican senator Jon Kyl of Arizona to help it weed out bias that could stem from its left-leaning management ranks.

As soon as Democrats got the floor, however, they launched a sustained attempt to jerk the hearing’s focus off its stated topic and toward President Trump’s Monday press conference. Following a summit with Mr. Putin in Helsinki, the two leaders appeared together and Mr. Trump declined to back unequivocally the opinion of American’s intelligence community that the Russians tried to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections.

After noting “the platforms need to do a better job explaining how they make decisions to filter content and the rationale for why they do so,” Mr. Goodlatte turned the hearing over to a minority member, Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, who set the tone.

Openly seething, Mr. Raskin proceeded to blister the committee for a hearing he said was based on “pure fantasy.”...

Rather than look at what he repeatedly labeled imaginary concerns of conservative blacklists on social media platforms, Mr. Raskin said the committee should focus instead on the “real crisis caused yesterday by President Trump,” who infuriated liberals and some Republicans by saying he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim in Moscow that Russia did not meddle in the 2016 U.S.

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