US Justice Dept to probe tech firms hurting competition, 'stifling' free speech

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey being interviewed on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg arrive to testify before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on foreign influence operations on social media platforms on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, Wednesday. "We'll let you know", Kudlow said.

The social media executives underwent questioning before the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday.

Interfering in how companies like Google and Facebook present information would be a notable departure for the federal government, which has mostly taken a hands-off approach to the internet.

A Justice Department statement said Attorney General Jeff Sessions "has convened a meeting with a number of state attorneys general this month to discuss a growing concern that these companies may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms".

Last week, US President Donald Trump accused Google of "rigged" search results, tweeting: "Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out".

Google was also invited to attend the Senate hearing but declined to send its chief executive Sundar Pichai or parent firm Alphabet chief Larry Page.

Missing from the conversation will be Google, which refused to make its top executive available for the Senate intelligence hearing.

Recognising that technology often evolves too quickly for regulators to keep pace, Chairman Richad Burr said that recent arguments over whether social media companies should be considered "content publishers" were counterproductive. "Or consider the price of a Fortune 500 company's stock if a dishonest short-seller was able to spread false information about that company's CEO - or the effects of its products - rapidly online?" But their nonchalance risks alienating users-and government intervention. Many members of Congress fault social media platforms for failing to combat foreign efforts to influence USA politics. The committee rejected that offer, and is expected to have an empty chair at the hearing for Page.

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He added, "I know our members have a series of hard questions about structural vulnerabilities on a number of Google's platforms we need answers for".

"Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don't bias our results toward any political ideology", Google has previously said. "It violated the values of our company and of the country we love".

"This (statement) makes me think antitrust is not the real goal, that the real goal is censorship", Goldman said. "For them Twitter has always been a source of joy, learning and connection to something bigger".

"It is definitely a violation and we were slow to act", Dorsey said. "The faster we can collaborate, the faster we share those tips with each other, the stronger our collective defense will be".

Jones, whose Infowars site has been praised by Trump, denounced what he called "a plan to deplatform conservatives, just like communist China", adding, "this is risky, authoritarianism".

Dorsey told Rep. McMorris Rodgers, "our current model works in terms of removing content based on reports that we receive and we don't believe that that is fair ultimately, we don't believe that we should put the burden of reporting abuse or harassment on the victim".

"Given its size and influence, I would have thought the leadership at Google would want to demonstrate how seriously it takes these challenges and to lead this important public discussion", said Sen.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday said he would apologize to the McCain family for taking too long to remove a doctored image that appeared to threaten Meghan McCain.

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