They may have their own policing, their own spies, currency, and even their own court, but Big Tech isn't a government. And it's certainly not our government. After months of watching Silicon Valley decide what is and isn't speech, what is and isn't science, and who is and isn't welcome in the public square, Republicans have had it. The days of Facebook and Twitter operating like the world's ruling empire are numbered, Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) warns. And the latest high jinks over Donald Trump's account will be one of a million reasons why.
To most people -- including a growing number of liberal news outlets -- the question isn't whether the 45th president should have a social media presence. It's whether companies like Mark Zuckerberg's should be calling the shots on who can participate in the public debate. That's a dangerous proposition, the Washington Post worries, regardless of what you think about Trump. Already, the Atlantic's Adam Serwer points out, the fact that people are paying this much attention to what Facebook and others are doing is a problem in and of itself. "The fact that verdicts from the Supreme Court of Facebook are national news seem real bad." It shows just how much unchecked power they wield.
Power, the real Supreme Court's Clarence Thomas threatens, that must be reined in. And soon. "One person controls Facebook... and just two control Google," the justice observed in an April order. In other words, three people have enough authority to pull anyone from the digital square -- "even a commander-in-chief." If a company, even a private one like Zuckerberg's can shut you down because they disagree with you, we're in frightening new territory as a nation.
"Big Tech apologists argue that private companies are free to censor as they please," the New York Post points out. "And it's true that the First Amendment prohibits only government from silencing viewpoints. But private ownership is never the beginning and end of constitutional analysis, not when there is so much at stake." Thomas, who acknowledged that his court will be forced to weigh in on Big Tech's censorship sooner rather than later, thinks it's time to start lumping social media in with businesses like phone carriers. They also connect people with information, but they're required to serve everyone without discrimination.
And discrimination, Senator Hawley argues, has been the name of the Big Tech game. They've just decided, "We're going to censor and ban however we want to," he said on "Washington Watch." "And then we're just supposed to take it. And I think we've got to get to the point where we say, 'No, we're not going to take it. We're not going to allow companies like this, these Big Tech companies, to have so much power. We're going to break them up."
A lot of comparisons have been made between Big Tech and the robber barons of the 20th Century, when oil and rail tycoons had such an unprecedented monopoly. Hawley thinks this situation is worse. Those big companies, he pointed out, Standard Oil and others, "they didn't have control over news. They didn't have control over speech. They didn't have control over information." They didn't put their fingers on the scales of a presidential election. But they did give us a roadmap, he said for how to move forward. "We know what to do. We did it a century ago."
First, he argued, "We need new legislation that will make it clear that these tech companies cannot gobble up the entire United States economy and put it under their control." Then, Hawley urged, Congress needs to strip away all of the legal immunity that's let them run wild and without accountability for so long. "They shouldn't get that sweetheart deal. If they're going to keep engaging in this behavior, they should be treated like other media platforms, like other platforms in the country, and should have to answer to the same rules that these other platforms do."
The problem, Hawley shook his head, is that Democrats have "fallen in love with Big Tech power." In the past, they would have been the first ones on the anti-trust bandwagon. But now that platforms like Facebook and Twitter are silencing conservatives for the far-Left, they want more. Just this week, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said President Biden thinks more needs to be done to crack down on speech. That's the worst thing anyone who claims to want to unite the country could do.
As Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) put it in his usual colorful language, America can't be controlled by "wokeristas." If you want to be a crazy socialist radical, that's okay, he said. "This is America. You can believe what you want." But no one believes for a second that these social media platforms will regulate or censor Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) like they would Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). "I'm not saying that Facebook's politics are right or wrong. I'm saying they shouldn't have politics. And the only way to get that straight is to regulate them."
To buy a copy of Senator Hawley's new book The Tyranny of Big Tech -- the one Silicon Valley doesn't want you to read -- click here.