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 FrankenDemocrats turn on Al Franken Schumer called, met with Franken and told him to resign Overnight Finance: Trump says shutdown 'could happen' | Ryan, conservatives inch closer to spending deal | Senate approves motion to go to tax conference | Ryan promises 'entitlement reform' in 2018 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.

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“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 KlobucharFranken resignation could upend Minnesota races Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Trump-free Kennedy Center Honors avoids politics MORE (D-Minn.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank Comey back in the spotlight after Flynn makes a deal Warner: Every week another shoe drops in Russia investigation 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.