Conservative claims of political bias by social media platforms and increased bipartisan concerns about the oversize clout of big tech firms are fueling a new initiative by the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ).
Later this month, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is set to meet with state attorneys general to “discuss a growing concern that these companies may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms,” according to a DOJ statement today. Hours before the statement was released, President Donald Trump told the Daily Caller that “super liberal” tech firms have essentially intervened in the midterm elections, and he accused Facebook and Google of intervening in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Hillary Clinton.
That stance was mocked by Silicon Valley’s congressman, Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA), who told Fast Company that the tech sector should be subject to antitrust scrutiny, but “it shouldn’t be politically motivated.” He added, “I don’t believe these platforms have been biased against conservatives,” he said. “The biggest beneficiary of social media has been Donald Trump. For him to argue that he’s a victim is a little disingenuous.”
Khanna and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont have been vocal in their own criticisms of the industry. Today, they introduced legislation in both chambers to enact a tax on huge companies like Amazon and Walmart, equal to 100% of the amount of federal benefits received by their low-wage workers.
Khanna challenged Amazon’s billionaire CEO, Jeff Bezos, who has been accused of underpaying his warehouse workers, to emulate Henry Ford, who famously increased salaries of his workers several times in the 1910s. “Right now, for too many workers, you’re reading in the papers that the company is succeeding beyond its wildest dreams, and you go home and you can’t pay your bills. That’s not how the free market should work.”
He added: “If Jeff Bezos would meet with me, I would say, ‘You have a chance to make history, to be the Henry Ford of your generation. I respect your innovation and entrepreneurship. And I’m a customer of yours. I get Amazon boxes all the time at home. But let’s make sure that every American is benefiting from this new economy . . . if you announced that you would pay everyone at least a $15 minimum wage and reliable hours, you could set the standard.”
Amazon has declined to comment on the legislation, which has been dubbed the BEZOS bill (Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies), but has posted on its blog that Sanders’s claims about working conditions in its factories are “inaccurate and misleading.”