A draft executive order from the White House surfaced last night that would direct federal authorities to “thoroughly investigate whether any online platform has acted in violation of the antitrust laws.” However, White House officials say that the document hasn’t gone through any sort of formal policymaking process.
Bloomberg obtained a copy of the draft executive order, noting that it directs antitrust officials and other federal agencies see if any “online platform” has violated antitrust laws. The publication notes that the document didn’t specifically name companies that have attracted Trump’s ire, but it’s not hard to imagine that Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Twitter wouldn’t be a subject of such an order.
Following the publication of the report, The Washington Post said that the White House has “sought to distance itself” from the draft, with deputy White House press secretary Lindsay Walters saying that the “document is not the result of an official White House policymaking process,” and it’s not clear if the draft will actually go through such a process and be signed by the President. The Post explains that the draft been floating around for a while, and notes that it could have come from outside of the White House. It’s also not clear if the draft would actually be workable.
We’ve reached out to Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Twitter for comment, and will update this post if we hear back.
This summer, President Donald Trump has taken aim at various social media companies, complaining that he and his followers have been the subject of a censorship campaign. In August, Trump told reporters that companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Twitter were “treading on very, very troubled territory,” and that he’s lost followers because of censorship — although those losses seem to stem from Twitter’s efforts to get rid of bots and spam accounts. Trump has continued to bang this particular drum in recent weeks, floating ideas that search engines like Google need to be regulated, and that he sees the influence of these types of companies as a “very antitrust situation.” Given Trump’s anger against Silicon Valley and the social media platforms that it’s produced, it’s hard not to see the existence of such a document as a potential escalation against them.