Google and Facebook have only themselves to blame for the meeting Tuesday at the Justice Department called by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to discuss accusations that they have intentionally stifled “the free exchange of ideas,” according to an investigative reporter and movie-maker who has probed the tech giants.
Reuters reported the Justice Department said the “listening session” that includes attorneys general from 24 states was to discuss consumer protection and charges by some conservatives that the tech companies are biased against them.
“Google and Facebook have brought this meeting between the Department of Justice and several attorneys general on themselves,” said Peter Schweizer, the producer of a new film about Google’s and Facebook’s unprecedented power titled “The Creepy Line.”
“With documented bias that has harmed consumers, Google’s abuse of the public trust has impacted users of all political stripes, and the recent leaked emails show them considering putting their finger on the scale on important national debates,” he said.
Schweizer said the “documented problems” warrant “closer scrutiny from government and non-government organizations.”
Robert Epstein, a senior research psychologist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology who earned a doctorate from Harvard University, has published 15 books and more than 300 articles on Internet influence and other topics.
Peer-reviewed research that Epstein has been conducting since 2013, he said, has repeatedly demonstrated the “unprecedented power” that Google, in particular, has “to shift opinions and votes on a massive scale.”
His research suggests, for example, that the big tech companies can shift upwards of 12 million votes in the upcoming election without people knowing they are being manipulated.
A recently leaked video showed Google leadership and employees expressing their desire to use their platform to “spread our company’s values.”
Meanwhile, several prominent conservative leaders on Tuesday authored an open letter to Jeff Sessions, calling on him to investigate “every aspect” of how Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets “interact with the public.”
The leaders called for freedom, fairness and an end to censorship on the platforms.
The Media Research Center and CEO Brent Bozell are leading a coalition of more than 40 conservative organizations, the letter says, who seek to bring more awareness “to the political agenda which exists on social media that’s targeting conservatives.”
“These organizations understand that this bias represents an existential threat against them and the entire conservative movement,” the leaders say.
Calling themselves Conservatives Against Online Censorship, the coalition notes in its letter “a disturbing Google email chain” sent out on Nov, 9, 2016.
In it, the head of Google’s Multicultural Marketing department, Eliana Murillo, described how she and her coworkers worked to boost Latino voting turnout to aid Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
The post-election video recently exposed shows top executives and staff complaining about the election results and declaring their commitment to resist Trump.
The letter also notes allegations of bias against conservatives at Facebook have been disclosed by the company’s employees.
Brian Amerige, a senior engineer, wrote that the company has a problem with “political diversity.”
“We claim to welcome all perspectives, but are quick to attack – often in mobs – anyone who presents a view that appears to be in opposition to left-leaning ideology,” he wrote.
Twitter’s Twitter Ads, which pop up automatically in users’ feeds, recently allowed an ad promoting Islamic female genital mutilation. But Twitter has rejected ads by the pro-life group Live Action as “inflammatory or provocative.”
The coalition also notes that Project Veritas recently caught Twitter staffers admitting on hidden camera that they had been censoring conservatives through a technique known as shadow banning.
Among many other examples: A 2016 Gizmodo story featured detailed claims by former employees that Facebook’s news curators had been instructed to hide conservative content from the “trending” section, which supposedly only features news users find compelling.
Blacklisted topics included Mitt Romney, the Conservative Political Action Conference and Rand Paul. In contrast, the term “Black Lives Matter” had also been placed in the trending section even though it was not actually trending.
Breitbart News reported Monday that Google users are concerned about a recent update with privacy implications that secretly logs Chrome browser users into their online Google accounts, syncing data without asking.