At a roundtable of state attorneys general hosted by the Federal Trade Commission, Texas First Assistant Attorney General Jeff Mateer today questioned whether big tech companies mislead users and run afoul of the states’ deceptive trade practices laws when they represent their social media platforms as viewpoint neutral and open to all protected speech.
“Without a doubt, big tech companies are unique for the ways that they have leveraged technology and led in innovation, improving the way we do business and the lives of consumers,” First Assistant Attorney General Mateer said. “But like other businesses, these companies have legal responsibilities, and they must avoid false, misleading and deceptive trade practices.”
During his presentation, First Assistant Attorney General Mateer cited one example after another of how big tech companies have represented themselves as providing a level playing field, open to all political viewpoints and free of bias and restrictions on the basis of policy preferences. But he also pointed out strong evidence to the contrary, including:
- Google censored Claremont Institute’s ad for its 40th anniversary gala dinner with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The ad, which invited citizens to discuss what it means to be an American, was banned after Google determined it violated its policy on “race and ethnicity in personalized advertising.” Google relented after Claremont went public with what happened.
- Facebook prevented users from sharing a pro-President Trump column that appeared in the New York Post by award-winning columnist Selena Zito, and gave the author no reason why it censored the story before it removed the links to it.
- As reported by VICE News, Twitter limited the visibility of prominent Republicans in search results through a technique known as “shadow banning.”
“Whether you’re a brick and mortar or a click and mortar company, you must be forthright with your customers about the terms of service – that’s what consumer protection is all about,” First Assistant Attorney General Mateer said. “If big tech companies are not living up to their commitments and representations regarding being open to all political viewpoints and free of bias and restrictions on the basis of policy preference, then they should be held accountable for their false, misleading and deceptive trade practices.”
The roundtable of state attorneys general was held today at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.
First Assistant Attorney General Jeff Mateer (second from the right) speaking at today's roundtable.