Following last week’s announcement by the Facebook Oversight Board to maintain the suspension of Donald Trump’s account, Republicans in Congress are turning up the heat on their plan to break up big tech companies and destroy free speech.
Trump spent the entirety of his one-term presidency threatening social media and other big tech companies for questioning his awesomeness — calling for platforms like Facebook and Twitter to be shut down for displeasing him — and he took steps in that direction last year with his Orwellian-sounding executive order entitled, “Preventing Online Censorship” (POC).
Now that Trump is allegedly no longer running the Republican Party — the Liz Cheney saga proves otherwise — Republicans are picking up where Dear Leader left off in the search for ways to punish big tech for their success and create what many are calling a new “Fairness Doctrine” for the internet.
The old Fairness Doctrine controlling radio and TV was so bad that Ronald Reagan ended it in 1987, which resulted in the explosion of talk radio we enjoy today. Makes you wonder what he’d say about creating it again for the internet.
We are only a few months removed from the 2020 shellacking Republicans suffered after four years of Trumpism, and we are already seeing the take down of Big Tech and free speech being adopted by the next batch of Trumpist Republicans ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
In Congress, Republicans are making major moves in the direction of destroying free speech and punishing Big Tech while essentially laying the groundwork for government to seize control of social media and most internet content.
Last month, the aforementioned Josh Hawley introduced legislation to restrict companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google. His Trust-Busting for the Twenty-First Century Act (TBTFCA) is a bill that will make it easier to advance his nationalist conservative agenda — which is just the Republican way of saying Democratic Socialist agenda — in the name of taking down Big Tech.
In a statement explaining TBTFCA that could have been given by Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, Hawley said in part:
“While Big Tech, Big Banks, Big Telecom, and Big Pharma gobbled up more companies and more market share, they gobbled up our freedom and competition. American consumers and workers have paid the price.
“It’s time to bust up them up and restore competition.”
Taking down Big Tech is about to get renewed focus in the House as well, especially if Liz Cheney loses her #3 job within the Republican Party and is replaced by Elise Stefanik, the New York “conservative” Republican who loves the smell of Trump in the morning because . . .
In a display of constitutional ignorance all-too-common in Washington — it’s not unconstitutional — Stefanik took to Twitter last week to blast tech companies after a member of her staff was blocked from Twitter, another company that has banned Trump from its platform.
BIG TECH on the MOVE! Twitter just suspended my Communications Director.
An unconstitutional overreach SILENCING our voices and freedom of speech.
Republicans are united in fighting back against Big Tech’s tyranny.
Millions of Americans will not be silenced!
— Elise Stefanik (@EliseStefanik) May 6, 2021
While it can be argued that social media has been engaged in far-left activity by silencing voices they don’t agree with — I’m currently experiencing that myself — their actions are not an “assault” on the First Amendment and free speech. In reality, the First Amendment protects private entities like social media companies from the very laws Republicans want to pass.
When the Texas Gov. Greg Abbott decided to join his anti-free speech brethren to protect the First Amendment from the “assault by the social media companies,” Senior Editor Robby Soave at Reason.com explained how wrongheaded he and the Republican Party have become:
The First Amendment is not under assault by social media companies. On the contrary, the First Amendment defends the free speech rights of private entities—like social media companies—against restrictive government action, like this bill. It would be more accurate to say that the First Amendment is under assault by the Texas legislature. A private company deciding what kind of speech it allows on its platform is precisely the kind of thing the First Amendment protects from government interference. (emphasis mine)
State legislatures in Florida, Arizona, and Minnesota are moving to curb the power of social media platforms to kick off users or remove content.
But state legislators are having trouble writing legislation that satisfies both grassroots pressure and constitutional requirements. Multiple experts say that the bills as written fly in the face of protections for the speech of private companies. Additionally, the experts say the bills likely run afoul of constitutional clauses that stop states from going against federal law.
The bills have several constitutional problems, experts say. “These proposals almost certainly violate the First Amendment, as there are strong legal precedents that the government cannot force private parties to carry certain speech,” said Jennifer Huddleston of the American Action Forum.
Though very few in number, there are Republicans who understand how these laws violate liberty and the free market principles that defined the party for decades. And while both parties broadly agree some form of regulation is needed to address concerns over big tech, they disagree on what those measures should look like.
In the end, however, taking down Big Tech won’t require a large number of Republicans to succeed. Democrats in both chambers of Congress have also expressed a willingness to destroy free speech by reining in Big Tech. Before DeSantis and Hawley made Big Tech a part of their 2024 presidential platform, Sen. Elizabeth Warren made breaking up tech companies a key part of her 2020 platform during her campaign in the Democrat presidential primaries.
Outside of Washington, there are a small number of free market believers who want free market to sort out the problem without government interference, allowing social media alternatives to be created.
“There is a lot of talk on breaking up big tech, but the political realists realize that there is too much on the line right now to wait for the government to fix the problem,” said Martin Avila, Founder of RightForge, a tech infrastructure company that emphasizes free speech online. “There are already companies starting up to fight big tech despite seemingly impossible odds. The fact that long-time big tech apologists are coming around on breaking up big tech shows you that the tide is turning with every policy maker that isn’t on the big tech dole.” (emphasis mine)
If we are to have any chance at preventing the conservative imposters running the Republican Party from realizing their goal of taking down big tech and destroying free speech, we’ll need to completely reject their collectivist politics — along with their Trumpism and nationalism — and strictly adhere to the Constitution and the foundation laid out by the Founding Fathers.
David Leach is the owner of the Strident Conservative. He holds people of every political stripe accountable for their failure to uphold conservative values, and he promotes those values instead of political parties.