According to Bloomberg, the White House is drafting an executive order for the president that would open up investigations into Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook Inc., and other social media companies. The copy of the draft that Bloomberg News has received has not been reviewed by other government agencies as it is still in its preliminary stages and Lindsey Walters, the deputy White House press secretary, insists that the draft is not in response to any official White House policy making process.
The document requires federal antitrust and law enforcement agencies to “thoroughly investigate whether any online platform has acted in violation of the antitrust laws” and recommend within a month of its signing practices that could “protect competition among online platforms and address online platform bias.” The order itself recognizes its own prefatory nature, with a line in red noting that its opening section could be elaborated on “if necessary, to provide more detail on role of platforms and the importance of competition.”
Trump has repeatedly criticized companies like Twitter for supposedly silencing the Right, using the platform itself to say “Social Media is totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices. 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.” The document itself, however, does not specifically mention any platforms by name.
The draft addresses issues primarily dealing with the First Amendment, expressing concern that these platforms are limiting free speech. “Because of their critical role in American society, it is essential that American citizens are protected from anticompetitive acts by dominant online platforms,” says the order.
A survey that the Pew Research Center conducted earlier this year found that 72% of Americans and 85% of Republicans believe that it is likely that social media companies intentionally censor posts that the leaders of these platforms are personally opposed to. Facebook and Google use algorithms developed by humans to rank content most likely to be relevant to the user. The programs use thousands of signals that help them to determine what has been useful to the user before and what is likely to be useful to the user in the future, so bias is often inherent.