‘By controlling the content we see, these companies are powerful enough to—at the very least—sway elections…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) Despite a $5 billion fine on Facebook last week over its data-privacy violations, two GOP senators said Monday that the Federal Trade Commission must do more to rein in the site’s electioneering efforts, along with those of other web utilities like Google and Twitter.
Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, wrote the FTC encouraging it to take a deeper look at the tech sites’ practices, even if there was not an explicit law-enforcement purpose t0 such an investigation.
“The vast majority of internet traffic flows through just a handful of these companies,” Hawley and Cruz said in their letter, addressed to all five FTC commissioners.
“They control the ads we see, the news we read, and the information we digest. And they actively censor some content and amplify other content based on algorithms and intentional decisions that are completely nontransparent,” the senators said. “Never before in this country have so few people controlled so much speech.”
While the “more salient” examples of censorship practices, such as account suspensions, have been well documented, the senators said they were worried about the more subversive efforts to suppress voices they disagreed with.
Conservative advocacy groups like Project Veritas and the Daily Caller have published a number of whistle-blower testimonials, and their insights figured largely into a social-media summit hosted last week by President Donald Trump.
“[N]obody knows who or what these companies censor or amplify,” said the letter. “Most content curation occurs in ways impossible for outsiders to detect.”
Even as the corporations claim to be themselves protected by free speech and private-enterprise regulations, their efforts at social engineering have exposed the partisan underbelly.
Google was revealed to have at least considered blacklisting and burying content that was favorable to Trump’s ban on immigrants from terrorist-sponsoring countries.
Facebook recently acknowledged that it had blocked pro-life ads during recent Irish elections to repeal a constitutional amendment and legalize abortion.
Twitter has threatened to apply its subjective—and constantly shifting—community standards even to the tweets of politicians—despite recent court rulings that define it as a public platform and prevent elected officials from blocking other users.
“By controlling the content we see, these companies are powerful enough to—at the very least—sway elections,” wrote the senators. “And we’re told we have to be satisfied simply with trusting them not to abuse this immense power.”
Cruz has been a longtime advocate for subjecting the tech companies to greater scrutiny and accountability.
During a recent hearing before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, he grilled a Google representative over a Project Veritas investigation that revealed how the search-engine powerhouse, which also owns YouTube, had downgraded conservative outlets when recommending additional content.