Justice Department to dig into Facebook and Twitter censorship concern

Attorneys general will discuss whether social networks are "intentionally stifling" viewpoints, two months after President Trump accused Twitter of shadow banning conservatives.

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Stephen Shankland
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Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg testifies before a Senate subcommittee.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg testifies before a Senate subcommittee.

CBS News

In a meeting with state attorneys general this month, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions will look into whether Facebook and Twitter are "intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms," a move that should keep pressure on the social media sites even after Wednesday's congressional hearings are over.

The Justice Department announced the meeting on a day when senators and representatives questioned Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey. The social networks are in the hot seat because their sites have proved susceptible to Russian influence campaigns, abuse, bogus information and incitements to violence, but it's the more recent issue of political neutrality that the Trump administration chose to focus on.

"We listened to today's Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on foreign influence operations and their use of social media platforms closely," Justice Department spokesman Devin O'Malley said in a statement. "The attorney general has convened a meeting with a number of state attorneys general this month to discuss a growing concern that these companies may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms."

Dorsey defended Twitter against accusations that the company is biased against conservatives, saying Twitter tries to be neutral. The issue has come to a head with President Donald Trump's accusation in July that Twitter "shadow bans" conservatives, a charge Twitter denies.

Facebook didn't respond to a request for comment. Twitter declined to comment.

First published September 5, 1:15 p.m. PT.

Update, 5:15 p.m. PT: Adds that Twitter didn't comment.

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