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Thread: The White House is considering an antitrust investigation into 'online platform bias' at Google and Facebook ? read the leaked document here

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    The White House is considering an antitrust investigation into 'online platform bias' at Google and Facebook ? read the leaked document here

    https://www.businessinsider.com/whit...titrust-2018-9

    OK Then what the hell.

    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 a copy of the document obtained by Business Insider. The existence of the draft was first reported by Capital Forum.

    The proposed text focuses on "bias" at the companies:

    "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 exercises 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."

    The order also commands federal agencies to "thoroughly investigate whether any online platform has acted in violation of the antitrust laws."

    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 reportedly in its preliminary stages, though the White House sought to distance itself from the text on Saturday, according to The Washington Post.

    "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," deputy White House press secretary Lindsey Waters said in a statement.

    Three White House aides also told The Post they neither wrote the draft order, nor had any idea where it came from. Another senior official told The Post that the document was, indeed, known around the White House, but had not undergone the formal drafting process.

    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.

    Here is the full text of the draft order seen by Business Insider:

    EXECUTIVE ORDER TO PROTECT COMPETITON AND SMALL BUSINESSES FROM BIAS IN ONLINE PLATFORMS

    By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to protect American consumers and workers and encourage competition in the U.S. economy, it is hereby ordered as follows:


    Section 1. Policy. Online platforms are central to American commerce and the free flow of news and information. 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.

    [Can expand this section, if necessary, to provide more detail on role of platforms and the importance of competition]

    Section 2. Agency Responsibilities. (a) 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 exercises market power in a way that harms consumers, including through the exercise of bias.

    (b) Agencies with authority to investigate anticompetitive conduct shall thoroughly investigate whether any online platform has acted in violation of the antitrust laws, as defined in subsection (a) of the first section of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. ? 12, or any other law intended to protect competition.

    (c) Should an agency learn of possible or actual anticompetitive conduct by a platform that the agency lacks the authority to investigate and/or prosecute, the matter should be referred to the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Competition of the Federal Trade Commission.


    (d) 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; (2) any relevant authorities and tools potentially available to enhance competition among and protect the users of online platforms.

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    Part 2

    e) Not later than 60 days from the date of this order, agencies shall report to the President, through the Director of the National Economic Council, recommendations on agency-specific actions in response to paragraphs (d) of this section. Such recommendations shall include a list of priority actions, including rulemakings, as well as timelines for completing those actions.

    Section 3. General Provisions. (a) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

    (b) Independent agencies are strongly encouraged to comply with the requirements of this order.

    (c) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:


    (i) the authority granted by law to a department or agency, or the head thereof; or

    (ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

    (d) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

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    Another Take

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-u...-idUSKCN1M20UC

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House has drafted an executive order that would push federal antitrust and law enforcement agencies to probe the business practices of social media and other internet companies, according to Bloomberg.

    FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Facebook logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo
    It is unclear whether the order will be signed by President Donald Trump. The order has yet to be reviewed by other government agencies and remains in its preliminary stages, Bloomberg reported on Saturday. The document reportedly does not name any specific companies as the target of such investigations.

    SPONSORED


    The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    The news follows repeated comments by Trump and other prominent Republican politicians about the alleged online censorship of conservatives by tech companies.

    Facebook and Twitter deny they’ve been involved in politically motivated censorship. In recent months, the companies have defended their existing internal policies which guide whether users should be suspended or banned from their platforms based on rule violations, such as bullying and other forms of harassment.

    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.”

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    https://www.washingtonpost.com/techn...=.3a833ab0923c

    The White House sought to dis*tance it*self Sat*ur*day from re*ports that President Trump is con*sid*er*ing an ex*ec*u*tive ord*er that would sub*ject tech giants like Facebook, Goo*gle and Twitter to federal in*ves*ti*gat*ions into al*leged po*lit*i*cal bias.

    For weeks, top tech com*panies have been on edge, fear*ing that the Trump ad*min*is*tra*tion could seek to regu*late the in*dus*try in re*sponse to the president’s tweets at*tack*ing so*cial media sites for si*len*cing con*ser*va*tives online. Their worst sus*pi*cions seemed to come true Fri*day night, with the e*mer*gence of a draft ex*ec*u*tive ord*er that called for near*ly every federal a*gen*cy to study how com*panies like Facebook police their plat*forms and re*fer in*stan*ces of “bias” to the Justice Department for further study.

    But three White House aides soon in*sist*ed they didn’t write the draft ord*er, didn’t know where it came from and gen*er*al*ly found it to be un*work*able pol*icy. One seni*or White House of*fi*cial con*firmed the docu*ment had been float*ing around the White House but had not gone through the for*mal proc*ess, which is con*trolled by the staff sec*re*tar*y.


    Asked a*bout the docu*ment, Lind*say Walters, the dep*u*ty White House press sec*re*tar*y, said of the dig*i*tal-age ‘who*dun*it’ on Sat*ur*day: “Al*though the White House is con*cerned a*bout the con*duct of online plat*forms and their im*pact on soci*ety, this docu*ment is not the re*sult of an of*fi*cial White House policymaking proc*ess.”

    For months, com*panies like Facebook, Goo*gle and Twitter have grap*pled with al*le*ga*tions of anti-con*ser*va*tive bias from the coun*try’s top Re*pub*lic*ans. In tweets, Trump re*peat*ed*ly has charged with*out evi*dence that tech com*panies de*lib*er*ate*ly si*lence right-lean*ing view*ers and even rig search re*sults to show neg*a*tive stor*ies a*bout con*ser*va*tives or hide their ac*counts altogether. He has fre*quent*ly told al*lies that bias against con*ser*va*tives is a cen*tral issue to his sup*port*ers, and his cam*paign has used the al*le*ga*tions as fod*der for fundraising in re*cent weeks.

    On Capitol Hill, mean*while, top Re*pub*lic*ans have mount*ed their own cam*paign against Sil*i*con Valley, even for*cing Twitter CEO Jack Dor*sey to tes*ti*fy at a re*cent hear*ing a*bout ac*cu*sa*tions of cen*sor*ship. GOP lead*ers have threat*ened to force Goo*gle’s lead*ing exec*utives to do the same.

    Bias, drugs and bots: Congress questions Twitter and Facebook
    Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey appeared before lawmakers on Sept. 5 and discussed foreign interference, political bias and drug sales. (Patrick Martin /The Washington Post)

    But the po*lit*i*cal attacks morphed into a real threat of sting*ing reg*u*la*tion earli*er this month, when the Justice Department an*nounced it would gath*er state at*tor*neys gen*er*al on Tuesday to dis*cuss the tech in*dus*try, its fil*ter*ing prac*tices online and the im*pli*ca*tions for an*ti*trust. For Facebook, Goo*gle, Twitter and their peers, the ses*sion seemed poised to open the door for the federal and state gov*ern*ments to coordinate and be*gin fresh in*ves*ti*gat*ions of their busi*ness prac*tices.


    All month, those com*panies' lobby*ists also had been buzz*ing a*bout a po*ten*tial White House ex*ec*u*tive ord*er that aimed “to pro*tect com*pe*ti*tion and small busi*nes*ses from bias in online plat*forms,” ac*cord*ing to a copy of the docu*ment ob*tained by The Washington Post. If signed by the president, it would task federal ag*en*cies — in*clud*ing the in*de*pend*ent Justice Department — to “in*ves*ti*gate and/or pros*ecute” com*panies that use their “mar*ket pow*er in a way that harms con*sum*ers.” The draft docu*ment ul*ti*mate*ly leaked Fri*day, pub*lished by Bloom*berg News, to whom a White House of*fi*cial said it was un*der con*sid*er*a*tion.

    Aides at the White House said all week that the National Economic Council — which would have been tasked un*der the draft ord*er to help ag*en*cies probe online bias — didn’t write it and didn’t know where it came from. Nor did the White House’s top tech pol*icy hub, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, two White House sources said. Trump has of*ten or*dered aides to write ex*ec*u*tive or*ders that were later deemed un*work*able, but another seni*or White House of*fi*cial said he had no knowl*edge of this one.

    “It would be en*tire*ly in*sane,” said one lawyer with knowl*edge of the docu*ment, who spoke on the con*di*tion of anonymity.


    The docu*ment has float*ed to tech com*panies such as Facebook and law*yers at white-shoe firms around Washington. In fact, the first that many at OSTP had even heard of an ex*ec*u*tive ord*er came from an email sent by an un*like*ly source: Yelp, the re*views site. The com*pany long has at*tacked Goo*gle for abus*ing its mar*ket pow*er, al*be*it by lim*it*ing the reach of some of its com*peti*tors in search re*sults and not po*lit*i*cal bias. Still, Lu*ther Lowe, seni*or vice president for pol*icy at Yelp, con*tacted White House aides in Sep*tem*ber with the draft ex*ec*u*tive ord*er, ac*cord*ing to two White House aides and a copy of an email shared with The Post.

    Reached this week*end, Lowe did not ad*dress whether he wrote or com*mis*sioned the ex*ec*u*tive ord*er. “Far from rid*ing the cur*rent tech back*lash, Yelp has been con*sis*tent*ly criti*cal of Goo*gle for ac*tu*al bias in search re*sults — in local search, for their own com*pe*ti*tive benefit,” he said in a state*ment. “We believe this anti-com*pe*ti*tive con*duct — bias*ing their re*sults in fa*vor of their own house prop*er*ties — to be a vi*o*la*tion of US an*ti*trust law and we have been urging both po*lit*i*cal par*ties in Congress, the Administration and regu*la*tors to in*ves*ti*gate and pros*ecute this il*legal bias.”

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