The President recently came out and accused Jeff Sessions of aiding the Democrats and reportedly calls the Attorney General a “dumb Southerner” behind his back. Despite all that, the very stable genius president has kept this traitorous moron in one of the most powerful positions in government. Sessions needs some red meat to keep Trump happy, and it appears he may be going for conservatives’ latest easy target: Social media companies.
Earlier today, we saw Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg testify before Congress on a range of issues related to their respective social media networks. Potential abuse of their platforms and the suppression of conservative speech were common topics, but the day had a more muted tone than previous hearings. There was a feeling that these questions have been answered and anyone asking them again did so with little enthusiasm.
Still, conservative politicians recognize that much of their power is about fighting phantoms and convincing the public that something evil is happening outside their control. We’ve seen President Trump jump on the bandwagon, recently complaining about how people see negative things when they Google his name and even beginning a narrative that social media companies are rigging our elections against him. With a deadline of the midterm elections to save his job, Sessions is scrambling to find something that will appease his master and stoking the social media fires seems like one new strategy.
According to TechCrunch, the Attorney General himself is leading some vague inquiry into the practices of social media companies. A spokesperson for the Justice Department, Devin O’Malley, told TechCrunch:
The Attorney General has convened a meeting with a number of state attorneys general this month to discuss a growing concern that these companies may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms.
I can tell you from experience that the DOJ isn’t big on offering this kind of information or even commenting on ongoing investigations at all. We reached out to confirm this quote and asked several followup questions. The DOJ did confirm the quote, but ignored the followups. The biggest question now is whether Sessions sees this as a potential antitrust issue. It’s really difficult to see how “intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms,” would be a matter for the DOJ. The Justice Department could certainly look into any violations of the first amendment but that doesn’t really apply to private companies. And what exactly do state attorneys general have to do with this?
There are plenty of critics who believe companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter are too big and actively engage in anti-competitive practices. And there’s an effort to get the FTC to re-open its antitrust probe on Google that very well could result in action. For now, I guess you can just add Sessions’ name to the list of people who are “looking into” this problem.