Ah, no. Can we trust elected officials and regulators to even know how to regulate or restrict the activities of Amazon, Facebook, Google, Instagram (owned by Facebook), Apple, Twitter?
Let’s start with the left’s version of this argument. Critics like former Labor Secretary Robert Reich point out that Big Tech is too big, that Silicon Valley’s vast wealth gives it too much political clout. It’s a complaint that recalls the trust-busters of a hundred years ago.
Yet the threat of government intervention is going to give us more, not less, money in politics. Microsoft went into lobbying overdrive following a 1999 breakup order, and it’s vigilance against government intervention that impels Google to spend $17 million a year on lobbying.
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Now let’s turn to the right’s Big Tech anxieties. What really bothers conservatives is the liberal bias of the social-media giants. Mainstream conservatives have been banned on YouTube and “shadow-banned” on Twitter. Terrible, yes, but the proposed cure would be worse than the disease.
When politicians have taken it upon themselves to promote “balanced” speech, it’s been a disaster for conservatives. Until 1987, the Federal Communication Commission’s fairness doctrine required broadcasters to provide honest and balanced viewpoints, and that’s what kept the Rush Limbaughs off the air. But that’s just what conservatives are now asking for when it comes to Big Tech.
They’re asking the swamp to regulate Big Tech, and not just the swamp but the deepest of swamp-dwellers: Democratic politicians who themselves have tried to silence opponents — as they did when they asked Lois Lerner’s IRS to slow-walk approving tax-exempt status for Tea Party groups. Why would conservatives trust the same crowd to promote free speech online?