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Liberal Hypocrisy

White House Crafts Executive Order to Investigate Facebook, Google, Others

The president means it — he wants these social media titans held accountable for unfair bias

The White House has drafted an executive order for President Donald Trump’s signature that would instruct federal antitrust and law enforcement agencies to begin investigations into the business practices of Alphabet’s Google, Facebook, and other social media entities, Bloomberg News and other outlets are reporting.

The order is in its preliminary stages and hasn’t yet been shown to other government agencies.

That’s according to a White House official — but Bloomberg News obtained a draft of the order.

The document reportedly instructs 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 the order is 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 focus on the practices of Google, Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies — he has publicly accused them of silencing conservative voices.

“Social Media is totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices,” Trump wrote 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 against online harassment have sometimes led to the erroneous punishment of political figures; but they claim there is no systematic effort to silence conservative voices.

This flies in the face of recent reports that show a concerted effort to subvert Trump administration policies.

Internal emails from Google have revealed conversations among employees that were focused on manipulating search results in the wake of the president’s controversial travel ban, according to Fox News.

The emails show Google staffers discussing ways to alter the company’s algorithm to point users toward pro-immigration organizations, lawmakers and agencies — in other words, search returns that fit the staffers’ own political beliefs.

The possibility of an executive order emerged as Attorney General Jeff Sessions prepares for a September 25 briefing by state attorneys general who are already investigating the tech firms’ practices, as Financial Review reported.

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.

It is notable that even on the Right, there are concerns about a Trump administration crackdown on social media businesses.

At least one of the attorneys general participating in the meeting has indicated he seeks to break up the companies.

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 themselves find objectionable.

Related: Why Conservatives Better Think Twice Before Regulating Facebook

It is notable that even on the Right, there are concerns about a Trump administration crackdown on social media businesses.

On Friday, libertarian-leaning groups, including FreedomWorks and the American Legislative Exchange Council, sent a letter to Sessions expressing “fear” that his “inquiry will be to accomplish through intimidation what the First Amendment bars: interference with editorial judgment,” noted Financial Review.

See the president speak out on social media bias in the video below.