The Attorney General of Indiana has begun investigating Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Twitter for censoring conservative content on their platforms through deleting posts or obscuring posted material. Such manipulation prevents customers from making informed choices, the attorney said. In addition, the role played by Vanita Gupta in encouraging the companies to censor conservative viewpoints is also under investigation. Gupta is Biden’s nominee for the post of associate U.S. Attorney General.
“In a free society, few assets are more important to consumers than access to information and the opportunity to express political viewpoints in meaningful forums… It is potentially harmful and unfair for these companies to manipulate content in ways they do not publicly discuss or that consumers do not fully understand,” Attorney General Rokita said in a statement.
Rokita quotes an article in Time magazine which states that Gupta met with executives at Twitter and Facebook, asking them to use “more rigorous rules and enforcement.” She apparently insisted that it was important for social media platforms to ensure that they are “tagging things and taking them down.”
Last month, 11 Republican Senators expressed dissatisfaction at Gupta’s misleading statements and refusal to respond to their written questions during her confirmation hearing, and demanded that a second committee hearing be held. Specifically, they were concerned with her position on four issues – eliminating qualified immunity, defunding the police, decriminalizing all drugs, and the death penalty.
Moreover, Gupta’s stock holdings in a business that sold acetic anhydride to Mexican cartels also raised suspicion. Acetic anhydride is used to make methamphetamine and heroin. Even though she’s a proponent of raising the minimum wage to $15, Gupta owns shares in a company that only pays $1.50 per hour to its Mexican workers.
Rokita has been a vocal critic of the power wielded by social media companies. In February, he had posted a Valentine’s Day card that featured the image of former President Trump and carried the message “You stole my heart like a 2020 election.” Twitter blocked the post from receiving replies or getting retweeted, and tagged it as false information that might trigger violence.
Rokita’s investigation comes on the back of the state of Texas passing a bill that prevents social media companies from discriminating against users on the basis of political ideology. The bill also mandates that companies explain moderation policies, publish regular reports that detail the content they have blocked, and create an appeals process through which users can get their blocked content unblocked. Republican Senator Bryan Hughes, who sponsored the bill, is hopeful that it will be soon passed through the state House and will be signed into law by the Governor.
Not American enough?
In a recent virtual discussion hosted by ex-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel highlighted what he feels is a major problem with American big tech companies – not considering themselves American.
In that case, there is nothing to prevent them from compromising the interests of America with actions like suppressing freedom of expression or indirectly supporting Chinese atrocities by remaining silent on such issues. He cites a case at Facebook where Chinese employees suppressed the rest of the workers at the company who were supporting Hong Kong protests by terming the support ‘Western arrogance.’
“If you look at the big five tech companies — Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft — virtually very, very little presence in China. So they aren’t naturally a pro-China constituency… But then, there’s something about the woke politics inside these companies, the way they think of themselves as not really American companies. And it’s somehow very, very difficult to, for them to have a sharp anti-China edge of any sort whatsoever,” Thiel said in the discussion.