White House Insisted It Had 16,000 Complaints Of Social Media Bias Turned Over To The FTC; The FTC Has No Record Of Them

from the oh-really? dept

One less noticed feature of the White House's anti-Section 230 executive order was the claim that the White House had over 16,000 complaints about social media bias that it would turn over to the FTC to help it... do something to those big mean social media companies:

In May of 2019, the White House launched a Tech Bias Reporting tool to allow Americans to report incidents of online censorship. In just weeks, the White House received over 16,000 complaints of online platforms censoring or otherwise taking action against users based on their political viewpoints. The White House will submit such complaints received to the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The FTC shall consider taking action, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to prohibit unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce, pursuant to section 45 of title 15, United States Code. Such unfair or deceptive acts or practice may include practices by entities covered by section 230 that restrict speech in ways that do not align with those entities’ public representations about those practices.

This wasn't the first time that Trump had claimed to possess thousands of complaints about social media bias. In August of 2018 (9 months before the White House claims to have set up a tool to receive such complaints), the President said the White House had "literally thousands and thousands of complaints coming in."

think Google is really taking advantage of a lot of people, and I think that’s a very serious thing, and it’s a very serious charge. I think what Google and what others are doing — if you look at what’s going on at Twitter, if you look at what’s going on in Facebook — they better be careful, because you … Can’t do that to people. You can’t do it. We have tremendous — We have literally thousands and thousands of complaints coming in, and you just can’t do that. So I think that Google and Twitter and Facebook, they’re really treading on very, very troubled territory, and they have to be careful. It’s not fair to large portions of the population.

At the time I filed a FOIA request to see if I could get the details of these "complaints." A few months later, I was told there were no responsive records, but it was possible other parts of the government had them. I tried another part of the government, as well, and they emailed me on March 12th (the same day that the much of where I live started to shut down due to the pandemic) to tell me they regretted the delay, and since it had taken so long for them to respond, they were assuming I was no longer interested, and were closing my FOIA request unanswered.

Nice of them.

Of course, now that the White House was claiming a specific amount (over 16,000) and saying it was passing them along to the FTC, you might think it would be a new opportunity to find out about these complaints. Turns out... no. Ryan Singel filed a FOIA request for those complaints and the FTC says the White House never sent over the complaints:

The FTC has not received the aforementioned complaints. We have located 10 complaints received through the Consumer Sentinel Network that mention this topic area and they are enclosed.

As you might expect, the 10 included complaints are pretty ludicrous. To be clear, I expect that even if the White House can turn up 16,000 such complaints that they will almost all be totally ludicrous. But these are pretty silly. Here are just a few.

I have 2 trademarks on my methodology of teaching from the US Government that work in conjunction with each other to show that my reseach is linked to a specific way of educating. Members of the ITEEA group have promoted policy that seems to breach research methodologies, PhD methodologies, publications, degrees and almost all of this inter-relates with federal funds in various ways. I have reported this numerous times to many agencies. The primary points of the issues are available published on this blogpost: www.steamedu.com/usdoe - at the bottom of the page are links to evidence for federal attorneys, the FBI and other related offices, and now yours. In lieu of today's executive order signed by the president and Section 230, it seems as though websites that we not currently curbing the spread of misinformation can now be held libel. I will assume this applies to PAC group websites, related social media sites both created by them and by groups. I am no longer sure if individuals and or site publishers would be held libel for potential slander and fraud issues and would like your group to please help direct me to a path of justice on behalf of the people, our taxes, our policies and the future of integrity in education and possibly in publishing. Thank you.

Good luck with that.

Facebook is completely removing first amendment rights of their users. It should not be deemed a platform if they are allowed to edit restrict people from using their voices on social media. Today after waking up at 6 AM and not being on social media for at least eight hours I woke up to a restriction block on my page saying that I could not re-share any more news stories until next Monday. Consequently the reason why I believe I was blocked is because I've been sharing new stories that are talking about the Minneapolis riots and Trump Signing his executive order that helps us against restricting social media network information. I truly believe they have taken this opportunity to silence my first amendment right to share the information with my timeline because they don't like the fact that I am not supporting Joe Biden! This is a complete miss use of their platform privileges and they need them stripped away immediately and they need to be held liable for taking peoples first amendment rights

Uh huh.

I made polictical statements, which have King James Bible, Conservatives, Republican views, my account was suspended for 30 days. In which Democrate, and Independent's post are fine to Facebook Community Standards. Since then Trump signed an Executive Order that Social Media's have violated people's First Amendment Rights of Free speech to ALL, I expect and apology, and NO FUTHER CENSORSHIP !

And then:

Twitter harassment has been ongoing for years, but now it's to a massive level and they are trying to thwart my right to be a Candidate for Governor, 2024 in New Hampshire. They have locked me out of 5 different Twitter accounts, delete my following and don't allow me lawful access to the site, to my own virtual property and those rights. They also are violating the Sherman Act. They have been sued, are in lawsuits now, and have an Executive Order they are violating, and they are trying and disrupting my campaign account @NHCandidate2024. They tried to force me to delete a second tweet, that is perfectly lawful and did not violate any terms of anything, they are trying to prevent me from using the Twitter site, and they continue to harass and bully. It is imperative the that FTC address these out of control website staff that are actually harassing users, severing free speech, and targeting people's accounts. They have been bullying me, and don't like my reach or voice, and ability to tell the truth and believe in everyone's rights, not just those I agree with. They have altered their "rules" and even when nothing violates them, they harass users and try to force them into removing comments, only to then continue to harass and bully and deny access to the USER's virtual property, housed in their website. They have given themselves improper authority and have continued to bully and target the majority of users (conservatives) and then allow for death threats and mutations of people on another political side. The FTC as well as every other organization, and law makers must terminate their ever growing abuses to people, and give them consequences. They cannot shut down and lock out users based on their lies and biases. They are also searching, and found nothing other than the use of the word idiot, a lawful word and that was the best they could to to retailaite and close my account. The exact tweet being b(6) only an IDIOT reads a single article, does no research and believes that slanted written story. And does no other research, go away moron, too stupid to get it https://t.co/LNoyl3Tjl6Apr 27, 2020, 7:18 PM I don't even know what that comment was in response to, but it was obviously someone I blocked that was in fact trolling me. There is no threat any other harassment, it's a comment and many of them get strong and drastic responses, since the trolls are so vile. Twitter cannot continue to lock out accounts based on no violations at all, and use those fake lock outs to justify closing out accounts. I am running and going to use all social media as anyone else running as the right to do, without being bullied by Twitter or anyone else. Time to fix their illegal activity. It's criminal and they need consequences and fines and some need more consequences, including investigating their own sites. Twitter is liable for distrupting anyone's right to contact me on my Twitter account for my campaign and they owe criminal restitution, and civil damages as well.

Slow down there, champ.

Anyway, the FCC is now sitting on a bunch of these style of complaints now as well, filed in the ongoing comment period. However, the FTC is apparently still waiting for more than just the 10 it received directly. The White House promised to deliver over 16,000 complaints, but the FTC is apparently still there, waiting.

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Filed Under: anti-conservative bias, executive order, foia, ftc, social media, white house

Reader Comments

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2020 @ 10:31am

    Which is a good argument for eliminating the partisan bureaucracy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 11 Sep 2020 @ 10:32am

    Reminder: The Trump administration doesn’t care about bias in social media so long as that bias works in favor of conservatives/right-wingers/Republicans. They don’t want “fairness”, they want an audience.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2020 @ 10:49am

    Clear abuse warning sign

    Really if a government agency starts compiling many records of things which even called for by law, remotely crimes or even civil issues that should be the be a major civil liberties red flag. List of journalists, suspected communists, and bias? They are all warning signs of petty tyrants trying to claim control without even having a vague poorly written law to abuse as the basis of their claim. Social media bias against conservatives wouldn't even be a crime if it were true!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2020 @ 10:50am

    Thousands and thousands of complaints disappearing eh? Who does the executive branch think they are, the FCC? (reference the net neutrality letters)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 11 Sep 2020 @ 11:16am


    Nah, if it were the FCC there would be tons of complaints they would be happy to share, and some of them might even have been written by real people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2020 @ 11:33am

    All that is needed to be known, is that Trump is a documented liar. From there it is not hard to come up with an opinion on this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 11 Sep 2020 @ 11:35am

    'We've got the best complaints, the greatest.'

    Strange how whenever someone asks for evidence of 'bias' against 'conservatives' on social media the evidence presented is either non-existent, laughably weak and/or shows that the person got got the boot for very valid reasons, you'd think by now there would be something to support all the cries of 'persecution!' that could actually stand under scrutiny if the issue was real and widespread...

    As for the mysteriously missing sixteen thousand complaints I guess Trump's ability to do something as simple as count is just as flawed as the FBI's, that's certainly reassuring.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2020 @ 12:23pm


    Why don't we just try eliminating the lying administration first, and see where that gets us?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2020 @ 12:26pm


    I think you're wrong. I think the Trump administration is against bias that works in favour of conservatives/right-wingers/Republicans - but only if the oppose Trump.

    More seriously I think the Trump administration cares about what Trump cares about and Trump cares about himself, and precious little, if anything, else.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2020 @ 12:33pm

    Re: 'We've got the best complaints, the greatest.'

    You are obviously working under the delusion that, to a conservative, "persecution" means them not being able to do what others do. In that you are mistaken, To this interesting sub-species, "persectution" means not be able to do whatever the fuck they want to.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    Razzo (profile), 11 Sep 2020 @ 12:34pm

    I had to go check out @NHCandidate2024, now thats a rabbit hole worthy of a few drinks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 11 Sep 2020 @ 12:37pm

    Re: Re: 'We've got the best complaints, the greatest.'

    A fair point, under that definition they are indeed suffering terrible 'persecution', whereas under the definition I was going with, that of discriminatory practices for unjustified reasons on a noteworthy scale, they most certainly are not, or at least have yet to provide evidence of.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Pixelation, 11 Sep 2020 @ 12:52pm


    "They have given themselves improper authority"

    I think he meant the Trump administration.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    Bloof (profile), 11 Sep 2020 @ 1:19pm

    By 16,000 complaints, they probably mean 16,000 tweets by Trump on the topic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Glenn, 11 Sep 2020 @ 2:48pm

    If you're going to lie to begin with, then go bigly!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2020 @ 4:19pm


    So like a few days worth?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    tp (profile), 11 Sep 2020 @ 8:11pm

    we can help trump gain more complaints

    if we wrote just 10 more complaints to his concervative voices are silenced -helpline, we can easily double the number of complaints. Then trump can claim 32000 complaints and we'd be helping making america great again...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    Boba Fat (profile), 11 Sep 2020 @ 10:44pm

    Re: we can help trump gain more complaints

    Please don't help make America any greater again. With everything else 2020 has brought, I'm not sure we could stand it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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