WASHINGTON, D.C., September 24, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – President Donald Trump may direct federal agencies to investigate bias and other “anticompetitive acts” by leading social media platforms and online services, according to a leaked draft of an executive order.
“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,” the proposed order begins, according to Business Insider. “Because of their critical role in American society, it is essential that American citizens are protected from anticompetitive acts by dominant online platforms.”
It calls on any departments and agencies with jurisdiction over online competition to “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,” and “thoroughly investigate whether any online platform has acted in violation of the antitrust laws.”
The draft, which does not specify the companies to be investigated, also calls on agencies to identify additional actions that could be taken to “protect competition among online platforms and address online platform bias,” additional legal powers that would be necessary to that end, and recommendations for potential new regulations.
The draft fits with previous promises by Trump to “address” Google’s treatment of conservative users, subjects, and websites, as well as Sen. Orrin Hatch’s, R-UT, call for the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Google’s dominance over several online markets. However, several White House officials told the Washington Post that the draft was far from representative of whatever final action the administration will take, if any.
“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.
An unnamed senior White House official confirmed the document had been “floating around” the White House, but had not been submitted to the formal process for consideration or revision. The Post claims other aides didn’t recognize the document, which they considered “unworkable.”
Whatever its final form, many conservatives say that government action is overdue. Google has been accused of restricting search results from competitors, cutting businesses it disagrees with from its platforms, letting third-party app developers access users’ emails, politically biasing its search results, and discriminating against conservatives on its platforms and services.
Earlier this month, an email chain and filmed meeting from just after the 2016 election leaked, showing Google executives expressing anger at President Donald Trump’s victory and discussing ways to use the company’s resources to influence future elections.
Facebook and Twitter, meanwhile, have come under fire for improperly restricting numerous conservative and pro-family figures, including various Republican leaders and candidates, the “Activist Mommy” Elizabeth Johnston, theologian Dr. Robert A.J. Gagnon, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, conservative video bloggers Diamond and Silk, and numerous pro-life videos and advertisements.
Critics also cite insiders at Facebook and Twitter who have admitted to intentionally targeting conservative accounts and topics, as well as analyses finding that Facebook’s algorithm changes disproportionately harmed conservatives. A confidential memo written last year by the far-left Media Matters details a comprehensive plan to pressure social media platforms into silencing conservatives, as well.
“We wouldn’t mind so much about these accusations of bias and so on if there were 100 search engines that people could choose between,” Fox News host Steve Hilton said earlier this month in an interview with Fox’s Tucker Carlson. “But it’s not like that. […] Antitrust action to force competition into a market, that is the antidote to regulation. That is the exact way we avoid having to intervene in the exact behavior of individual companies.”
“We’ve got to stop it and that’s a conservative argument, a pro-market argument,” he said in response to conservatives uncomfortable with government action to rein in private entities.