Published: Thu, September 06, 2018
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

Lengel: Trump's Disgraceful Shaming of His Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Lengel: Trump's Disgraceful Shaming of His Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Executives from Facebook and Twitter, including Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, appeared on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to testify at a Senate hearing examining how foreign powers like Russian Federation have used social media to spread propaganda and wage shadowy influence campaigns.

In an interview with the "Daily Caller," Trump accused social media companies of tilting elections in favor of the Democrats.

The tweet on Sessions was an unusually harsh salvo, even for a president who sometimes expresses his thoughts on Twitter to the chagrin of his staff.

Legal experts said the agency's announcement "clearly suggests" a willingness to intervene on behalf of conservative critics who say they are victims of discrimination by the companies.

The White House summoned the press pool about 10:30 a.m. for a road trip, and the president emerged from the White House 10 minutes later rocking a red polo shirt, dark trousers and a white MAGA hat.

Mr Trump has previously pressed Mr Sessions to investigate his perceived enemies and has accused Mr Sessions of failing to take control of the Justice Department.

Facebook and Twitter declined to comment on the DoJ's statement.

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According to Fear: Trump in the White House, a new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward, aside from his public chastising of Sessions, in private, Trump has called him "mentally retarded" and a "dumb Southerner".

"It's totally perplexing", said Alex Abdo, a senior staff attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute, reacting to the announcement.

The DOJ did not provide details or specific examples of how the social media companies might be "hurting competition", nor did it elaborate on the allegations of censorship.

The Senate committee struck a calm bipartisan tone, as it spoke with the Silicon Valley executives about their efforts to thwart misinformation campaigns ahead of November's midterm elections (and castigated Google for declining to participate). The issue resurfaced anew, as Apple, Google's YouTube, Facebook, Spotify and other platforms banned the right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

I still can't get over this tweet. However, that turned out to be inaccurate. Mueller is now leading the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Still, investigators are never supposed to take into account the political affiliations of the people they investigate. These views are more strongly held by Republicans, with 64% saying tech companies favour liberal views and 85% saying social media sites censor political viewpoints. Late last month, Trump railed against the internet giant, claiming its liberal bias was evident in the results of a "Trump News" search. Twitter denies that's happening.

Both have insisted they are innocent.

One of the problems is the historical lack of transparency over these private companies' sorting algorithms and content moderation decisions.

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