The Trump administration is seeking to initiate steps against social media companies for allegedly stifling free exchange of ideas and hurting competition. US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has convened a meeting of the state attorney generals in this regard, the Department of Justice said. “The attorney general has convened a meeting with a number of state attorneys general this month to discuss a growing concern that these companies may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms,” the department’s spokesman Devin O’Malley said.
The Justice Department has listened to the senate intelligence committee hearing on social media. The possible legal crackdown by the administration has been opposed by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a non-profit public policy think-tank. Social media platforms find themselves caught between some policy makers arguing that they have a moral and legal obligation to remove legal, but offensive, content, and others who are calling for these companies to be punished for censoring some of this extreme political speech, ITIF vice president Daniel Castro claimed.
He said social media platforms have the right to determine what type of legal speeches they will permit on their platforms. “It is inappropriate for the federal government to use the threat of law enforcement to limit companies from exercising this right. “In particular, law enforcement should not threaten social media companies with unwarranted investigations for their efforts to rid their platforms of extremists who incite hate and violence,” Castro said. The ITIF argued that companies such as Facebook and Twitter have taken important steps to detect illegitimate users, identify fake news and increase ad transparency. “While these companies still have much more work ahead of them, it is premature to start calling for new regulations,” Castro said.
For example, calls to require social media platforms to assign specific labels to automated bots or false information are well-intentioned but ultimately misguided, because correctly distinguishing between humans and bots and true versus false information is an exceedingly complex challenge, he said. Castro said calls for stricter regulation of digital platforms will be observed by foreign legislators in capitals around the world. He said while the United States upholds strong protections for free speech, this is not true everywhere, and social media platforms are facing growing calls from foreign governments to censor their content globally.
“The US government would better serve its citizens and businesses if it defended the value of using a light-touch regulatory approach on social media platforms both domestically and abroad,” Castro said.