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EXCLUSIVE: Questioning Tech Execs On Conservative Bias Is Crucial During Antitrust Hearings, Rep. Buck Says

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  • Questioning big tech’s alleged conservative bias during a congressional hearing on antitrust issues is critical to understanding the implications of Silicon Valley’s perceived anti-competitive behavior, Rep, Ken Buck told the Daily Caller News Foundation ahead of Wednesday’s antitrust hearing. 
  • Buck’s comments come after Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida asked Attorney General William Barr to open an investigation into whether Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg lied to congress when he said in 2018 that the company doesn’t take into account a user’s political ideology while moderating content.
  • Lawmakers should devote their time at the hearing to discussing how tech companies throttle competitors in ways that violate federal antitrust laws, according to one Georgetown University digital expert. Discussing conservative bias will only create a distraction, he argued. 

Rep. Ken Buck believes questioning big tech executives about their industry’s alleged conservative bias during a hearing devoted to discussing Silicon Valley’s supposed anti-competitive behavior is appropriate because both issues are inextricably linked.

Google’s perceived bias against conservatives should be closely examined during Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing, the Colorado Republican told The Daily Caller News Foundation. If tech companies monopolize the industry and reduce the number of platforms, then they can also limit options for conservatives who worry tech companies are biased, he argued.

“If these platforms weren’t so large and dominant the bias issues would not be important,” he said before providing an example. “I can get my news from MSNBC and I can get my news from Fox, both biased. I know that there is a slant in every one of them, and being somewhat sophisticated in the area I know what the slant is before I go in and take news from the organization.”

“When you control the platform to such an extent and you have bias in the case of Facebook, for example, then you do have issues about freedom, so I think the bias and privacy issues are both related to the anti-competitive behavior,” he said, adding that, “it’s relevant because of the fact these platforms are so dominant.”

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida asked Attorney General William Barr in a letter Monday to investigate whether Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg lied during his 2018 testimony when he said the social media empire doesn’t moderate the platform with users’ political ideology in mind.

Gaetz’s letter cites a Project Veritas video released in June that suggests Facebook content moderators are filtering content supporting President Donald Trump. “Their report revealed that the overwhelming majority of content filtered by Facebook’s AI program was content in support of President Donald Trump,” Gaetz wrote.

Screenshot of Google CEO Sundar Pichai talking in front of Congress (Screenshot/YouTube/CSPAN)

Facebook declined a DCNF request for comment regarding Gaetz’s letter, but the company has consistently denied claims that its moderation decisions are biased.

There are few options for conservatives who believe Facebook and other platforms are discriminating against them, Buck argues.(RELATED: READ: Transcript Of Zuckerberg’s Prepared Opening Remarks Ahead Of House’s Antitrust Hearing)

“What social interaction app rivals Facebook? Instagram? They own that. WhatsApp? They own that, too. So where in the marketplace do you go and say I don’t want to deal with Facebook? You can either go on Facebook or not go on Facebook,” Buck said. “So the idea that Facebook should be broken up, the bias issue is definitely relevant to the size of the platform.” 

Discussion about conservative bias could lead the hearing into disarray, according to Gigi Sohn, a distinguished fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy.

“The success of this hearing depends on having a laser-like focus on the power of these companies, how they act anticompetitively, what their impact is on democracy,” Sohn told The Washington Post Tuesday. “If the hearing goes off in too many different directions … then it just becomes very confusing.”

Democrats and Republican lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee will question the 36-year-old Facebook executive Mark Zuckerberg alongside CEOs Tim Cook of Apple, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and Sundar Pichai of Google on whether their companies violate federal antitrust laws.

They’re expected to answer questions related to their business models and whether they stifled competition in ways that violate federal antitrust laws.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal believes there’s ample evidence showing Bezos and the other executives are guilty of deploying anti-competitive techniques.

Evidence shows tech executives used a “copy-acquire-kill” strategy, Jayapal told the Washington Post on Monday. The committee has seen “very specific language from top-level executives about that,” the Washington Democrat added without providing more details.

Google consistently accounts for roughly 90% of online information searches, Vox reported in May, citing Google Trends. A DCNF report in 2018 showed the company’s employees have expressed willingness to artificially manipulate search results on the platform. The Wall Street Journal reported in April that Amazon used data from independent sellers to develop competing products.

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