The Justice Department is the latest branch of the government to take sudden concern with social media companies’ content moderation policies, according to a statement issued Wednesday afternoon. The DoJ has a “growing concern” that social media companies are “hurting competition” and intentionally stifling free speech, according to the statement.
The Department of Justice’s interest comes on the same day that Twitter and Facebook executives are testifying to Congress over the same question of “censoring” free speech on their platforms. In the last month, right-wing media (and President Trump) have repeatedly alleged that social media companies are using their power to stifle right-wing figures, leading to calls for social media companies to be regulated or broken up.
“The Attorney General 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,” Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley told TechCrunch.
While no specific action is proposed in the statement, the Department of Justice does oversee antitrust enforcement for the federal government. In theory, it would be possible (although challenging) for the department to push for the breakup of a tech company if it deems it’s abusing its monopoly power.
In an interview with Bloomberg last week, President Trump said “I won’t comment on the breaking up, of whether it’s that or Amazon or Facebook. As you know, many people think it is a very antitrust situation, the three of them. But I just, I won’t comment on that.”