GOP senators ask for federal investigation into social media companies' decisionmaking

GOP senators ask for federal investigation into social media companies' decisionmaking
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Two Republican senators are asking federal regulators to conduct an inquiry into how the social media industry curates content.

Sens. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyHillicon Valley: Pentagon pushes back on Amazon lawsuit | Lawmakers dismiss Chinese threat to US tech companies | YouTube unveils new anti-harassment policy | Agencies get annual IT grades Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech TikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions MORE (R-Mo.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Defense: House passes compromise defense bill | Turkey sanctions advance in Senate over Trump objections | Top general says military won't be 'raping, burning and pillaging' after Trump pardons Lies, damned lies and impeachable lies Conservatives rip FBI over IG report: 'scathing indictment' MORE (R-Texas) sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Monday asking the agency to use its investigative authority to look into the opaque content decision-making practices at companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter.

“Companies that are this big and that have the potential to threaten democracy this much should not be allowed to curate content entirely without any transparency,” they wrote. “These companies can greatly influence democratic outcomes, yet they have no accountability to voters. They are not even accountable to their own customers because nobody knows how these companies curate content.”

The senators have both alleged, with little evidence, that social media companies are censoring conservative viewpoints.

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The letter comes a day before Cruz is set to hold a hearing on Google’s alleged censorship in which a top executive from the company will testify.

The internet search giant, along with the rest of Silicon Valley, has denied making any content decisions based on politics. And Democratic lawmakers who have pushed for greater scrutiny of the tech platforms have rolled their eyes at claims of anti-conservative bias.

But Republicans have made it the centerpiece of their own criticism of Big Tech. Last week, President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Democrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism Warren, Buttigieg duke it out in sprint to 2020 MORE convened a summit of right-wing social media influencers to talk about the issue, where he promised to also summon the tech giants to the White House.

Hawley and Cruz argued on Monday that the FTC should look into how platforms make their content decisions and to make their findings public.

“The vast majority of internet traffic flows through just a handful of these companies,” the two senators wrote. “They control the ads we see, the news we read, and the information we digest. And they actively censor some content and amplify other content based on algorithms and intentional decisions that are completely nontransparent. Never before in this country have so few people controlled so much speech.”

A spokeswoman for the FTC did not immediately respond when asked for comment.