White House drafts investigative orders on alleged social media practices, including bias

White House drafts investigative orders on alleged social media practices, including bias
Photo illustration of social media icons. (LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)

An executive order drafted by the White House for President Donald Trump could prompt federal antitrust and law enforcement agencies to investigate Alphabet, Google’s parent company; Facebook, and other social media giants, Bloomberg reported.

The proposed order, still in its preliminary stage, addresses alleged bias at the companies and the damage it can cause due to the prominence of social media as a communication tool.

What does the order say?

Business Insider posted an excerpt of the order, which reads:

“Whether reading news or looking for local businesses, citizens rely on search, social media, and other online platforms to provide objective and reliable information to shape a host of decisions ranging from consumer purchases to votes in elections. Because of their critical role in American society, it is essential that American citizens are protected from anticompetitive acts by dominant online platforms. Vibrant competition in the online ecosystem is essential to ensuring accountability for the platforms that hold so much sway over our economy and democratic process.”

“…Executive departments and agencies with authorities that could be used to enhance competition among online platforms (agencies) shall, where consistent with other laws, use those authorities to promote competition and ensure that no online platform eercises market power in a way that harms consumers, including through the exercise of bias.”

“…Not later than 30 days from the date of this order, agencies shall submit to the Director of the National Economic Council an initial list of (1) actions each agency can potentially take to protect competition among online platforms and address online platform bias.”

Trump and other conservatives have repeatedly pointed to alleged bias by Facebook and Google in the companies’ enforcement of user rules and other practices that restrict the flow of certain information.

Debates have centered on whether some conservative commentators have been unfairly removed from social media platforms because they did not truly violate the platforms’ terms of use. Critics have pointed to blatantly radical and violent groups on the platforms that have not been sanctioned nor removed.

Anything else?

The antitrust aspect of the draft is likely to be most concerning to the social media giants. The European Union, for example, has fined Google $5 billion for abusing its power in its dominance of Android. It was fined an additional $2 billion for shopping search results that spotlight Google’s properties over other results.

Google’s dominance of the search market is about 90 percent or more in many markets, Business Insider reported. Google and Facebook also receive about 90 percent of all new ad dollars spent on the web, according to the report.