On Tuesday, conservative news and commentary websites The Federalist and ZeroHedge were threatened with demonetization for supposedly breaking Google’s “strict publisher policies.” Notwithstanding the fact that Google’s concern was with the websites’ comments sections and not their published content, this action has further dug a deeper hole for Google, its credibility, and the big tech industry. That said, what should be the response? Allow big tech to continue censoring opinions it disagrees with, all in the hopes of satisfying some kind of “free market” dogma, or allow the government to ensure free speech on these massive media platforms?
As conservatives, especially ones operating in an increasingly digital environment, free speech is absolutely necessary. Where will we go when Google prevents our content from showing up in searches? Where will we go when Twitter suspends our accounts and YouTube removes our videos? The fact is that the “public square” has now transitioned online. People discuss political issues not at the proverbial city hall, but in Twitter threads. In 2018, Tucker Carlson proposed this question: “Who holds more power, Google or the federal government?” The obvious answer is Google. Its executives are fewer, less accountable, and likely now more knowledgeable about you than your friends and family.
President Trump was right when he signed his May 28 executive order, “Preventing Online Censorship.” The order concerns Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which was originally intended to protect online platforms from legal action if illegal material mistakenly ends up on their websites. It also protects platforms if they remove content deemed “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable.” The main concern is how companies like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have defined these terms to excuse censoring conservative voices, making them more akin to a “publisher” without legal protections rather than a “platform.” To put it short, the executive order forces the FCC to specifically define the terms listed in Section 230, so that big tech corporations will no longer be able to selectively censor conservatives.
In addition to arbitrarily censoring political opinions, big tech has also been scrutinized for purposely discouraging competition and lobbying mainly for corporate interests. It isn’t surprising, therefore, that aggressive action against big tech is quite popular, even across party lines. A 2019 poll by YouGov and Data for Progress found that more than 60% of Republicans, Democrats, and independents support limiting the control of big tech companies, including 40% of those who consider themselves “very conservative” or “very liberal.”
Big tech is not our friend. It discredits our endorsement of capitalism and the free market and will continue to do so as long as our political leaders, especially mainstay Republicans, stay silent on the matter. Still, we can’t ignore the progress that we’ve already made. Ever since President Trump transformed the Republican Party in 2016, Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, along with Representatives Tom Cotton and Matt Gaetz, have evidently adopted an “America First” message. If conservatives want a winning idea, then putting Americans first, not tech conglomerates, is a start.