Anti 'Big Tech' Conservatives Join Hands With the Hysterical Left
(Chip Somodevilla/Pool via AP)
Anti 'Big Tech' Conservatives Join Hands With the Hysterical Left
(Chip Somodevilla/Pool via AP)
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To conservatives who want to be back in the saddle, take heart that the cavalry is on the way. But while we’re using horse metaphors: remember to beware Trojans bearing gifts.

Republicans appear likely to take control of the House and quite possibly the Senate in this year’s midterm elections. This will cause many Americans to breathe a sigh of relief thinking that they are safe from President Biden and his Democratic Congressional allies’ assaults on their liberty and prosperity. However, there is one very dangerous economic policy that could pass through a divided House and Senate and be signed into law by President Biden: legislation expanding the use of antitrust and other federal powers to limit the size and scope of companies like Facebook and Google (a.k.a. “big tech”).Unleashing federal prosecutors and bureaucrats on big tech is that rare issue that – at least from the outside – has unified many conservatives and progressives. The two sides contend that big tech companies have become so dominant they are immune from normal market pressure, and that their sweetly named “content moderation” is anti-free speech.

Big tech banning Trump but not groups like the Taliban is obviously a problem. However, progressives and conservatives view the threat posed by content moderation very differently. Conservatives oppose many big tech companies because they have used their power to silence conservativeslibertarians, and those who present facts and opinions questioning any aspect of the progressive, or even just partisan, Democrat agenda.

But many progressives believe big tech is not doing enough to silence what they label “right-wing extremism”; defined as any viewpoint to the right of Chuck Schumer.

Progressives desire for big tech do even more to silence conservatives, and now conservatives are welcoming Democrat politicians’ proposals to increase federal control of big tech the way Trojans react to Greeks offering a free horse. For instance, conservative politicians like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, as well as conservative institutions like the Heritage Foundation are supporting Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s “Online Choice and Innovation Online Act” (S. 2992).

This bill would forbid large tech companies, such as Amazon and Facebook, from charging for certain services  – nothing to do with free speech. However,  Amazon as intended by the left but also  hurting small businesses that have developed a new customer base – and revenue source – via Prime and consumers who could no longer use PRIME to discover new small businesses offering affordable products that meet their needs. 

A similar effect would come from proposals to use antitrust laws to break up big tech – an idea that is popular amongst elements from both parties.  The conservatives who gather at Ohio Senate candidate JD Vance’s rallies, with his encouragement, chant “break them up.” Breaking up the big tech companies into smaller units would not transform them into Elon Musk-like promoters of online free speech zones. What it would do is likely lock in the market share of the large companies – and erode the chance that any of the new start-ups would have at getting investors as the regulatory hurdles are usually out or reach for smaller companies.

Progressives and conservatives may use similar rhetoric regarding the challenges posed by big tech – and while their policy proposals are very similar, their goals are quite different.  

Conservatives seek to restore the promise of the Internet as a forum where all views can be heard and debated while progressives want big tech to increase the number of individual’s de-platformed because of their opinions.

Anti-big tech conservatives should resist the temptation to join progressives in imposing new regulations. More government and more regulation will only empower the progressive politicians and bureaucrats pushing big tech to crack down even harder on conservative speech.

Instead, conservatives should fight to restore a true free-market in technology and fight any effort by politicians and bureaucrats – such as the bureaucrats staffing Biden’s thankfully disbanded (but likely still in the shadows), “Disinformation Board” – from preventing the growth of new, free speech friendly alternatives to the existing big tech companies.

Virtually no one wants to see the Administration take this kind of step. Fighting government overreach is a much better issue than inadvertently helping it. To ignore this opportunity would be like looking a gift horse in the mouth.

Norm Singleton is a senior fellow at the Market Institute. 

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