The White House created an online form for people to report instances where they feel that they were censored by social platforms or punished for sharing their political opinions.
President Donald Trump introduced the Tech Bias Story Sharing Tool in a tweet and a Facebook post from the White House accounts on those respective platforms, saying, “The Trump administration is fighting for free speech online. No matter your views, if you suspect political bias has caused you to be censored or silenced online, we want to hear about it!”
Once people click the link, they see the following message: “Social media platforms should advance freedom of speech. Yet too many Americans have seen their accounts suspended, banned or fraudulently reported for unclear ‘violations’ of user policies. No matter your views, if you suspect political bias caused such an action to be taken against you, share your story with President Trump.”
They are then prompted to provide the following information: name; whether they are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident; whether they are at least 18 years old; ZIP code; phone number; email address; which platform took action against their account (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube or other, with separate submissions required for each); a link to their profile or a username; details on what happened; links to specific posts or tweets that were involved; and screenshots of notifications received from social platforms, along with other relevant screenshots.
The process ends with a pitch to subscribe to the White House’s email newsletters, followed by asking people to confirm that they are not robots by entering the year the Declaration of Independence was signed, and acceptance of the user agreement.
The user agreement should not be taken lightly, as the content included via the form basically becomes property of the U.S. Government. Clauses in the agreement include:
- You grant the U.S. Government (including but not limited to the Executive Office of the President) a license to any “Content” (including but not limited to the photographs, information, text or otherwise) you post or submit on this site.
- This permission grants the U.S. Government a license to use, edit, display, publish, broadcast, transmit, post or otherwise distribute all or part of the content (including edited, composite or derivative works made therefrom).
- The license you grant is irrevocable and valid in perpetuity, throughout the world, and in all forms of media.
- You waive any right to inspect or approve any content or edited, composite or derivative works made from content (including those which may contain your Information) before use. You are not entitled to any prior notice before the U.S. Government uses content or Information. You are not entitled to any compensation for content.
- You solely bear all responsibility for all content.
- You should not post any information that you do not wish to become public, or any information regarding minor children.
John Bergmayer, senior counsel at Public Knowledge, a nonprofit that promotes freedom of expression, an open internet and access to affordable communications tools and creative works, saw the creation of this tool as a reach by The White House.
Bergmayer said in a statement, “A more pressing problem than alleged ‘censorship’ of any particular viewpoint is the proliferation of misinformation, propaganda, hate speech, terrorist content and harassment online. This misguided effort by the White House raises serious constitutional questions and could hamper the ability of platforms to moderate their platforms and take down such content.”
He added, “To the extent that particular constituencies feel that their viewpoints do not get a fair hearing, we would welcome efforts from the Trump administration to increase platform competition through the vigorous application of antitrust laws, interoperability initiatives and similar endeavors.”
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy did not respond to repeated requests for comment on what actions (if any) will be taken after reports are submitted via the Tech Bias Story Sharing Tool.