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Sessions urged not to go after social media companies by technology activists

File photo – United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks on immigration at Parkview Field in Fort Wayne, Ind., Thursday, June 14, 2018. (Mike Moore/Journal-Gazette via AP)

(The_Journal_Gazette)

A group of technology activists and think tanks urges the Attorney-General Jeff Sessions not to go after social media companies.

Companies such as Facebook and Twitter well in the spotlight at the moment in the midst of accusations of anti-conservative prejudices.

The Ministry of Justice recently confirmed that Sessions has organised a meeting with a number of state attorneys general to discuss “a growing concern that these companies may hurt competition, and is deliberately stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms.”

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The meeting will take place this month, according to the officials. The announcement came in the wake of a recent Senate Intelligence Committee hearing attended by executives at Facebook and Twitter.

In a letter sent on Friday, tech policy think tank TechFreedom, which describes itself as “liberty-oriented,” Lincoln Network and Copia Institute called Sessions to think about his search for these companies. Other signatories tech entrepreneurship group Engine Advocacy, Iain Murray, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, American Legislative Exchange Council CEO Lisa Nelson and professor Eric Goldman.

“It is unclear what lawful actions may be the result of the scheduled meeting. Indeed, we fear that the impact of your research will be to achieve through intimidation what the First Amendment bars: interference with editorial judgment,” the letter states.

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With respect to alleged anti-competitive behavior, the activists write that “the extent of a media company’s market power has no effect on the protection by the First Amendment.”

The signatories also urge Sessions to call the Federal Trade Commission in the case of an investigation. “We do not believe that the Ministry of Justice, as an arm of an Administration that has so consistently attacked social media companies (as well as the traditional media companies), has the freedom to act in the neutral, a-political mode required by the First Amendment,” they write. “The FTC has already dealt with multiple investigations into social media companies, and so all the relevant expertise in this area.”

In a statement by e-mail to Fox News, TechFreedom CEO Bear Szóka described the First Amendment as “a shield against the measures of the government, not a sword by which government can ensure the ‘fairness’ of the media platforms.”

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“It is ironic that these conservatives are now calls for the intervention of the government wrapping themselves in the mantle of free speech,” he added. “The protection of editorial discretion is the cornerstone of free speech and the freedom of the press. Allowing the government to guess what the content moderation decisions made by the technical platforms just discourage them trying to protect their users from unwanted content and maintain social discourse.”

Fox News has achieved with the Ministry of Justice with a request to comment on this article.

Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this article.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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