After months of posturing on Twitter about “censorship” and a perceived “anti-conservative bias” on social media the White House is asking Americans to report to the administration if they feel they’ve been censored by big tech companies. The survey asks respondents to fill out a form giving the White House their name, phone number, email address, social media accounts, and an explanation of how you feel you were censored.
If this whole enterprise feels shady, that’s because it is.
“It’s massively opaque. It came out of nowhere,” Alex Howard, a digital governance expert, founder of the information technology blog e-pluribusunum.org, and former senior analyst at the open government advocacy group the Sunlight Foundation, said. “You have an administration, setting up a web form with no rules beyond the ones that have been set in its own ‘user agreements.' A lack of clarity in terms of what exactly will happen because of it or as a result. It should be laughable, but it’s not. Because they’re abusing their power and shaping our public discourse by advancing a false narrative. That’s despite this being a dumb web form.”
It’s also not clear where the data is stored or who has access to it. The site isn’t even hosted on a government server, but was created with Typeform, a Spain-based web tool that lets anyone set up simple surveys.
“It’s not at all clear what this feeds into, aside from trying to create what looks like a biased set of data which would support the President’s conspiracy theory about about people having their viewpoints censored by a private technology company based upon their politics,” Howard said. “That’s a misuse of official power and resources. The term of art for that is corruption.”