The Journal Gazette
Thursday, April 08, 2021 1:00 am

Rokita looks into tech censorship

Business practices harm liberty, attorney general says

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Attorney General Todd Rokita on Wednesday jumped into the censorship fray by announcing he is investigating whether five Big Tech companies have potentially harmed Indiana consumers through unfair business practices.

“Big Tech's censorship crusade should concern every liberty-loving American. As Indiana's attorney general, I work to protect Hoosiers from harm caused by deceptive, unfair or abusive business practices – including censorship of digital content,” Rokita said in a tweet.

He is specifically probing methods by Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Twitter that have limited consumers' access to certain content – often deleting or obscuring posted material reflecting a politically conservative point of view. Such manipulation prevents consumers from making informed choices, he said.

“In a free society, few assets are more important to consumers than access to information and the opportunity to express political viewpoints in meaningful forums,” Rokita said in a statement. “It is potentially harmful and unfair for these companies to manipulate content in ways they do not publicly discuss or that consumers do not fully understand.”

Rokita was given an activity ban in February when he tweeted a meme of Donald Trump saying “you stole my heart like you stole the 2020 account.”

Twitter initially wouldn't allow anyone to retweet or respond to it “due to a risk of violence,” but that restriction was removed shortly after.

Rokita is basing his investigation on the state's Deceptive Consumer Sales Act. He noted that businesses violate the act when they withhold or otherwise use information that is unfair, abusive or deceptive, and he said such behavior doesn't require a monetary transaction to be unlawful.

Most social media platforms are free.

“When they withhold information allowing a consumer to make a full independent choice of whatever, that could be a violation of the act,” he said.

In addition to the five companies, Rokita is looking into alleged actions taken by attorney Vanita Gupta to encourage the companies to censor conservative viewpoints.

Gupta is President Joe Biden's nominee to be associate U.S. attorney general. Rokita alleges that Gupta met with these companies and urged them to tag or take down posts as a form of enforcement.

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