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Sessions urged not to go after social media companies by technology activists

Sessions urged not to go after social media companies by technology activists
By: Fox News Posted On: September 21, 2018 View: 30

Sessions urged not to go after social media companies by technology activists

A group of technology activists and think tanks is urging Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to go after social media companies.

Companies such as Facebook and Twitter are firmly in the spotlight at the moment amid allegations of anti-conservative bias.

The Justice Department recently confirmed that Sessions has convened a meeting with a number of state attorneys general to discuss “a growing concern that these companies may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms.”

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The meeting will take place this month, according to officials. The announcement came in the wake of a recent Senate Intelligence Committee hearing attended by top executives at Facebook and Twitter.

In a letter sent on Friday, tech policy think tanks TechFreedom, which describes itself as "liberty oriented," Lincoln Network and Copia Institute called on Sessions to rethink his pursuit of these companies. Other signatories include tech entrepreneurship group Engine Advocacy, Iain Murray, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, American Legislative Exchange Council CEO Lisa Nelson and law professor Eric Goldman.

“It is unclear what lawful action could result from your planned meeting. Indeed, we fear that the effect of your inquiry will be to accomplish through intimidation what the First Amendment bars: interference with editorial judgment,” the letter states.

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With regard to alleged anti-competitive behavior, the activists write that “the degree of a media company’s market power does not change its protection by the First Amendment.”

The signatories also urge Sessions to call on the Federal Trade Commission in the event of an investigation. “We do not believe that the Department of Justice, as an arm of an Administration that has so consistently attacked social media companies (as well as traditional media companies), has the independence to act in the neutral, apolitical fashion required by the First Amendment,” they write. “The FTC has already handled multiple investigations into social media companies, and thus already has the relevant expertise in this area.”

In a statement emailed to Fox News, TechFreedom CEO Berin Szóka described the First Amendment as “a shield against government action, not a sword by which government can ensure the ‘fairness’ of media platforms.”

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“It’s ironic that those conservatives now urging government intervention wrap themselves in the mantle of free speech,” he added. “Protecting editorial discretion is the cornerstone of free speech and freedom of press. Allowing the government to second-guess the content moderation decisions made by tech platforms will simply discourage them from trying protect their users from objectionable content and maintain civil discourse.”

Fox News has reached out to the Justice Department with a request for comment on this article.

Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this article.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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