In short: President Trump and his closest associates are presently in the process of considering an antitrust order instructing competent government agencies to look into any possible violations of antitrust law on the part of U.S. tech giants such as Google and Facebook. A draft of the order was leaked to the press earlier this week, mandating the federal government provides the White House with suggestions on how online competition could be maintained in the long term. The order is also instructing government agencies to look into “online platform bias,” one of the President’s common talking points in recent months. A White House spokesperson said the draft hasn’t been formally introduced to the administration’s policy-making process, meaning there’s a possibility the order was leaked intentionally as a way of gauging the public reaction to the thereof.
Background: President Trump publicly threatened Twitter and Google with federal investigations over the course of this summer, alleging America’s largest Internet juggernaut are intentionally censoring conservative voices on their platforms. All parties named by the head of the state strongly dismissed such allegations, asserting their online services weren’t designed to censor content based on political affiliations. The question of censorship may be raised next week as part of a user data privacy hearing organized by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
Impact: Even if Washington unquestionably prove the Silicon Valley is silencing right-leaning political views — which it completely denies doing — it’s unlikely the federal government could prevent that behavior, with today’s most popular social media and other Internet services being run by private companies that aren’t bound by the First Amendment. The situation is significantly different on the antitrust front where legitimate concerns were raised against both Google and Facebook in recent years but with the current draft not even being on course to become an executive order (yet), the Silicon Valley likely won’t have to deal with any competition probes until 2019 at the earliest.