FTC Lacks Authority To Police Platforms' Content Moderation Policies, Chairman Simons Says

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The Federal Trade Commission lacks the authority to oversee how social media companies curate political speech, Chairman Joe Simons told the Senate Commerce Committee Aug 5. “Our authority focuses on commercial speech, not political content curation,” Chairman Simons told Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) at an oversight hearing.

Chairman Simons' statement came in response to questions from Chairman Wicker about President Donald Trump's recent attempt to crack down on social media platforms. In May, President Trump issued an executive order that directed the FTC to consider taking action if websites “restrict speech in ways that do not align with those entities’ public representations about those practices.” President Trump said at the time that social media platforms were engaging in “selective censorship” based on viewpoint, despite a lack of empirical proof.

Chairman Wicker asked Chairman Simons if the FTC had received complaints about the activity described in the executive order. Simons responded that the FTC gets complaints about companies “from a wide variety of sources” -- including Congress, competitors and consumer watchdogs -- but only takes action if the complaint falls within the agency's jurisdiction. “So you don't view political speech as within your jurisdiction?” Wicker asked. “Correct,” Simons replied.

FTC Lacks Authority To Police Platforms' Content Moderation Policies, Simons Says FTC Testifies At an Oversight Hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee (FTC)