In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, two US senators have raised major concerns over the censorship practices of big tech companies in America. US Senators Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) are urging the FTC to implement its section 6(b) authority and investigate how leading websites pick and choose which content will become public, and what will ultimately be blocked from audiences.
“Big tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter exercise enormous influence on speech. The vast majority of internet traffic flows through just a handful of these companies. They control the ads we see, the news we read, and the information we digest,” said the letter. “And they actively censor some content and amplify other content based on algorithms and intentional decisions that are completely nontransparent. Never before in this country have so few people controlled so much speech.”
The senators are concerned big tech companies have too much control over what Americans are being exposed to, whether it be political, social, or more. Both Hawley and Cruz have emphasized that so few companies hold the majority of influence, and with upcoming elections, including the 2020 presidential election, voters could be persuaded in a particular direction.
The letter continued: “The possibilities for abuse in this area are alarming and endless. Apart from more salient examples of censorship like account suspensions, nobody knows who or what these companies censor or amplify. Most content curation occurs in ways impossible for outsiders to detect. Some content is downgraded: the content appears in fewer recommendations, lower on search pages, and less often in news feeds. Other content is amplified through the same means.”
“By controlling the content we see, these companies are powerful enough to—at the very least—sway elections. And we’re told we have to be satisfied simply with trusting them not to abuse this immense power,” concluded the senators.