Less than a week since U.S. President Donald Trump attacked social media giants (on social media) for being anti-conservative—or, more to the point, anti-Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been scheduled to meet with state attorneys general later this month to discuss those concerns.
“The Attorney General has convened a meeting with a number of state attorneys general this month to discuss a growing concern that these companies may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms,” the DoJ said in a statement.
Whoever cries “free speech” the loudest in this battle wins. And this is where media ceases to be media and becomes strictly partisan, with both sides playing the “free speech” card. It’s a battle that no one can win and still live to see the tenets of democracy remain in place.
The DOJ did not provide details or specific examples of how the social-media companies might be hurting competition, nor did it elaborate on the allegations of censorship or by what criteria would be investigating those companies.
Last week, Trump targeted Google, suggesting the tech giant was manipulating search results to make him look bad and rigging the search engine “so that almost all stories & news is BAD”.
Previously, Trump accused Twitter of silencing Republican voices and vowed to "look into this discriminatory and illegal practice”.
Twitter responded this week by permanently banning Alex Jones of Infowars fame, following a similar ban by Apple, Facebook and Youtube.
In a statement, Google’s spokesperson said the company’s goal was to make sure users got the most relevant answers to their queries within seconds, and it was about speed, not petty politics.
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Twitter has also said it does not make decisions based on political ideology. Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO and co-founder, said that “from a simple business perspective and to serve the public conversation, Twitter is incentivized to keep all voices on the platform”. (Except Infowars, apparently).
Facebook has similarly denied political bias but said it would bring in advisers to investigate whether it suppresses conservative voices.
Media reported that the meeting with state attorneys general is set for September 25, but some speculate that it might be the last meeting Sessions attends as Attorney General due to a worsening relationship with Trump, who has most recently said Sessions will remain in his post until November, at least, according to Bloomberg.
Also, the president has long criticized Sessions and DoJ over the ongoing probe into Russian election meddling by special counsel Robert Mueller. And earlier this week, Trump called out Sessions over charges his Justice Department brought against two Republican congressmen, one charged as part of an alleged insider-trading scheme and other accused of misusing campaign funds.
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So while Sessions appears to be playing Trump’s tune on the social media attack, all is not well. But then again, all is not well in the White House at large, with a recent anti-Trump op-ed appearing in the New York Times under anonymous authorship from a “senior official” tearing more rifts in the corridors of power.
The DoJ announcement about Session’s scheduled meet came on the same day that Facebook and Twitter executives appeared on Capitol Hill to testify at a Senate hearing on how Russia (among other foreign powers) has used social media to spread propaganda and launch influence campaigns.
The Senate wanted the CEO of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, to testify, but Google wanted to send its own executive instead—an idea the Senate committee rejected.
Trump has also called for amendments to libel laws, intended to lash out at anti-Trump content—a move that has been escalated in the aftermath of the release of excerpts from the new book by journalist Bob Woodward, entitled “Fear: Trump in the White House”.
Trump suggested that libel laws should be changed even though he appeared to support at least one of the book’s themes, that he’s harsh.
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So far, there seems to be no support for changing libel laws, and for now, the issue is relegated to the realm of another Trump tantrum that is playing out on the very social media he is gearing up to attack.
By Fred Dunkley for Safehaven.com
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