Image result for Trump’s dangerous claim to the internet he wants

Theodore Roosevelt said the US presidency was a “bully pulpit”, meaning it was a wonderful platform for influencing public opinion. Donald Trump is also a devotee of public relations, but uses his bully pulpit in the modern sense: to intimidate those he disagrees with or regards as enemies. News media are a frequent target and this week President Trump added to targets of his anger Google — in particular the search giant’s news service. Its sin was to give prominence to stories that were critical of the president, including the CNN cable news network. “They have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD,” he tweeted. He followed up with an inaccurate claim that Google did not feature his State of the Union addresses as prominently as those of Barack Obama, his predecessor. Absurdly, Larry Kudlow, his chief economic adviser and a former host on CNBC, was sent out to turn this into a threat. Mr Kudlow said the administration was “taking a look” at whether Google’s search results should be regulated. This is dangerous talk, and would be a shock coming from anyone but Mr Trump, who consistently shows an inability to separate his personal interests from the office of the president. US courts have upheld the rights of search engines, and any government effort to fix results for Mr Trump would be reminiscent of China and other countries that censor the internet. It is a mistake to seek intellectual coherence in Mr Trump’s attacks on Google and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. They are an extension of his general war on the media and liberal publications that he abhors, preferring the output of networks such as Fox News or Breitbart News. The president is himself a practised manipulator of news. His attack coincides with legitimate concerns about the degree to which internet giants operate responsibly. Despite his rhetoric, even Mr Trump has not tried to restrict the right of publications such as the New York Times to report and publish as they wish. The risk is that he exploits his outrage at Google and Facebook to pursue partisan internet regulation. There is little doubt that many Google and Facebook employees hold liberal views. A Facebook engineer protested that its internal ethos was “a political monoculture that’s intolerant of different views”. This echoes Google’s firing last year of James Damore, an engineer who claimed that the company tried to ignore biological differences between sexes. But, despite a claim in 2016 that Facebook emphasised stories from liberal outlets more than conservative ones, there is little evidence of that leaking into crude editorial bias. The algorithms that power Google’s search favour established publications because they are treated as more reliable and useful. This hardly amounts to a scandal that demands regulation. The true concern is that networks such as Facebook have failed to grasp, let alone to control, the misinformation with which they have been flooded by political groups, and governments including Russia. They have started to respond, including by banning content by Alex Jones, the extreme rightwing conspiracy theorist and founder of InfoWars. Mr Trump, unable directly to censor the publications he detests, is now manoeuvring to limit their visibility on the internet. The European Union’s “right to be forgotten” law on search results would be trumped by his claim to a presidential right to favourable news coverage. That threat must be resisted, for liberty’s sake.

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