The administration is taking a serious look at wielding the federal government’s power against Silicon Valley, three sources familiar with the matter told Politico, with one of them cautioning that the legislation in question still lacks any concrete form.
“If the internet is going to be presented as this egalitarian platform and most of Twitter is liberal cesspools of venom, then at least the president wants some fairness in the system,” the White House official said. “But look, we also think that social media plays a vital role. They have a vital role and an increasing responsibility to the culture that has helped make them so profitable and so prominent."
None of the sources were able to indicate whether the order will feature any penalties against companies deemed to be censoring political viewpoints, as the order is still in the early stages of development.
"The President announced at this month’s social media summit that we were going to address this and the administration is exploring all policy solutions," a second White House official said Wednesday when asked about the draft order.
Republicans at the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission, however, have said publicly that they don’t see a role for their agencies in policing companies’ online content. The FCC and FTC have joined the Justice and Commerce departments in discussions about the potential bias crackdown.
“There’s very little in terms of direct regulation the federal government can do without congressional action, and frankly I think that’s a positive thing,” said John Morris, who handled internet policy issues at the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration before leaving in May.
The Trump administration and the US President have long been vocal about tech platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube banning pro-conservative opinionists like InfoWars founder Alex Jones or squelching posts by pro-Trump social media personalities Diamond and Silk. The companies have denied the allegations of bias, though they say they have blocked or removed users who violate community standards policies.
Trump railed against censorship in July during a White House gathering, calling for his administration to explore all “regulatory and legislative solutions to protect free speech and the free-speech rights of all Americans.” He also warned that he is “watching Google very closely,” citing the case of an engineer who has claimed the company fired him for his conservative views. The White House has invited internet and technology companies for a discussion on violent online extremism with senior administration officials Friday in the wake of the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings.