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White House considers executive order for antitrust investigation of bias at Google and Facebook

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Facebook founder Mark
Zuckerberg.

Justin Sullivan /
Getty


  • The proposed executive order would ask federal law
    enforcement to “thoroughly investigate whether any online
    platform has acted in violation of the antitrust laws,” to
    “protect competition among online platforms and address online
    platform bias.”
  • President Trump has previously said, “Social Media is
    totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative
    voices.”
  • He has also stated, wrongly, that Google discriminated
    against his State of the Union speech.
  • There is no evidence that either Google or Facebook
    discriminate against conservatives.

The White House has drafted a text of a proposed executive order
for President Donald Trump that would trigger an antitrust
investigation into Google and Facebook,
according to Bloomberg.

The proposed text would order federal law enforcement to
“thoroughly investigate whether any online platform has acted in
violation of the antitrust laws,” to “protect competition among
online platforms and address online platform bias,” and to
determine whether consumers have been harmed “through the
exercise of bias,” Bloomberg reported.

The president and other conservatives have repeatedly complained
that they believe Facebook and Google (owned by corporate parent
Alphabet) bias the way they show news to users by dampening down
conservative voices or outlets. In August,
Trump tweeted
, “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…….”

Trump
later claimed
that Google did not highlight his State of the
Union speech on its front page even though it had always done
that for President Obama. But
that allegation turned out to be entirely false
. Google
promoted Trump’s State of the Union event in the same way it did
for Obama.

Facebook has removed some conservative commentators from its
platform,
such as the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones
, after they
broke Facebook’s rules against “glorifying violence” and “hate
speech” against minorities. Many conservatives believe that shows
the platforms do not give them a fair shake.

But there is no evidence that either Facebook or Google
systematically discriminates left or right.

The draft order is in its preliminary stages, Bloomberg said.

While the political bias aspect of the order would likely be the
most controversial aspect, it would also be the least threatening
to either Google or Facebook. The First Amendment to the US
Constitution bans the government from restricting or imposing
speech. Federal authorities cannot require any company to publish
views it favors.

The more worrying aspect of the draft, from the point of view of
the companies, is the antitrust aspect. That could cost the
companies real money. The
European Union recently fined Google $5 billion
for abusing
its power over phone manufacturers through its dominance of
Android; and
$2 billion for its distortion of shopping search results
that
favored Google’s own properties over superior independent
results. 

Google has a dominance of the search market that approaches 90%
or more in many markets. And between them,
Google and Facebook receive 90% of all new advertising
dollars
spent on the web. Facebook and Google capture 71% of
all digital ad spending in Europe, according to analyst
Brian Weiser at Pivotal Research.

Get the latest Google stock price here.

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