Social media platforms dragged into 2020 fight

The social media giants are stuck in a vise as both Democrats and the Trump campaign look for an edge by accusing the platforms of favoring the other side.

On one side are Democrats, who are demanding that Facebook and Twitter censor President Trump and his campaign.

This week, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey demanding that Trump be suspended and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) ripped Facebook for refusing to fact check — and remove — Trump campaign ads it said are misleading.

Democrats are deeply worried that Trump will spend hundreds of millions of dollars and leverage his massive social media following to distort public perceptions, echoing concerns from 2016 when foreign agents used the platforms to promote misinformation.

On the other end are Trump and Republicans, who have long held that conservative voices are being suppressed by Silicon Valley liberals reacting to elite media outrage at the president and his supporters.

Underscoring the pressure on the social media giants — this week, both Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a top contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, and Donald Trump Jr., a top surrogate for his father’s reelection campaign — renewed their calls for the government to dismantle the tech giants, albeit for very different reasons.

“The prevailing view from both sides now is that these companies have become so large and so important in political and social life that there needs to be some sort of government intervention,” said Shannon McGregor, a professor of communications at the University of Utah. “What that looks like could depend on the outcome of the election.”

The Trump campaign’s move to put $10 million behind ads alleging that former Vice President Joe Biden pushed for a Ukrainian prosecutor to be fired to protect his son Hunter Biden, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company that was under investigation, was a tipping point for many Democrats.

The Obama administration has long said it wanted the prosecutor fired for not doing enough to root out corruption. There is no evidence that Biden acted to protect his son, although the appearance of a conflict of interest has become a drag on his campaign.

Democrats are furious over the ads, which are running across cable news and on Facebook, Google, YouTube, Spotify and Pandora.