Franken calls for net neutrality for Google, Twitter and Facebook

Franken calls for net neutrality for Google, Twitter and Facebook
© Greg Nash

Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenShould the Rob Porter outcome set the standard? Grassley, Dems step up battle over judicial nominees Sen. Gillibrand, eyeing 2020 bid, rankles some Democrats MORE (D-Minn.) slammed big tech firms on Wednesday, saying that they should be held to the same style of net neutrality rules as major telecommunications companies.

“Not only do they guide what we see, read and buy on a regular basis, but there dominance specifically in the market of information now requires that we consider their role in the integrity of our democracy,” Franken said, criticizing firms like Twitter, Facebook and Google for their inability to stop foreign actors from manipulating their platforms to meddle in elections.

Franken, who has been critical on antitrust matters regarding major telecommunications firms like AT&T and Time Warner said during an event held by the think tank Open Markets Institute, that web firms should be held to the same standards with net neutrality-styled provisions.


“The power of these companies sometimes scares me,” Franken said, quoting Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) from the week prior during a hearing probing Russia's election influence using Facebook, Twitter and Google’s platforms.

“No one company should have the power to pick and choose which content reaches consumers and which doesn’t,” said Franken. “And Facebook, Google and Amazon, like ISPs, should be neutral in their treatment of the flow of lawful information and commerce on their platform.”

He said the tech giants have “failed to take common-sense precautions to prevent the spread of propaganda, misinformation and hate speech.”

Franken published an op-ed in The Guardian after his remarks, which further detailed his arguments for closer scrutiny of tech giants.

“It doesn’t require an antitrust lawyer to understand that these companies’ dominance in the market of information gives them tremendous power to dictate terms with journalists, publishers, and authors and to control the information available to consumers,” Franken wrote.

Franken's arguments follow several congressional hearings examining Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, in which top lawyers from Facebook, Twitter and Google showed up to testify. Lawmakers like Franken and others grilled the three companies during the hearings, suggesting that some type of regulation would be necessary to prevent such interference in the future.

Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharOvernight Health Care: Trump eases rules on insurance outside ObamaCare | HHS office on religious rights gets 300 complaints in a month | GOP chair eyes opioid bill vote by Memorial Day Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won't stand Dems seek reversal of nursing home regulatory rollback MORE (D-Minn.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerLawmakers worry about rise of fake video technology Mueller indictment reveals sophisticated Russian manipulation effort GOP cautious, Dems strident in reaction to new indictments MORE’s (D-Va.) Honest Ads Act aims to get the ball rolling on the regulation of major tech firms. Their bill would hold major technology firms to the same political advertising transparency standards as TV and radio broadcasters.

Warner has characterized the proposed changes as "light touch," but tech firms have still been resistant to supporting the bill in its current form. They say that they’ll work with the lawmakers to tweak it towards something they’re more amenable to.