Republican U.S. Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas have asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the “enormous influence” of big tech companies on free speech. In a letter sent Monday, the senators said few people grasp the extent to which companies like Google and Facebook censor or amplify messages through their platforms.
“Most content curation occurs in ways impossible for outsiders to detect,” the letter said. “Some content is downgraded: the content appears in fewer recommendations, lower on search pages, and less often in newsfeeds. Other content is amplified through the same means.”
Both Hawley and Cruz have been outspoken critics of the tech company in recent months, claiming the companies have the ability to sway elections through content curation. The letter, sent a day before Cruz will chair a Senate hearing called “Google and censorship through search engines,” said that few grasp the extent of what these companies are censoring or amplifying.
The senators called on the FTC to probe how the companies curate their content through a section 6(b) investigation. The investigation would allow the commission to request answers to specific questions that “provide information about the entity’s ‘organization, business, conduct, practices, management, and relation to other corporations, partnerships, and individuals.”
Hawley proposed a bill in June seeking to end big tech companies’ immunity from the consequences of user-posted content on platforms with over 30 million active monthly users in the U.S., over 300 million active monthly users worldwide or over $500 million in global annual revenue.
Until now, tech companies have received immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.
Hawley and Cruz are not the only ones taking on big tech firms. isn’t the only one griping about big tech. President Donald Trump invited conservative social media personalities to a “free speech” summit at the White House last week, where he outlined the ways in which big tech companies are “silencing” them.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who is vying for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, has outlined a proposal to “break up Facebook, Google and Amazon” in March.