Big Tech on Deck in Congress
The same liberals who think the riots are a myth decided to spend Wednesday denying another reality: online censorship. This week -- the very one that witnessed the removal of a top performing video on Facebook -- House Democrats devoted a good chunk of their hearing with the titans of Big Tech dismissing the war on free speech. But as any conservative who's spent time online knows, the question isn't if there's bias, but what Congress is going to do about it.
"We all think the free market is great, we think competition is great," Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) agreed. "What's not great is censoring people, censoring conservatives, and trying to impact elections. And if it doesn't end, there have to be consequences." From blocking a frontline doctors' conference on COVID to pulling the plug on pro-life facts from congressmen, if conservatives have posted it -- social media's silenced it. So spare us your excuses, Jordan told Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon. "If I had a nickel for every time I heard it was just a glitch, I wouldn't be as wealthy as our witnesses, but I'd be doing all right." The reality is, "Big Tech is out to get conservatives," the Ohio Republican insisted. And "that's not a hunch. That's a fact."
Jordan rattled off a laundry list of examples from the last several months -- from removing Breitbart's home page as a search option to Twitter blocking the president's posts. None of that seemed to matter to liberals like Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), who lit a powder keg when she called it all "fringe conspiracy theory." Good luck persuading Americans of that, Republicans fired back. The first time most people even heard of Google CEO Sundar Pichai was when he appeared in the leaked staff meeting video from 2016, comforting crying employees over Donald Trump's election. Then came the assurances that the company would continue using their resources to advance their "values" and the shocking emails describing Google's "silent donation" to Hillary Clinton.
In spite of it all, President Trump still won. But, as Jordan warns, "we're 97 days before an election. And the power these companies have to impact what happens [before November], what American citizens get to see prior to their voting, is pretty darn important." Pichai, who was asked if he could assure Americans that Google wouldn't "tailor" its search results to help Joe Biden, replied that it would be "against our core values." Conservatives, he insisted, have "more access to information than ever before."
But the question is: whose information is it? Just 24 hours earlier, Google's subsidiary, YouTube, pulled down a coronavirus event that 17 million people were watching because the company decided it knew more about the pandemic than the doctors treating it. Getting information is not the problem here. Getting information that hasn't already been selectively chosen from pre-approved ideologues is. Even Facebook, where Mark Zuckerberg has tried to stand out as a platform of all-comers, stooped to blocking it.
For most conservatives, combatting bias is as natural as breathing -- which makes it all the more frustrating, Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) argues, when you see what hypocrites these companies are. Apple, Google, YouTube, Hollywood, and so many other are willing to do anything to protect their interests in China, even if means condoning a regime of unspeakable horrors. In Beijing, Tim Cook's company -- like so many others -- has gotten a lot of practice at this censorship thing, blacklisting content as well as any member of the country's propaganda machine. Then there's Google, who's so deeply in China's back pocket that they joke it's "The Great Firewall of China."
"[I have wondered]," Buck said, "what values Google and communist red China had in common. I asked myself... is it that the Chinese Communist Party imprisons Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps like [the photos] shown on the chart behind me? Could it be that China forces slaves to work in sweatshops? Maybe they align on the design to suppress free speech in Hong Kong. Did Google agree with [the Chinese Communist Party's] decision to lie to the world about the COVID-19 pandemic? Then I thought about Google's Dragonfly experiment. I wondered if perhaps you agreed with the Chinese government's use of technology platforms to spy on its own people and enforce draconian security laws."
If Google wants to cozy up to China, he argued, they should answer for it. And so should everyone else. "It's our technology that is helping them stay in power," Matt Philbin at the Media Research Center argued, "at the expense of freedom, at the expense of liberty and at the expense of a religious faith. And it's a terrible, moral stain on American and the American market."
Meanwhile, here at home, there's a lot riding on this effort to hold Big Tech accountable -- like the future of our democratic union. These Silicon Valley CEOs are determined to decide our next election. And if we let them, Brent Bozell warns, we may never have another free one.