The White House has drafted an executive order for President Donald Trump’s signature that would instruct federal antitrust and law enforcement agencies to open investigations into the business practices of Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook Inc. and other social media companies.
The order is in its preliminary stages and hasn’t yet been run past other government agencies, according to a White House official. Business Insider obtained a draft of the order.
The document instructs U.S. antitrust authorities to “thoroughly investigate whether any online platform has acted in violation of the antitrust laws.”
It instructs other government agencies to recommend within a month after it’s signed actions that could potentially “protect competition among online platforms and address online platform bias.”
The document doesn’t name any specific companies. If signed, the order would represent a significant escalation of Trump’s antipathy toward Google (GOOG), Facebook (FB), Twitter (TWTR) and other social media companies, whom he has publicly accused of silencing conservative voices and news sources online.
“Social Media is totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices,’ Trump said on Twitter in August. “Speaking loudly and clearly for the Trump Administration, we won’t let that happen. They are closing down the opinions of many people on the RIGHT, while at the same time doing nothing to others.”
Social media companies have acknowledged in congressional hearings that their efforts to enforce prohibitions against online harassment have sometimes led to erroneous punishment of political figures on both the left and right, and that once discovered those mistakes have been corrected. They say there is no systematic effort to silence conservative voices.
The possibility of an executive order emerged as Attorney General Jeff Sessions prepares for a Sept. 25 briefing by state attorneys general who are already investigating the tech firms’ practices.
The meeting, which will include a representative of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, is intended to help Sessions decide if there’s a federal case to be made against the companies, two people familiar with the matter have said. At least one of the attorneys general participating in the meeting has indicated he seeks to break up the companies.
Growing movements on the right and left argue that companies including Google and Facebook engage in anticompetitive behavior. The companies reject the accusation, arguing they face robust competition and that many of their products are free. Bias has not typically figured in antitrust examinations.
In July, for instance, Twitter algorithms limited the visibility of some Republicans in profile searches. Jack Dorsey, the company’s chief executive officer, testified before Congress in September that the limits also affected some Democrats as the site tried to enforce policies against threats, hate, harassment or other forms of abusive speech. The moves were reversed.
A Pew Research Center survey earlier this year found that 72 percent of Americans, and 85 percent of Republicans, think it’s likely that social media companies intentionally censor political viewpoints that those companies find objectionable.
The White House has drafted a text of a proposed executive order for President Donald Trump that would trigger an antitrust investigation into Google and Facebook, according to a copy of the document obtained by Business Insider. The existence of the draft was first reported by Capital Forum.
The proposed text focuses on “bias” at the companies:
“Whether reading news or looking for local businesses, citizens rely on search, social media, and other online platforms to provide objective and reliable information to shape a host of decisions ranging from consumer purchases to votes in elections. Because of their critical role in American society, it is essential that American citizens are protected from anticompetitive acts by dominant online platforms. Vibrant competition in the online ecosystem is essential to ensuring accountability for the platforms that hold so much sway over our economy and democratic process.”
“… Executive departments and agencies with authorities that could be used to enhance competition among online platforms (agencies) shall, where consistent with other laws, use those authorities to promote competition and ensure that no online platform exercises market power in a way that harms consumers, including through the exercise of bias.”
“… Not later than 30 days from the date of this order, agencies shall submit to the Director of the National Economic Council an initial list of (1) actions each agency can potentially take to protect competition among online platforms and address online platform bias.”
The order also commands federal agencies to “thoroughly investigate whether any online platform has acted in violation of the antitrust laws.”
The president and other conservatives have repeatedly complained that they believe Facebook and Google (owned by corporate parent Alphabet) bias the way they show news to users by dampening down conservative voices or outlets. In August, Trump tweeted, “Social Media is totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices. Speaking loudly and clearly for the Trump Administration, we won’t let that happen. They are closing down the opinions of many people on the RIGHT, while at the same time doing nothing to others…….”
This news source has faced discrimination at the hands of Facebook since 2013, suspending the Founder of Overpasses For America, James Neighbors, approximately 50% of the last 5 years for simply telling the truth.
Most recently, Mr Neighbors received a 30 day suspension for a political cartoon out of the New York Post that he had posted several years ago.
Despite appealing with the truth, the suspension remained.
So consider this. Someone actually took the time to scroll back 7 or 8 years on someone’s Facebook profile, just to find something to suspend their account over.
Yet they allowed this clearly violent post by the left remain, and these are but a microscopic number of the cases of blatant discrimination happening on Facebook. Still think there’s not a witch hunt on Facebook for conservatives?
Facebook has removed some conservative commentators from its platform, such as the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, after they claimed he broke Facebook’s rules against “glorifying violence” and “hate speech” against minorities. In all likelihood, he did nothing more than cause one of Facebook’s leftist snowflake moderators melt, resulting in his ban.
The draft order is reportedly in its preliminary stages, though the White House sought to distance itself from the text on Saturday, according to dubious “news source”, The Washington Post.
“Although the White House is concerned about the conduct of online platforms and their impact on society, this document is not the result of an official White House policymaking process,” deputy White House press secretary Lindsey Waters said in a statement.
Three White House aides also told The Post they neither wrote the draft order, nor had any idea where it came from. Another senior official told The Post that the document was, indeed, known around the White House, but had not undergone the formal drafting process.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
September 24th, 2018