Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton told “America’s Newsroom” on Thursday that he “called Twitter's bluff” by not deleting tweets he said a Twitter employee had told him to remove for violating the company’s policies.
Cotton made the statement one day after he penned the Fox News op-ed titled, “Twitter tried to censor me -- and they lost."
“I revealed in an op-ed on the Fox News website that Twitter tried to permanently lock down my account if I refused to censor my own tweets on the topic of riots and looting,” he said on Thursday, referencing the violent demonstrations sparked by the death of George Floyd.
He went on to note that his office got a call “out of the blue about a week ago” from “a low-level employee in Twitter’s Washington office” who he said told his aides, “If I didn’t delete tweets they would lock down my account.”
In his Fox News op-ed, Cotton said the tweet was over his comments that “the National Guard and active-duty troops could be called out to support local police if necessary, as happened during the 1992 Los Angeles riots.”
“‘No quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters,’ I wrote,” he explained.
“This was apparently too much for the professional umbrage-takers on Twitter,” he went on to say in the op-ed. “In high dudgeon, they exclaimed that ‘no quarter’ once meant that a military force would take no prisoners, but instead shoot them.”
“Never mind that the phrase today is a common metaphor for a tough or merely unkind approach to a situation… And, of course, the exaggerated foolishness that I was literally calling for the arrest and summary execution of American citizens,” he continued.
He went on to write that “within a few hours” the Twitter employee contacted some of his aides “claiming that my tweet violated the company’s policies.” Cotton added that the employee “issued an ultimatum: delete the tweet or Twitter would permanently lock my account. She gave me only 30 minutes to comply.”
Speaking on “America’s Newsroom” on Thursday Cotton said, “We received shifting explanations [and] unclear guidance. I called Twitter's bluff. I did not delete those tweets in 30 minutes.”
“They ultimately got back to me and said they weren’t going to take action, but it's just an example of how arbitrary and hypocritical some of these social media platforms can be,” he continued.
Twitter did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment. However, Bloomberg reported that a Twitter spokesperson said that the tweet was “reported to Twitter and our teams reviewed it within the context in which it was shared, as is standard, and determined it didn’t violate our rules.”
“We apply the Twitter rules impartially to every account on our service,” the spokesperson reportedly added.
Cotton also pointed to another example of how “arbitrary and hypocritical" some tech companies can be, referencing the NBC News report on a Google crackdown against two conservative websites, including The Federalist.
NBC News initially claimed Google "banned" The Federalist and ZeroHedge from Google Ads for "pushing unsubstantiated claims" about the Black Lives Matter movement. Google later pushed back, claiming that The Federalist "was never demonetized.”
“We saw this week when an activist disguised as a journalist at NBC News tried to get Google to demonetize and deplatform The Federalist, a popular conservative website, for the comments section in the Federalist, not an article, but the comment section,” Cotton noted.
“This is a section that is not moderated or curated by The Federalist, as most websites don’t monitor and curate their comment section.”
He went on to say that he thinks “it's a curious time for social media platforms to be taking action against uncurated comment sections when we have legislation under review in the Senate that would remove legal liability from these social media platforms specifically because they do curate, monitor and even censor their platforms in a way that not surprisingly always seems to disadvantage conservative points of view.”
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., introduced legislation on Wednesday that would give Americans the ability to sue major tech companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter if they engage in selective censorship of political speech.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw, Joseph Wulfsohn and Jake Gibson contributed to this report.