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Jim Hanson: Social media discrimination against conservatives is intolerable – This should happen after summit

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By Jim Hanson | Fox News

Responding to rampant viewpoint discrimination against conservative voices on social media sites, President Trump is bringing prominent conservatives to the White House Thursday to discuss what can be done to stop suppression of their views on Facebook, Twitter, Google and other platforms.

The tech giants, who weren’t invited to what the president is calling a social media summit, deny they are discriminating against conservatives – but their denials fail to stand up under scrutiny.

I will be among those attending the summit to discuss ways to give conservatives fair access to sites where millions of people get much of their news and information. We aren’t seeking to keep those on the left off social media – but we’re tired of seeing our point of view suppressed.

This is a tough issue. We cherish the freedom of speech and of the press guaranteed in the First Amendment to the Constitution and don’t want to empower government to control the flow of information to the American people.

We believe in the private sector, and – unlike the socialists playing an ever-growing role in the Democratic Party – don’t want to empower Big Government to take over the role of the free enterprise system.

At the same time, we’re tired of enormously powerful companies with leftist agendas manipulating social media to shine a bright spotlight on views to their liking, while shoving posts from conservatives into dark corners of the web where they get little exposure.

At the same time, we’re tired of enormously powerful companies with leftist agendas manipulating social media to shine a bright spotlight on views to their liking, while shoving posts from conservatives into dark corners of the web where they get little exposure.

All views deserve a fair chance to be seen and heard in the Internet’s vast marketplace of ideas – but right now that isn’t happening for conservatives.

It would be irresponsible for us to rule out using the power of government to compel the social media giants to give all points of view fair exposure if the companies stubbornly refuse to do so.

This would be akin to one nation taking the military option off the table as it entered a negotiation with a hostile foreign power. It’s a horrible idea. For any negotiation to have any chance of success, the other side must believe you will use your biggest weapon if it becomes necessary.

Ideally, government investigations and even interventions will serve as the iron fist in the velvet glove to induce the tech giants to act reasonably, now that all other attempts to convince them have failed. But we must decide two things: What do we want these multibillion-dollar companies to do? And, what are the available options to make them do it?

What we want is an examination of how the social media giants decide what people see.

It is easy to deal with the banning of people from social media sites through arbitrary and partisan enforcement of the “rules” that govern behavior on these platforms. It is far harder to deal with how the tech companies create artificial intelligence (AI) to enforce those rules and pick what gets onto your screen.

As The Washington Post reported last year, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress:  “Zuckerberg referred to AI technology more than 30 times during ten hours of questioning from congressional lawmakers Tuesday and Wednesday, saying that it would one day be smart, sophisticated and eagle-eyed enough to fight against a vast variety of platform-spoiling misbehavior, including fake news, hate speech, discriminatory ads and terrorist propaganda.”

Sounds good. But then the same Post article, by Drew Harwell, pointed out: “But Facebook’s AI technology can’t do any of those things well yet, and it’s unclear when, if ever, it will be able to.”

The problem is that AI is only as smart as those who design it. It must be trained to recognize patterns and make decisions – leaving it highly vulnerable to the biases of those who build and instruct it.

Since the overwhelming majority of these designers are liberal and activist, this leads to AI that simply automates the process of enforcing politically correct progressive orthodoxy.

The simplest way to understand this is to do a Google search. I want to know what the facts are about the nuclear threat posed by Iran, so I ask: “Is Iran a nuclear threat?” Here is the result I got – with one of the top news stories coming from is from Al-Jazeera.

If you’re not familiar with Al-Jazeera, it’s a propaganda outlet owned and operated by Qatar, a steadfast ally and enabler of the rabidly anti-American Iranian government. The article is an apologia for Iran’s ongoing quest to become a nuclear power. Out of the more than 40 million results Google found for this question, how on Earth did such a biased and untrustworthy source filter to near the top?

The answer is that the Al-Jazeera article supports and agrees with the worldview of those at Google who write algorithms and decide which media outlets are the best sources. While the article’s headline is a close match in wording to my question, that should not have outweighed the complete unsuitability of Al-Jazeera as an accurate, reliable and trustworthy source of information.

This problem is endemic to the AI used by all the major tech platforms. The viewpoints of those who design the AI has infected the ability of the AI to deliver unbiased information.

We cannot regain a free information space without visibility into this process and quality-control oversight to ensure that the methods for determining what the platforms show us don’t simply elevate liberal content.

How do we make the tech companies do that? We threaten them. We’ve been asking nicely and holding hearings and publicly exposing their bias for long enough.

Our federal government has an interest in ensuring that all Americans have access to the accurate and unbiased information we need to make decisions. There are several agencies that have legitimate responsibilities to give us this access.

The Federal Trade Commission is charged with enforcing antitrust laws, which forbid the unfair domination of vital goods and services by a small group of providers. There is no question of the tech firms’ overwhelming dominance of our information space. Investigating what they do and how they do it is absolutely appropriate.

The Federal Communications Commission is charged with regulating interstate and international communications. It should investigate the shadow banning of Republican candidates and leaders by Twitter, along with the platform’s suppression of conservative voices via the manipulation of algorithms and AI, which I wrote about almost a year ago.

On top of this, Congress should examine whether social media platforms deserve continued protection under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., has introduced legislation to remove that protection, because the tech firms now make editorial decisions about what content to approve and promote, rather than simply serving as an unbiased platform.

Look at it this way: If I make a phone call, the phone company has no control over what I say and simply transmits my voice to whoever I am calling. But giant tech companies do not simply blindly transmit information from one point to another. They make important decisions about what gets transmitted and how much visibility to give the information they bring to their audience.

The Federal Election Commission is charged with monitoring the political campaign process. Since Republican candidates and policies are unfairly marginalized by the tech firms, the FEC should investigate whether this constitutes an in-kind contribution to the opposing candidates and party.

All these actions would be a good start. There are many avenues of investigation that can be pursued and should be if the tech firms refuse to change their ways. We don’t want to launch these actions, but we cannot shrink from using the power of government, because failure to reclaim a free exchange of ideas is more dangerous to this republic than any of our foreign enemies.

Jim Hanson is President of Security Studies Group and served in US Army Special Forces.

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