A Justice Department official told NPR that no official invitations have been sent out by the agency, and federal officials are still in the early stages of planning the meeting.
According to the Justice official, the meeting had been discussed among a small group of attorneys general before being announced last week. Since then, "the interest has been overwhelming" and attorneys general of both parties have inquired about participation and received the same acknowledgement of receipt, the official said.
So far, the only attorney general to confirm to NPR his plans to attend is Texas Republican Ken Paxton. Spokesman Marc Rylander said in a statement:
"We look forward to participating in the DOJ's upcoming discussion regarding growing concerns that conservative voices are being suppressed on several social media platforms. This matter involves both the central tenets of our country's free market economy and the guaranteed freedom of speech. We must work together to ensure that online economic competition operates fairly and transparently, so that Americans across the political spectrum can make informed choices and the public discourse can flourish."
There's a reason why Justice Department officials would be interested in talking with state attorneys general, who can have broad oversight power over social media, thanks to their consumer protection purview.
"Consumer protection law in each state is extremely broad and allows them to basically protect consumers — that is citizens, people — from what they believe to be untoward conduct," said Doug Gansler, a former Maryland attorney general.
Already, several state attorneys general have been investigating the tech companies. Cases have focused on the collection and use of private data, disclosures of sponsors behind political advertising and how advertisers might exclude people from seeing ads such as those based on race or religion.
Typically, state attorneys' cases against companies focus on violations of law or terms and conditions, deception or fraud.
However, it is rare for the DOJ to summon state attorneys general for a meeting to direct their focus to a particular part of the industry, said Gansler, a former president of the National Association of Attorneys General.
The Justice Department has not said anything about the plan for the meeting beyond interest in concerns that tech companies may be "hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas." It's unclear how much of the goal is to facilitate a conversation about the allegations of anti-conservative bias versus the antitrust concerns about the size and reach of the leading tech companies.
Either way, simply having federal and state officials digging under the hood of the tech companies and requesting incisive details of their algorithmic secret sauce could threaten their business models, said Dipayan Ghosh, a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and former policy adviser at Facebook.
"I think the internet companies are quite concerned about this — and they should be," Ghosh said. "This is recognition that state attorneys general have tremendous power ... to start a discussion with industry about standards on privacy, standards on security or standards on transparency. I would hope that these can be done in a way that is not politicized."
The politics, however, has been an unavoidable part of the conversation.