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Eliminating net neutrality was all well and good when the Trump administration and supporters were set to benefit from its demise. Now, however, government leaders seem to feel that some form of net neutrality needs to come back because they say social media sites are stifling free speech (of conservatives) on social media.
On Sept. 5, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced plans to convene a session later this month exploring whether social media companies are “hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms,” Quartz reports. Given the administration’s tendency to bend the truth to their liking, Donald Trump and senior officials have gone after entities that don’t report their version of events. Historically, that’s been the press: Trump has attacked the press repeatedly via Twitter, but recently clarified that only a “large percentage” of the media is the enemy of the people, rather than the entirety of the media.
Now the administration is going after social media platforms, as well.
According to Quartz:
“Net neutrality rules don’t directly apply to Twitter and Facebook, since they aren’t common carriers like internet service providers, which must carry web traffic to end users. But conservatives are claiming that these forums are silencing conservative voices and violating their First Amendment rights.”
Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have been more diligent about enforcing their anti-hate and anti-fake news policies. In the process of this purge of trolls and fake news peddlers, some right-wing voices have been silenced, like Alex Jones and Infowars. Conservatives have accused Twitter of shadow-banning right-wing personalities (an accusation Twitter denied), while Facebook has also come under fire for purported bias against conservatives.
Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg testified in a Congressional hearing this week about their reaction to foreign meddling in the 2016 election. Conservatives also used it as an opportunity to draw attention to the issue of free speech, and that it should be supported even if the speaker is spouting hate and abuse.
Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.