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Congress Wants Tighter Regulation of Social Media Giants Ahead of Midterm Elections, Google is a No-Show

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Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey headline the Senate Intelligence Committee’s open hearing today. Google was a no-show.

For years, I have called for anti-trust legislation, as social media is the new public square. Even Jack Dorsey admitted at the hearings today that Twitter is the “public square.” And while all are hailing today’s hearings, I am not nearly as optimistic. The premise of these hearings is false.

Lawmakers called for greater federal regulations to ensure the United States does not repeat the mistakes of the 2016 presidential election, where Russia played a key role in infiltrating these social media sites.

The left, responsible for this war on free speech, is orchestrating this farce. It is absurd and dangerous. When will the GOP stop prostrating themselves before their destroyers? Time to turn the tables.

The hearing, titled “Foreign Influence Operations’ Use of Social Media Platforms,” comes with the 2018 U.S. midterms just two months away. Numerous tech companies have already announced the discovery of foreign influence campaigns, including Facebook, which has cracked down on what it called “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

Wednesday’s hearing is the biggest for the tech industry since April, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced almost five hours of questions from the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

A few ads did not influence the elections.

Google could face some blowback over its no show. Many senators seemed legitimately angry that the company had not sent a senior executive.

Here is what these hearings should be addressing:

If “knowledge is power” and “The pen is mightier than the sword,” entities controlling what pens you see are powerful indeed.

Facebook and Google “account for 75% of all the referrals major news and entertainment sites now receive,” according to a [2016] Politico report.

Facebook boasts a 40 percent share of the social media market and 1.5 billion users worldwide, making this Internet “nation” more populous than any country on Earth.  Upwards of 40 percent of American adults get news from the site.

Google accounts for 64 percent of all U.S. desktop search queries. In Europe, the figure is a whopping 90 percent. The company also owns YouTube, the world’s most popular video-sharing website.

How is this power used? Earlier this year, ex-Facebook employees admitted they routinely suppressed conservative news and were ordered to place relatively unpopular but company-favored (read: liberal) stories in their “trending” news section. And trending means mind-bending because people are influenced by what’s “popular.” Make an article appear more or less so and you can cause some readers to embrace it as “consensus” or dismiss it as a fringe view. It snowballs, too: prominent placement makes a piece more popular, which makes it more prominent, which makes it yet more popular, which makes…well, you get the idea.

Now the social-media site — dubbed “Fakebook” by many — states it will label and essentially bury “fake news,” using as fact-checkers liberal outlets such as Snopes.com, Politifact and ABC, which themselves have peddled falsehoods (see here, here and here).

And Google? In its June piece “The New Censorship,” U.S. News and World Report lists nine blacklists Google maintains. The site asks, “How did Google become the internet’s censor and master manipulator, blocking access to millions of websites?” Moreover, the search giant announced last year that it was considering ranking sites not just based on popularity (which reflects the market), but on “truthfulness” — as determined, of course, by Google’s Democrat-donating techies.

Blacklisting can be devastating, too, as what befell two normal businesses illustrates. As U.S. News also reported, “Heading into the holiday season in late 2013, an online handbag business suffered a 50 percent drop in business because of blacklisting. In 2009, it took an eco-friendly pest control company 60 days to leap the hurdles required to remove Google’s warnings, long enough to nearly go broke.”

Likewise, stigmatize a media website with blacklisting or, more deviously, by burying its result on the eighth search page (Web users generally examine only the first few pages), and you could dry up its revenue — and readership. Thus, this tactic sends politically incorrect views to Internet Siberia, where few will hear the dissenters except their fellow Google-gulag inmates.

One victim was combative PC Magazine columnist John Dvorak, whose website and podcast site were blacklisted in 2013. This prompted him to ask, “When Did Google Become the Internet Police?” Answer: a long time before. In 2006, the company terminated its news relationship with some conservative news sites critical of Islam.

So is it time to break up Facebook and Google? In principle, I may object to such things. But here’s the issue: if antitrust laws are unjust, eliminate them. But if we’re going to have them, they should be applied where most needed. As for Google, most people admits it’s “a de facto monopoly.” Libertarian tech investor Peter Thiel and ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer both think so, and even “Google chairman Eric Schmidt has admitted “we’re in that area.”

Congress Wants Tighter Regulation of Social Media Giants Ahead of Midterm Elections

Facebook, Twitter in hot seat at congressional hearing

By Adam Kredo, WFB, September 5, 2018:

Congress is eying a series of new regulations to tighten federal oversight of social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter amid fears that foreign governments and rogue regimes will attempt to sway the 2018 midterm elections.

Top leaders from Facebook and Twitter participated in a congressional hearing with the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday morning, where they faced an onslaught of questions about the ways in which these tech giants handle the personal information of millions of Americans.

The leaders defended their practices of censorship and sharing personal data with third parties as lawmakers called for greater federal regulations to ensure the United States does not repeat the mistakes of the 2016 presidential election, where Russia played a key role in infiltrating these social media sites.

Wednesday’s hearing, the fourth of its kind, comes just weeks after Facebook and Twitter discovered and removed hundreds of fake accounts run by Iran. Lawmakers on the committee described the current situation as a major national security threat that must be dealt with in the short-term.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey both appeared before the intelligence committee, while Google declined to allow its chief official, Larry Page, to attend the hearing, a move met with consternation by lawmakers.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) grilled Twitter and Facebook about the ways in which they share personal information with advertisers and others.

“The prospect of that data being shared with shady businesses, hackers, and foreign governments is a massive privacy and national security concern,” Wyden said. “The Russians keep looking for more sophisticated ways of attacking our democracy. Personal data reveals not just your personal and political leanings, but also what you buy and even who you date.”

“My view is personal data is now the weapon of choice for political influence campaigns and we must not make it easier for our adversaries to seize these weapons and use them against us,” Wyden said while discussing ways Congress can assist in this issue.

Sandberg and Dorsey both agreed with Wyden that the issue should be viewed as a top national security priority.

Sandberg was not particularly forthcoming about findings in a series of audits outlining how Facebook shares Americans’ personal information. Those findings have remained secret, though Wyden is pushing for their public release.

In one instance, Facebook was found to be sharing personal information with smartphone manufacturers and Chinese companies such as ZTE.

“The American people deserve to see this information,” Wyden said. “Will you commit to making public the portion of your audits that relate to Facebook’s partnerships with smart phone manufacturers?”

Sandberg bristled at the question, but said the company would attempt to do so at some point in the future.

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