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Justice to convene meeting on whether social media companies are 'intentionally stifling' free speech
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has scheduled a meeting with state attorneys general in September to discuss a "growing concern" that tech companies may be "intentionally stifling" the free flow of ideas on their platforms.
In a statement issued right after executives from Facebook and Twitter finished testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Department of Justice (DOJ) also suggested that the platforms were running afoul of antitrust laws.
"The Attorney General has convened a meeting with a number of state attorneys general this month to discuss a growing concern that these companies may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms," DOJ spokesman Devin O'Malley said in a statement issued near the end of the congressional hearing.
President Trump and conservative House Republicans have repeatedly aired complaints about bias against conservatives on Facebook, Twitter, Google and other social media platforms. Those companies though have denied censoring conservative speech.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday morning on efforts to combat foreign influence operations on their platforms.
Dorsey will face a second grilling later Wednesday from lawmakers in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where he is expected to face questions on the allegations of conservative censorship.
The DOJ's move is the first sign of the administration taking concrete action to address alleged bias following President Trump's public accusations against tech companies last week. It also comes at a time of tension between the president and his top law enforcement officer. Trump has repeatedly chastised Sessions over his decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, faulting the attorney general in August for not taking control of what he sees as "corruption" at the Justice Department. And on Monday, Trump blasted Sessions on Twitter over recent indictments against two Republican congressmen.
The announcement also signals that the Justice Department is paying attention to the growing movement to challenge Facebook's and Google's market power.
Last week, Trump said the companies might have antitrust problems but declined to discuss whether they should be broken up.
Google has been dogged by massive antitrust fines in Europe, where regulators have accused the company of using its dominance in internet search, mobile operating systems and online advertising to suppress competition.
Facebook is also facing antitrust scrutiny in the EU.
But the U.S. has yet to take any action against the internet giants over their market power.
Spokespeople for Google, Facebook and Twitter did not immediately respond when asked for comment.
Updated at 1:46 p.m.