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US regulators push back against White House plan to police social media censorship

New powers? No thanks

The Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission have pushed back against US President Trump's proposal to put them in charge of policing social media firms he claims are biased against right-wingers.

The draft executive order, titled "Protecting Americans from Online Censorship", aims to restrict the ability of platforms to remove content and give the FCC a far larger role in policing content. The FTC would then be empowered to sue companies over their regulation and editorial policies.

President Donald Trump, press conference at the Lotte Palace Hotel, September 2018

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But at a meeting with the Commerce Department last month, the two agencies warned that the proposal would face constitutional challenges, according to CNN.

Officials also noted that their agencies answer to Congress, not the White House.

Despite no evidence of inherent bias, Trump claimed in July to have collected 16,000 anecdotal examples of content being removed, although even he accepted that not all of that content was acceptable. The White House set up a collection page to report removals, but that seems to have disappeared from its website.

Although FCC chairman Ajit Pai has accused Twitter of bias, he has also repeatedly pushed for a light touch: "No regulatory system should indulge arbitrage; regulators should be skeptical of pleas to regulate rivals, dispense favors, or otherwise afford special treatment."

Officials from neither agency have spoken publicly, but FTC chairman Joseph Simons was blunt when asked by Senator Ted Cruz if his organisation has a part to play. "Unless it's something that relates to a competition issue or it's unfair or deceptive then I don't think we have a role," he said.

Some conservatives have rejected a bigger role for government in this area. But they probably didn't approve of proposals to buy Greenland either. ®

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