October 16, 2020
Big Tech really stepped in it this week.
I get the feeling that they at last realize that they are in trouble; I don’t think they yet realize how serious that trouble really is.
On the one hand, it’s possible to sympathize with companies like Facebook and Twitter, who have had to deal with their executives being frog marched in front of congressional committees for having the temerity to have built a social media ecosystem where center-right articles can be shared and disseminated.
Liberals really hate this and have engaged in a yearslong bullying campaign targeting the social media giants, as well as their advertisers. The message has been clear: Suppress right-wing viewpoints or we will make you feel pain. Their stated purpose is to make sure that the social media giants are not helping to spread “false information,” which of course to them means any viewpoint they don’t agree with.
On the other hand, the social media giants should have realized long ago that nothing they could possibly do would be enough to placate the liberal mob, short of outright banning all center-right publications. Until the world reverts to the way it was prior to the internet, when the flow of all information was gatekept by legacy media outlets that were 90% staffed with Democrats, they will never relent.
Their bumbling reaction to the explosive New York Post story about Hunter Biden was likely, to them, just another step down the road of placating that mob by showing that they are super serious about stopping the spread of “disinformation.” I am sure it didn’t hurt that an overwhelming majority of their employees are Democrats, either.
Left-wing pressure, plus ideological blinders, plus overconfidence in an eventual Joe Biden victory equals a situation where Facebook, in a moment of truly extraordinary arrogance, sent a spokesman to Twitter to declare that the Post’s story would be throttled even before a fact-checker had looked at it. The spokesman didn’t even bother to remove his work history — which consisted almost entirely of working for organizations dedicated to helping Democrats win election — from his Twitter bio.
I am sure that Facebook and Twitter probably want nothing more than to be left alone, free from constant government oversight and meddling in their jobs. What they seem to not realize is that there’s exactly one group of people who has been fighting for that result: The free-market libertarians who are increasingly politically homeless but still to some degree remain in an uneasy alliance with the Republican Party.
Those people have been waging a fierce fight for the proposition that tech companies should be able to do with their platform as they wish, since they built it. Further, they have argued that allowing the government to meddle in the content moderation policies of the social media companies will inevitably backfire when and if Democrats control the government.
The tech companies’ actions this week have made that fight an impossible one to win. Anger at the haughtiness and patent unfairness of the social media companies among folks on the right was already near a boiling point, and the New York Post debacle has pushed the temperature past the tipping point.
I can say with almost complete certainty now that the Josh Hawleys of the world are going to decisively win this fight within the Republican Party, free market principles be damned. After this week, there will no longer be a meaningful part of any major political party that stands up for the right of Twitter and Facebook to run their companies as they see fit.
The government, being the government, cannot be trusted to manage the tech companies fairly. If human history teaches us anything, it is that the day the government injects itself into the moderation policies of the Big Tech companies, those companies will promptly become de facto government censors for the political party that is then in power.
The tech companies might not be scared of that result just yet. After all, in their minds, the government is probably going to be almost completely run by Democrats in three months’ time anyway. And they might well be right about that.
What they fail to realize, because they are poor students of history, is that control of power in the United States is and always will be cyclical. No matter how firmly one of the major political parties grasps power, they always eventually lose it. The GOP looked like it was headed for perpetual electoral domination after the Civil War, and they were wrong. The Democrats looked like they were headed for perpetual electoral domination after the Great Depression, and they were also wrong. As recently as 2008, Democratic strategists confidently predicted that demographic trends spelled an ever-shrinking minority for the GOP, only to watch their party get trucked in the 2010 and 2014 midterms, as well as the 2016 presidential election.
Neither party, quite frankly, is capable of being responsible with too much power. Even if Democrats take control of the White House and both chambers of Congress in November, as they are currently favored to do, it is inevitable that they will overreach. Probably, this will happen sooner rather than later. Their voting base practically demands it. And when that happens, American voters will put Republicans back in power.
On that day, employees of Facebook and Twitter will wake up and discover, to their horror, that it’s no longer Democratic bureaucrats who are watching over them and helping them to determine what is allowed on their platforms, but Republican bureaucrats. And they will wail and scream at the unfairness of it all, and how they are being forced to act as mouthpieces for the Republican Party.
And they will have no one but themselves to blame.