The Kentucky Republican has promised to investigate debunked claims of conservative censorship online.
Kentucky Republican Rep. James Comer is vowing to spearhead investigations into tech companies for alleged bias against conservatives in the new Congress. But though he has criticized Twitter and Meta, the parent company of Facebook, he has not divested himself of his own significant Meta stock holdings.
In September, Comer was one of 35 House members who signed a letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking for "all documents and communications between Meta, the FBI, and the Democratic National Committee," claiming, "Big Tech shouldn’t block Americans from understanding President Biden’s involvement in his family’s influence-peddling scheme."
"House Republicans are committed to investigating Big Tech’s collusion with the Swamp and Biden Administration to censor conservative views. We must ensure all Americans’ freedom of speech is protected," Comer tweeted on Oct. 25. "Accountability is coming."
Comer himself owns somewhere between $15,001 and $50,000 in Class A shares of Facebook, Inc., now known as Meta Platforms, according to his annual financial disclosure report filed on June 14. Previous disclosure statements show Comer has purchased thousands of dollars' worth of the company’s stock since his first election to Congress in 2016.
After winning a narrow majority in the House of Representatives in the November midterm elections, House Republicans chose Comer on Dec. 7 to chair the Oversight and Reform Committee in the upcoming Congress. The panel calls itself "the main investigative committee in the U.S. House of Representatives."
Comer has indicated he plans to probe internet companies in addition to promising to investigate right-wing conspiracy theories surrounding Hunter Biden’s business dealings, alleged anti-GOP bias at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice, and the origins of the coronavirus.
Polling has shown little public support for these investigations. A November Morning Consult-Politico poll found just 28% of Americans want the GOP to launch impeachment investigations into President Joe Biden or probes of his son Hunter’s finances.
For years, conservatives have been claiming — usually without evidence — that tech companies are biased against them and have somehow rigged their algorithms to censor their messages.
Republicans, including Comer, have accused Twitter and Meta of anti-conservative bias. A February 2021 report published by the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights examined the allegations that the social media companies suppress speech by conservatives and determined that "the censorship claim is false."
"But the claim of anti-conservative animus is itself a form of disinformation: a falsehood with no reliable evidence to support it," wrote the report’s authors. "No trustworthy large-scale studies have determined that conservative content is being removed for ideological reasons or that searches are being manipulated to favor liberal interests."
A Comer spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ethics watchdogs and a bipartisan group of lawmakers have proposed legislation to prohibit members of Congress and their spouses from holding and trading individual stocks. They argue that such a ban would remove any potential conflicts of interest and the appearance of impropriety.
"The appearance of financial conflicts of interest reduces faith in our democracy at a time when it is so important that Americans rally around the democracy–and members of Congress owning and trading individual stocks only exacerbates this crisis of confidence," said Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington President Noah Bookbinder in February. "These conflicts of interest don’t just happen when members trade on private information; they also happen when members legislate on issues that impact their own stock holdings."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.