Sessions agrees to include Democrats in meeting on Social Media

Attorney General Jeff Sessions gathers his thoughts as he takes the podium for his press conference on efforts to combat violent crime at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Georgia on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, in Macon, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

September 13, 2018

By John Harney and Chris Strohm

WASHINGTON — U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ meeting with state attorneys general to discuss complaints against social media companies has been expanded to include Democrats, the Justice Department said on Thursday.

Sessions had planned to meet only with Republican officials for a Sept. 25 gathering in Washington to consider a possible investigation of the giant technology companies over privacy concerns and over accusations by prominent Republicans, including President Donald Trump, that they have suppressed conservative voices.

In a tweet last month, Trump wrote, “Social Media is totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices. Speaking loudly and clearly for the Trump Administration, we won’t let that happen.”

“Following last week’s statement, the Justice Department received an increased level of interest from state attorneys general in attending the Sept. 25 meeting on tech companies, competition, and free exchange of ideas,” a Justice Department official, who asked not to be identified under department protocol, said in a statement.

“Today, the Justice Department formally sent invitations to a bipartisan group of 24 state attorneys general that expressed an interest in attending the meeting hosted by Attorney General Jeff Sessions,” the official said. “The meeting will take place here at the Department of Justice, and we look forward to having a robust dialogue with all attendees on the topic of social media platforms.”

The Sept. 25 briefing — which is also to include a representative of the Justice Department’s antitrust division — is intended to help Sessions decide if there’s a federal case to be made against companies such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. for violating consumer-protection or antitrust laws, people familiar with the matter have said. They asked not to be identified discussing the issue because of its sensitivity.

The briefing was to include the attorneys general of Alabama, Nebraska, Tennessee, Louisiana and Texas — all Republicans. It wasn’t immediately clear how far their inquiries have gotten or how coordinated they are. States have the authority to investigate anti-competitive conduct and deceptive practices by companies.

California’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, a Democrat, said Thursday that he would attend.

“States like California, the nation’s tech leader and home to a $385 billion tech industry, have a wealth of insight and expertise to share in any inquiry about the role of technology companies and we look forward to a thoughtful conversation in Washington, D.C.,” Becerra, who has battled many Trump administration policies in court, said in a statement.

A Justice Department investigation of the social media giants for potentially improper business practices would be likely to trigger a political firestorm.

While Trump and some other Republican politicians have complained that Facebook, Google and Twitter have censored or suppressed conservative voices, Democrats have called that a diversion from concern over Russia’s use of social media platforms to influence the 2016 presidential election and over the proliferation of offensive content.

Some attorneys general have been pursuing the companies on their own.

Washington State’s attorney general, Bob Ferguson, has sued Google and Facebook, charging them with not complying with state transparency laws for political advertising.

Last year, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who’s now running for U.S. Senate on the Republican ticket, opened an antitrust investigation into whether Google manipulated search results to benefit its own products and whether it scrapes information without permission from competitors.

———

Naomi Nix contributed to this report.

———

©2018 Bloomberg News

Visit Bloomberg News at www.bloomberg.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

In The News

Behind Closed Doors: How Biden’s Team Weighed the VP Candidates
2020 Elections
Behind Closed Doors: How Biden’s Team Weighed the VP Candidates

WILMINGTON, Del. — The vetting Kamala Harris endured to earn her spot on Joe Biden’s presidential ticket was like none other in recent history. It was at once a public audition and highly secretive. It took sharp turns as the nation struggled with a pandemic and... Read More

How Will Kamala Harris Impact the Rest of the Democratic Ticket?
2020 Elections
How Will Kamala Harris Impact the Rest of the Democratic Ticket?

WASHINGTON — The fundraising email from California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris hit inboxes Tuesday evening with the subject line “Proud to announce.” But it wasn’t about Harris making history as her party’s vice presidential nominee.  “I’m excited to let you know … that I’m proudly endorsing... Read More

Trump Says ‘Suburban Housewife’ Will Vote for Him. What Do Polls, 2018 Election Show?
Donald Trump
Trump Says ‘Suburban Housewife’ Will Vote for Him. What Do Polls, 2018 Election Show?

President Donald Trump on Wednesday tweeted that the “suburban housewife” will vote for him in the upcoming election — but polls and past election results tell a different story. “The ‘suburban housewife’ will be voting for me,” the president tweeted. “They want safety & are thrilled... Read More

Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi Could Be First and Second in Line for President. How Did Bay Area Politics Manage That?
In The News
Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi Could Be First and Second in Line for President. How Did Bay Area Politics Manage That?

SAN JOSE, Calif. — One is a seasoned politician, long considered one of the most powerful people in Washington. The other is a rising star, a trailblazer accustomed to breaking barriers. Both have deep Bay Area ties. And to many in the rest of the country... Read More

Trump Adds Grandiose Promises to Campaign Pitch
Campaigns
Trump Adds Grandiose Promises to Campaign Pitch

WASHINGTON — The payroll tax, a bedrock of the American retirement system since 1941, will end as soon as President Donald Trump is reelected, he promised last weekend. A new Iran nuclear deal will come to pass a month after that, he said Monday, around the... Read More

QAnon Supporter Wins GOP’s US House Runoff in Georgia
2020 Elections
QAnon Supporter Wins GOP’s US House Runoff in Georgia

ROME, Ga. — Marjorie Taylor Greene was victorious in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District Republican runoff, and she is likely to become the first QAnon supporter to earn a seat in Congress. Addressing supporters shortly after 9 p.m. Eastern, she credited her willingness to buck party leadership... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top