American political arena stands united to tame social media giants. A senate panel has ordered the top heads of Google, Facebook and Twitter to summon for testimony. The panel aims to control the spread of misinformation, hate speech and political conspiracy ahead of 2020 presidential elections. This is a timely intervention as these mediums can be misused to score political gains.
The Senate Commerce Committee issued subpoenas to force Sundar Pichai of Google, Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to appear before the committee if they decline. The order has legal standing as senators unanimously voted for subpoenas. A subpoena is a written order to summon individual, if needed, by force.
Republicans blame suppression of conservative views
The fight against the tech giants is heavily backed by President Donald Trump. He has always been susceptible to Silicon Valley social media companies. Trump alleged these companies for suppressing conservative views. He strongly considers these platforms as a threat to his party’s ideology.
Trump also signed an executive order previously against the 1996 telecommunication law. The law guarantees unrestricted freedom of speech on the Internet. Putting a bar on social media is necessary but inappropriate trimming of free speech laws can have its own set of disadvantages. The administration should be wary of it.
Democrats wary about misinformation, hate speech
Democrats are equally vocal to limit the control of these global giants. Their reasons are slightly different from that of Republicans. They aim to uphold democratic values by putting a check on misinformation and hate speech. Social media are super-spreaders of misinformation. They take it to people to people on their personal devices, who further spread the venom by word of mouth publicity. It could have a devastating impact in rural areas where there is less digital literacy.
Regular monitoring and policing of content becomes extremely crucial. Democrats have attacked big social media companies for failing to police content on their platform.
Taming them with law
When the companies where in the initial phase, their impact was limited and they were given ample freedom. These companies were not legally responsible for what people posted on their personal profile. Justice Department is looking forward to scrapping these bedrock legislation to ensure the accountability of social media barons.
Strength of social media has increased manifold and it no longer needs the legal protections it enjoyed over a period of time. Attorney General William Barr has laid the onus in people’s hands. He asserted that individuals will be given legal powers to sue social media giants for their misdoings and sloppiness.
US officials and consumer advocacy groups have cast reservations on monopolistic nature of few of the social media companies. Justice Department has moved an antitrust action against the leading search engine, Google. The search engine is widely criticised in the US for misusing its monopoly to crackdown its competitors. Google’s dominance has become a cause of concern in the United States. A bipartisan coalition of 50 US states has also staged an investigation against the overarching monopoly of Google.
Google has recounted its uses and benefits to consumers. It has also justified before the Associated Press that the company faces ample competition in the United States. Google admitted that it collects personal information in exchange for its free services to sell add and make a profit.
Google is not the only company. Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission have initiated an antitrust investigation against other giants like Facebook, Amazon and Apple for stifling competition. There are other committees also that are undertaking bipartisan antitrust investigations
Leading social media companies are very big in economic prospect. Their value equals the entire GDP of many countries. They have the power to manipulate markets, politics, economics and society through varied mean. They can collaborate with wrong partners to give the worst results. Any attempt to regulate them must take all stakeholders into account. America’s timely initiative will protect the integrity of coming elections as long as it takes both Democrats and Republicans into account.