The Coming Battle Against Big Tech
The good news is that reining in Big Tech to protect First Amendment rights is a legislative priority for Republicans. The American people should settle for nothing else.
Big Tech must be held to account for its censorship and suppression of conservative speech. Big Government, though, is not the answer to Big Tech’s abuses. If Republicans take back the House majority in November, conservatives need to be ready to address Big Tech without empowering unaccountable, woke bureaucrats. Doing so is crucial to the future of the free exchange of ideas in America — not to mention the rest of the world.
Parler knows firsthand the mighty power of the digital thunder-dome. On January 9, 2021, Parler was the no. 1 downloaded app in the Apple App store. The same day, under the guise of accountability for the violence of January 6, Apple and Google removed Parler from their app stores. Following suit, Amazon Web Services abruptly canceled its hosting contract with Parler.
Practically overnight, Parler’s role in the marketplace of ideas was diminished. Almost every corner of the Big Tech ecosystem worked together to “cancel” a young but thriving platform. Thankfully, Parler survived and returned to the app store in May and is now staging a remarkable comeback, a resurrection from the technological grave.
While the mistreatment of Parler — combined with the simultaneous deplatforming of the sitting president of the United States — still infuriates conservatives, Democrats have long sought to enhance Washington’s control of private businesses by enlarging the bureaucracy and upending existing rule-of-law-based antitrust authorities. With conservative rage boiling at Big Tech, these Democrats saw an opportunity.
They calculated that some Republicans were mad enough at Big Tech to not see that these bills — sponsored by the likes of Congressman David Cicilline, an impeachment manager, and Senator Amy Klobuchar — were really an attempt to further silence conservatives online and give the Biden Federal Trade Commission huge new authorities.
Democrats succeeded in persuading a handful of Republicans to provide a veneer of bipartisanship for their radical agenda. These Republicans, some of whom cited Parler’s mistreatment as justification, willingly signed on to the Democrat bills.
The American people shouldn’t be fooled. Mr. Cicilline has repeatedly said he wants more speech taken down online. No rational Republican would believe that Mr. Cicilline wants President Trump back on Twitter. At their core, these bills would put into the hands of a few Washington bureaucrats enormous powers to hinder free speech.
These bills will never allow for more speech on the internet, only less. Constitutional rights will be replaced with government regulation and subjective decision-making by faceless administrators.
The bad ideas hardly stop there. One that has been relatively well-received recently on Capitol Hill is that Congress should deem Twitter and Facebook “common carriers,” whereby they would be effectively nationalized and overseen by regulators.
When these bureaucrats get more power, they abuse it — and usually to the detriment of conservatives. Remember the targeting by the IRS of Tea Party nonprofits. And the DOJ and SEC using “operation choke point” to cut off gun shop owners from banking. And the targeting of Mr. Trump’s campaign by the FBI.
If you thought what Apple, Amazon, and Google did to Parler was bad, just wait until they’re common carriers. Not only would Washington oversee and police the censorship decisions of Twitter, but it would be impossible for free speech-oriented platforms — like Parler, Rumble, and Truth Social — to compete.
If Twitter and Facebook are locked in as the platforms, how could anyone supplant them? Facebook and the major tech corporations, after all, are among the world’s largest companies, their bureaucratic reach is the greatest it has ever been, and their influence pervades every level of government, both here and overseas. These corporations are now writing legislation to regulate themselves.
The good news is that reining in Big Tech to protect First Amendment rights is a legislative priority for Republicans. The American people should settle for nothing else. Everything is on the table and bills are being crafted so that if the American people choose Republicans to govern, we will bring accountability to these companies without empowering Biden bureaucrats.
For starters, we should scrap the immunity that is afforded to these “platforms” under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. None of these corporations have abided by the “platform not publisher” rules.
Liability protections should be afforded only to smaller players who do not have the resources and market power of the Big Tech giants. We must also ensure existing antitrust laws are brought fully to bear on Big Tech, a step the Trump administration began to take.
We should also look to our states for help via empowering attorneys general across the country in the battle against Big Tech. This is a better strategy than enhancing the power of the already-bloated federal bureaucracy, which should be a non-starter for anyone committed to constitutional-first principles.
President Reagan famously said, “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.” Nowhere is that more true than with the complexities of the internet and protecting free speech online.
Congressman Jordan of Ohio is the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. Mr. Farmer is the chief executive of Parler.