In a sign of President Trump’s increasing frustration with social media companies such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google, Time is now reporting that the White House has drafted an executive order for the Resolute Desk that would see a formal investigation into their business practices. The point of the potential executive order would be to determine whether or not said companies were acting in bad faith, colluding internally or externally to suppress user viewpoints that do not align with the openly liberal biases of the platform owners.
In an era where Jack Dorsey — CEO of Twitter — has openly admitted that even his own employees who are of a conservative bent “don’t feel safe to express their opinions at the company,” according to Fox News, it seems that an antitrust investigation into companies that are allegedly censoring user comments and contributions may be in the cards in the near future.
The draft document, apparently obtained in advance by Bloomberg News, makes the case for the potential investigation quite plain. The earliest iteration of the executive order drafted by the White House requires the relevant authorities to “thoroughly investigate whether any online platform has acted in violation of the antitrust laws.” Elaborating further, the document calls for all investigatory powers to promote legislative or legal avenues to “protect competition among online platforms and address online platform bias,” within one month following the president putting pen to paper to sign the executive order into law.
….results on “Trump News” are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous. Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good. They are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 28, 2018
This latest news is merely an escalation of an already acrimonious relationship shared between President Trump and social media companies — as well as the mainstream media at large, according to The Independent.
Adding fuel to these accusations is PayPal’s recent announcement that they will no longer allow any business to be conducted with Alex Jones or his InfoWars platform, Reuters details. While Alex Jones is a controversial political figure — some claiming him to be a conspiracy theorist who promotes hate speech, and others framing him as a performance artist similar to early Stephen Colbert — his removal from YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, and iTunes has lent some degree of credibility to his accusations of censoring by well-connected elites and social media figures.
Even on Reddit’s r/news subreddit, largely seen as left-leaning in terms of ideological content, Jones’ treatment is drawing some stark criticism from some users. The top comment on the thread, at 7,000 upvotes, reads: “He’s going to continue to use this as an example of how the elitists are censoring him. He’ll state that he’s uncovering their hidden agendas, and how they’re all apart of the Shadow government.”
The top rated reply seems to reinforce Jones’ position, with user I_Want_To-believe quipping “Well he’s not……… wrong.”
Finally, the argument is capped off by a larger comment nested below by user H_Psi.
The post above was talking about “elites,” not the US government.
“Like, I disagree with Jones and everything he stands for, but he absolutely has been suppressed by Silicon Valley. It’s good that he can’t spread his terrible message, but at the same time, what happens when someone who isn’t as controversial as Jones gets the same treatment? He’s a terrible person and he doesn’t deserve a platform, but this is also a very slippery slope and is potentially damaging to the free exchange of ideas in the long-term. As an extreme example, how would you feel if Silicon Valley took a hard-right in the next election cycle and suddenly started banning reasonable liberal viewpoints (and no, I am not saying that Jones had reasonable opinions) from participating in the internet and certain segments of the economy?”
Concern about Google — or Alphabet — becoming too big is hardly a concern contained merely to American users and their representative governments. As The Independent details, French President Emmanuel Macron has also recently warned that Google and Facebook may be becoming too powerful — “too big to be governed.”
“They have a very classical issue in a monopoly situation; they are huge players. At a point of time – but I think it will be a US problem, not a European problem – at a point of time, your government, your people, may say, ‘Wake up. They are too big.’ Not just too big to fail, but too big to be governed. Which is brand new. So at this point, you may choose to dismantle. That’s what happened at the very beginning of the oil sector when you had these big giants. That’s a competition issue.”
While Macron calls the issue an American problem and not a European one, it can hardly be denied that social media and technology has become large parts of the European daily life in equal measure to the United States.
It may simply be that the United States — a nation so concerned with free speech and expression that it codified the most liberal and far-reaching rights of this nature in the world into the First Amendment — will be the first nation to butt up against the mediation of said speech by powerful corporate actors who are providing what increasingly resembles a public utility in the form of the internet, rather than an optional luxury service.
It is as yet unclear when, or if, President Trump plans to sign the aforementioned executive order into law.