- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 10, 2020

A former campaign staffer for Hillary Clinton blaming Big Tech for President Trump’s rise to power has formed a new group pressuring Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies to help dethrone him online in the run-up to the November elections.

The group, Accountable Tech, has demanded sweeping changes at Big Tech companies for the final weeks of the presidential campaign. It wants social media companies to certify “Platform Poll Watchers” to police content and is urging Twitter and Facebook to shut off algorithms that show trending topics and other information currently viewed by users.

Former Clinton campaign foreign affairs spokesperson Jesse Lehrich, who garnered attention during the 2016 campaign for telling Mr. Trump to “go f– yourself,” has enlisted former Facebook engineer Sahar Massachi, former Democratic Federal Election Commission chairwoman Ann Ravel, and a Mozilla vice president, Ashley Boyd, to push for a Big Tech overhaul.

“Ultimately, we need Congress to set clear laws to promote a healthier environment for online political information — but that is not going to happen in the next two months,” Ms. Ravel said in a statement. “In the meantime, social media companies themselves must act responsibly and forcefully to ensure the outcome of the election is not determined by the spread of misinformation.”

Accountable Tech’s “Election Integrity Roadmap for Social Media Platforms,” released Thursday, includes specific objectives the liberals want followed before the election.

These include having Big Tech start appointing on Monday special Platform Poll Watchers to flag objectionable content; turning off algorithmic curation of content on Facebook and Twitter from Oct. 20 through the election; and forcing accounts with 250,000 followers or more to receive “preclearance” before they publish any speech about elections on Nov. 3.

While this would seem to undermine the internet’s orientation toward free speech, Mr. Lehrich told Axios he thinks that “when it comes to truth, or hate, or democracy, being neutral is nothing to be proud of.”

Facebook has undertaken several steps to change how it moderates content in the run-up to the November election. Facebook recently updated its terms of service effective Oct. 1 that give the tech titan more open-ended reasons for tearing down content.

The company is also implementing an “Elections Operation Center” initiative to swiftly remove content from its platforms in the final 72 hours before the November election, and Facebook plans to stop all new political and issue advertising on its platform in the final week before the election.

While liberals think Facebook has not cracked down enough on Mr. Trump and his supporters, conservatives say Facebook and other Big Tech companies already have gone too far.

Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, wrote to the heads of Facebook, Twitter, Google and Squarespace in July requesting information on their alleged censorship of conservative opinions via deplatforming, demonetization and other penalties.

Facebook replied to Mr. Lee last week and pointed to an investigation into potential anti-conservative bias at Facebook led by former Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, and the law firm Covington & Burling as evidence of their attention to the issue.

“We do not inquire about political beliefs in making employment decisions for content moderators,” wrote Kevin Martin, Facebook vice president of U.S. public policy, in response to Mr. Lee. “We work with partners that uphold objective, fair hiring practices. We do not set prerequisites or other guidelines regarding the beliefs of their employees.”

Mr. Lee said Thursday he did not buy the Big Tech companies’ answers.

“The responses received from the tech companies about bias against conservatives at their firms were completely unpersuasive,” Mr. Lee said in a statement. “I continue to be concerned about the ideological discrimination going on at these firms and I believe further oversight will be necessary in order to obtain the facts and answers that the American people deserve.”

Mr. Lee is chairman of the antitrust subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee and has scheduled a hearing about Big Tech’s dominance in the online advertising market for next week, which will primarily focus on Google.

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