Musk visits House leaders Kevin McCarthy and Hakeem Jeffries at Capitol



Twitter owner Elon Musk met Thursday with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Capitol Hill, as his chaotic takeover of the social network stokes a years-long debate over how Washington should regulate the tech industry.

Musk tweeted that he also met with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.)., but an aide to Jeffries told The Washington Post that the Democratic leader and Musk had only a coincidental encounter as the billionaire was leaving his meeting with McCarthy. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private exchange.

Few details were known about what was discussed during the meetings. In a Thursday night Tweet, Musk said that they talked about “ensuring that this platform is fair to both parties.” He was only briefly glimpsed by reporters on the Hill.

Musk’s efforts to overhaul Twitter have catapulted the company to the forefront of a heated, years-long debate over how social media giants moderate political speech. His visit to Capitol Hill comes as lawmakers from both parties have called for new laws to address tech companies’ growing grip on political discourse.

Yet despite a half decade of hearings and investigations focused on Silicon Valley tech giants, lawmakers largely remain at an impasse on how to regulate the industry. Republicans plan to use their control of the House to focus on allegations that tech companies are silencing their political views online, while Democrats argue the companies have done to little to stop the amplification of violence, extremism and hate.

Since taking over Twitter last fall, Musk has dismantled many of the key teams that focused on limiting the spread of violent content and misinformation on Twitter. He also has overturned the suspensions on many conservative accounts that violated Twitter’s rules under previous company leadership, including former president Donald Trump’s account, which was permanently banned in the wake of the violence at the Capitol.

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Musk’s moves have largely been cheered by Republican politicians, who have accused tech companies for years of harboring a bias against conservatives. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have seized on the “Twitter Files,” leaked internal communications about how the company handled content moderation in the run-up to the 2020 election and the pandemic.

Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the chair of the House Oversight Committee, has said in interviews that he plans to investigate whether the government played a role in Twitter’s decision to suppress a 2020 New York Post story about President Biden’s son Hunter. The Twitter Files have shown that the company independently decided to limit the spread of the article, without Democratic politicians, the Biden campaign or FBI exerting control.

Meanwhile, Democrats have reacted with alarm at Musk’s efforts to unwind the company’s previous investments in safety. Democrats have criticized his decision to unwind the company’s Trust and Safety Council and blasted his decision to suspend the accounts of prominent journalists, including The Post’s Drew Harwell, who remains locked out of Twitter.

Lawmakers shared little about what was discussed during the meeting. Asked about the meeting, McCarthy, who turned 58 on Thursday, declined to comment but quipped that Musk “came to wish me happy birthday,” adding “we’ve been friends for years.”

Representatives for McCarthy did not immediately respond to an early Friday request for comment from The Post.

Musk, who is also CEO of Tesla, previously championed McCarthy during the historic stalemate in the House speaker vote earlier this month, which saw him take up the gavel only after 15 rounds of ballots and days of internal Republican wrangling.

“Kevin McCarthy should be Speaker,” the tech billionaire tweeted at the time, lending his support to the California Republican. “If not McCarthy, then seriously who?” Musk added, prompting users to urge him to stay politically neutral.

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In May 2022, Musk said he had previously voted Democrat but could “no longer support them” and would switch to the Republican Party instead.

McCarthy has also publicly supported Musk in the past, telling reporters last year that the Biden administration should “stop picking on Elon Musk” after President Biden said that aspects of Musk’s business dealings deserved scrutiny.

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Since taking over Twitter, Musk has reinstated Trump, following a Twitter poll, as well as the accounts of other prominent figures who were banned in the wake of the insurrection. Trump has so far declined to tweet since being reinstated, opting to use his Truth Social platform instead. He has said he will not rejoin Twitter — but it remains unclear if he will stick to that as he launches his bid to return to the White House in 2024.

Twitter has already reversed course on some of the recent account reinstatements. Far-right activist Nick Fuentes, “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander and rapper Ye returned to Twitter after Musk bought the company, but have since been suspended again.

This week, social media behemoth Meta announced that it was also reinstating Trump’s accounts on Facebook and Instagram after a two-year suspension over his role in praising the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in an attack that left several dead and many injured. Trump was impeached by the Democratic-controlled House on a charge of inciting an insurrection, although the Senate then acquitted him.

“The public should be able to hear what their politicians are saying — the good, the bad and the ugly — so that they can make informed choices at the ballot box,” Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, said this week. “But that does not mean there are no limits to what people can say on our platform,” he added.

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Social media platforms have struggled to balance the need to enable the public to view potentially newsworthy but divisive posts from world leaders, with their content moderation policies and the potentially harmful consequences of that rhetoric.

Naomi Nix and Tony Romm contributed to this report.


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