Ajit Pai, the Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, accused Twitter of espousing a "double standard" by censoring conservatives but not liberals.
Speaking at an event in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday in defense of his commission's impending vote to dismantle Obama-era "net neutrality" regulations, Pai argued that Internet giants who support net neutrality, like Twitter, Facebook, and Google, that threaten an open Internet free of preferential treatment, not Internet service providers.
Twitter was singled out as Pai noted it "has a viewpoint and uses that viewpoint to discriminate."
He pointed to how Twitter briefly blocked an anti-abortion ad from Senate candidate Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., in October from being promoted on its ads platform. Pai said the censure happened because it "featured pro-life messages."
The ad showed Blackburn saying she "fought Planned Parenthood, and we stopped the sale of baby body parts, thank God." Twitter initially told Blackburn's team the ad would be prohibited on its ad platform due to that remark because it was an "inflammatory statement." The video was still visible, however, to Twitter users who followed her account. A further review prompted Twitter to reverse its decision "after reconsidering the ad in the context of the entire message."
Pai then seemed to harp on Twitter's recent reworking of its verification process and subsequent stripping of its coveted blue check mark from right-wing figures, many of which are associated with the white nationalist movement, including Richard Spencer and Jason Kessler. He decried what he viewed as a "double standard" for conservative and liberal figures.
"The company appears to have a double standard when it comes to suspending or de-verifying conservative users’ accounts as opposed to those of liberal users," Pai said. "This conduct is many things, but it isn’t fighting for an open Internet."
The chairman also took issue with Twitter reaction to the "so-called 'Day of Action' in support of net neutrality over the summer.
"[D]uring the so-called Day of Action, Twitter warned users that a link to a statement by one company on the topic of Internet regulation 'may be unsafe,'" Pai said.
The FCC vote to repeal the 2015 net neutrality rules is set for next month. Pai argues that net neutrality hampers innovation and was achieved through executive overreach by his Democratic predecessor. He is supported by telecom firms. Critics of Pai's efforts, including consumer advocacy groups and tech companies from Silicon Valley, worry that without net neutrality ISPs may block or slow down some websites or curry favor to some companies, via "fast lanes," that are willing to pay more to get their content up faster.