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 FrankenThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Mexican officials scramble to avoid Trump tariffs The Hill's 12:30 Report: Mexican officials scramble to avoid Trump tariffs The Hill's Morning Report - Tariff battle looms as Trump jabs 'foolish' Senate GOP 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 KlobucharOvernight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Health Care: Democrats attack after Trump revives talk of ObamaCare replacement | Cruz, Ocasio-Cortez efforts on birth control face major obstacles | CVS investing M to fight teen e-cig use MORE (D-Minn.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDemocratic senator accuses White House of blocking election security legislation Democratic senator accuses White House of blocking election security legislation Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw 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.