FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says there should be more transparency in how sites like Facebook and Google restrict conservative content.
His comments come days before the FCC vote on whether to repeal “net neutrality” – a set of rules that currently forces Internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all web traffic equally.
Without net neutrality, your ISP could slow down a competitor’s content or block political ideas it didn’t like. This is already happening with content providers like Google, Facebook, and Twitter – all of which have been accused of restricting pro-Trump and conservative content.
“A lot of famous people have very strong opinions about net neutrality,” said Fox News host Tucker Carlson. “They warn if it’s repealed a handful of tech companies will have total control of the Internet. Wait, doesn’t that already describe the status quo?”
When asked what would prevent ISPs from censoring Fox News if net neutrality were to be dismantled, Pai told Carlson that such actions would require transparency and that the Federal Trade Commission would oversee content restriction. Pai’s criticism of content providers included examples such as YouTube’s crackdown on rightwing Internet personalities and Twitter’s move to block a pro-life campaign video by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).
“A lot of these decisions impinge on the free expression online that we’ve all come to cherish. But there is no real transparency into how these decisions are being made,” says Pai, adding that while Facebook, Google, and Twitter have “blocked content willy-nilly,” ISPs have not.
An estimated 66% of American adults get their news through social media sites. As The Hill’s Anders Aslund points out, these sites are generally treated as “nothing but private conversation.”
Aslund blames the lack of regulation for allowing Russia’s fake ads to appear on Facebook during last year’s election. “The social networks need to be regulated as other media are regulated,” writes Aslund. “Ordinary media would not allow such things to happen because they are regulated in numerous ways.”
Facebook and Twitter’s pathetic attempts to eliminate fake news prove they are not capable of pursuing self-regulation. Aslund believes future regulation should prohibit bots and anonymous accounts and prevent foreign citizens from placing ads on social media “in the same way as they are not allowed to contribute campaign financing in the United States.”
Social media platforms are no longer mere “technology companies,” writes Aslund. “Their time of political innocence is over” and “they must take responsibility for their content,” just like a newspaper or broadcaster.