President Trump’s accusations of social media bias against conservative views may soon begin informing White House policy. Business Insider has acquired a copy of a proposed executive order that would direct federal law enforcement to begin an antitrust investigation into the social media companies, to “ensure that no online platform exercises market power in a way that harms consumers, including through the exercise of bias.”
The order would instruct agencies to “thoroughly investigate whether any online platform has acted in violation of the antitrust laws.”
Trump has accused Facebook and Google of silencing conservative views, tweeting that social media is “totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices.”
Trump later claimed that Google had downplayed coverage of his State of the Union address compared to their coverage of Obama’s annual addresses. The allegation was not backed up by facts, as Google demonstrated that Trump’s speech was highlighted to the same extent as prior speeches by Obama.
Nonetheless, Trump has continued to level these accusations against social media companies.
However, White House staffers have largely downplayed the importance of the draft order. A statement from deputy press secretary Lindsey Waters said:
“Although the White House is concerned about the conduct of online platforms and their impact on society, this document is not the result of an official White House policymaking process.”
Three White House staffers said to The Washington Post that they hadn’t written the order, nor were they aware who had. One senior official said the document had not been subject to the formal drafting process.
Despite the mention of political bias, the government has no power to impose restrictions or guidelines on companies like social media platforms regarding what views the companies publish. However, the antitrust investigations could lead to real consequences, as with the European Union’s recent 2 and 5 billion-dollar fines against Google. Google accounts for close to 90 percent of many search markets, and 90 percent of new internet advertising money goes to either Google or Facebook.
While platforms like Facebook have banned some extreme right-wing commentators due to hate speech and the promotion of violence, there is no evidence the platforms suppress conservative viewpoints, according to Business Insider. Yet, other conservatives have followed Trump’s lead in speaking out against the platforms.
“To a great many Americans that appears to be a pervasive pattern of political bias,” Senator Ted Cruz said earlier this year, referring to certain pages that have been blocked on Facebook.