U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, sent a letter to Google on Wednesday that raised concerns over the internet giant’s decision to ban one right-wing site from its advertising platform and issue a warning to another.
This is familiar territory for Cruz, who has spent at least a year threatening to regulate social media companies over alleged censorship of conservative media organizations.
“This is part of a bigger problem,” Cruz wrote in a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai. “The culture of free speech in this country is under attack, and Google is helping lead the charge.”
Cruz’s letter was in response to news reports Tuesday that Google banned ZeroHedge, a far-right website known for posting conspiracy theories, from its advertising platform. Google told NBC News that there were policy violations in the comment section of stories about recent nationwide protests on police brutality.
The tech giant also issued a warning to The Federalist, another conservative media outlet, on Tuesday over similar violations in the comment section.
After initially saying both sites lost the ability to monetize with Google, the company later clarified that The Federalist had been warned about policy violations and had three days to address them.
Google told NBC that it would take no further action after The Federalist removed the comments.
Even so, Cruz argued that Google is picking and choosing which sites to ban from its advertising platform.
“On any given day, there are thousands of profane, racist, and indefensible comments posted on YouTube, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Google,” Cruz said.
Cruz also requested Google’s response by June 24 to a series of questions about its standards for other media organizations.
It’s not the first time Cruz has pressed a Google executive over the issue.
In July, a panel of lawmakers grilled Karan Bhatia, vice president of public policy and government affairs at Google, on YouTube’s failure to police offensive videos and concerns that the company had an anti-Republican bias.
Cruz produced FEC data that he said showed 88 senior Google officials contributed to Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race, while none donated to President Donald Trump.
Bahtia dismissed the allegations, saying the company is not politically biased.
“Indeed, we go to extraordinary lengths to build our products and enforce our policies in an analytically objective, apolitical way,” Bahtia said. “We do so because we want to create tools that are useful to all Americans. Our search engine and our platforms reflect the online world that is out there.”
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