William Barr believes certain social media companies are “censoring” conservative voices, and in a recent interview, the attorney general said he’s looking at ways to bring antitrust charges against those firms. Harry Litman of The Los Angeles Times reported on Thursday that Barr sat down for an interview on Fox News where he talked about a number of goals he has for the Department of Justice (DOJ). Among those goals was to find a way to take down internet companies that he feels have an anti-Republican bias.
Litman said Barr is picking up the “bitter but unsubstantiated” criticism by President Donald Trump of companies like Facebook and Twitter. The reporter said the attorney general is determined to “rattle the saber” of the department’s antitrust division at Silicon Valley in general. In particular, Google is another company that Barr is reportedly taking aim at.
Litman reported that various news agencies are hearing the Department of Justice is already drafting an antitrust complaint against Google. It’s also interviewing lawyers to try the case after just a year of investigation. The writer said in the world of these kinds of investigations, the department is moving at “light speed” to take the search giant to court. The DOJ is reportedly moving quickly despite the fact that legal experts aren’t sure what the complaint would be based on. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) looked at bringing antitrust charges against Google in 2013, but the agency couldn’t find anything worthy of a complaint.
If Barr is looking to base the complaint on censorship, Litman thinks the department would be hard-pressed to make the case. The search engine company allows a myriad different sources to flow through its service. Having enough proof that Google is somehow throttling conservative sources after less than a 12-month investigation strikes Litman as unlikely. However, Barr reportedly made it clear in the interview that he believed that’s exactly what “powerful internet companies” are doing.
Litman added that if Barr tried to bring a case against social media companies and Google because it was censoring Republican voices, he would also run into a First Amendment brick wall.
“Trying to break up Google, Facebook or Twitter, in fact, hobbles the prosecution because it could give rise to a 1st Amendment defense,” he wrote. “These internet giants could argue that if it were somehow proven that they had created politically biased algorithms, it would violate the Constitution for the department to prosecute them on the basis of their anti-conservative viewpoint.”