White House launches survey looking for tech industry bias
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — On the heels of President Donald Trump’s repeated assertions claiming anti-conservative bias by tech companies, the White House has launched an online form asking people to share their experiences if they think political partisanship has led them to be silenced by social media sites.
The White House’s official Twitter account tweeted a link to the form Wednesday, saying that “The Trump Administration is fighting for free speech online.” The tweet continues that “no matter your views, if you suspect political bias has caused you to be censored or silenced online, we want to hear about it!”
On the first page, the bare-bones online form reads like a tweet from the president, saying that “SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS should advance FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Yet too many Americans have seen their accounts suspended, banned, or fraudulently reported for unclear ‘violations’ of user policies.”
Earlier this month, Trump sent out a series of tweets criticizing social media companies after Facebook banned several extremist figures, most of them prominent far right personalities such as conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Trump tweeted on May 3, for instance, that he is “continuing to monitor the censorship of AMERICAN CITIZENS on social media platforms. This is the United States of America — and we have what’s known as FREEDOM OF SPEECH!”
The questionnaire continues by asking people names, contact information, whether they are U.S. citizens or permanent residents and what happened to their social media accounts in question. It also asks if the respondent wants to sign up for the president’s email newsletters, “so we can update you without relying on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.”
The query does not say how the information will be used. To ensure that the respondent is “not a robot,” as online forms routinely do, it asks what year the Declaration of Independence was signed. As some techies quickly noted on Twitter, this sort of verification is very easy for bots to game, unlike, say, trying to pick out blurry images of traffic lights from a photo.
The form does not ask respondents their political affiliation. But it comes amid growing conservative criticism of tech platforms for their perceived political bias. While some tech company executives may lean liberal, they have long asserted that their products are without political bias. Twitter said Wednesday that it enforces its rules regardless of users’ background or political affiliation. Facebook and Google did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
The tool was launched the same day the White House declined to sign a global pledge to step up efforts to keep internet platforms from being used to spread hate, organize extremist groups and broadcast attacks, citing respect for freedom of expression.