The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced today that it will look into whether social media platforms are "hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas."
DOJ spokesperson Devin O'Malley said in a statement Wednesday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions will meet later this month with various state attorneys general to examine the issue. According to Reuters, the meeting will be held on September 25.
The DOJ's announcement came the same day that Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Both executives answered questions about the steps they're taking to prevent foreign actors from using social media to disrupt the American democratic process.
It seems the Trump administration is more concerned about Silicon Valley's alleged censorship of conservative viewpoints than foreign election meddling. In an interview yesterday with The Daily Caller, President Donald Trump claimed the "true interference" in the 2016 election was the fact that "virtually all of those [social media] companies are super liberal companies in favor of Hillary Clinton."
Conservatives have long accused Twitter and Facebook of censoring their viewpoints. Google has caught some ire, too. Late last month, Trump railed against the internet giant, claiming its liberal bias was evident in the results of a "Trump News" search. Trump even suggested the federal government could regulate Google and other companies accused of censoring conservatives.
So are internet companies really biased against conservatives?
Facebook, Google, and Twitter have all insisted the answer is no. Following his testimony before the Senate, Dorsey faced more questions from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, this time about Twitter's alleged anti-conservative bias. He again denied it, while also claiming Twitter is trying "to be as transparent as possible."
It's impossible to say for certain whether or not internet platforms are censoring conservatives. Regardless, that's not necessarily a bad thing. As I argued in July, privately run companies have every right to promote viewpoints they like and censor the ones they don't. But many conservatives can't seem to grasp this idea:
Conservatives say they're proponents of free speech and free markets, and while that doesn't mean they have to like the political biases of the people who run Twitter and Facebook, they should at least respect a private company's right to promote some views over others. There is nothing stopping right-leaning programmers from creating social media networks that amplify conservative voices at the expense of liberal ones. Some conservatives have done just that, though for many more, it's much easier to complain about bias and argue the law should force private companies to accommodate them.
Social media companies may indeed be "hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas." But that's their right.
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