(Bloomberg) -- The Federal Trade Commission should study how the largest US technology platforms and financial institutions control content, Republican Commissioner Melissa Holyoak said, renewing a Trump-era proposal targeting companies that control “access to the digital commons.”

In her first public appearance since joining the antitrust and consumer protection agency in March, Holyoak called on the FTC to open a market study into tech and financial platforms, which would allow it to subpoena companies like Meta Platforms Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and PayPal Holdings Inc. for information.

Holyoak’s proposal rekindles an idea put forward in former President Donald Trump’s May 2020 executive order targeting alleged online censorship, previewing steps the FTC could take should he return to the White House next year.

“The effect of denying access to financial services or deplatforming can have the effect of reducing those consumers to second-class citizens,” Holyoak said, according to her prepared remarks. “To the extent we can wield existing enforcement authorities to combat some of these problems, we should do so aggressively.”

In an interview with Bloomberg, Holyoak said she believes an FTC market study could help flesh out potential consumer harm and whether the agency’s existing authority could address practices like deplatforming, where a company suspends or deletes user accounts because of what they post.

“There are significant harms to consumers from deplatforming and from lack of access,” Holyoak said. A study could “look at the language” of a company’s terms of service “and how they are being implemented” to see if that falls under the FTC’s ability to challenge deceptive business practices.

Trump’s executive order urged the FTC to consider using its enforcement powers over deceptive practices to look into digital platforms and how they enforce their terms of service. The proposal was styled as a suggestion given that the White House can’t order the FTC, which is an independent agency, to take action.   

Republicans held a majority at the agency at the time. But the FTC declined to take any action, with the then-chairman saying the agency’s authority “focuses on commercial speech not political content curation.”

Trump personally pressured FTC Chair Joe Simons to enforce the executive order but lacked the ability to fire him, though the White House did interview potential replacements and considered demoting him.

Holyoak’s comments came in a May 31 speech at a Competitive Enterprise Institute summit in Edinburgh, Scotland. A copy of her remarks was released publicly Monday. 

The institute — a corporate funded think tank whose donors include Google, Meta, Ford Motor Co. and Comcast Corp., — organized the event to celebrate its 40th anniversary and the 300th birthday of Adam Smith, the Scottish economist often revered as the “Father of Capitalism.” The group has also received money from the Charles Koch Institute and the The 85 Fund, a charitable organization run by influential conservative activist Leonard Leo.

Holyoak worked as an attorney for the group between 2015 and 2019. Following that, she served as Utah’s Solicitor General, representing the state in federal and state lawsuits including the antitrust suit filed by a coalition of attorneys general against Google over its dominance of Android app distribution.

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