Thomas Gallatin / July 30, 2020

GOP, Dems Attack Big Tech, but With Differing Agendas

Republicans decry censorship, while Democrats are all about greater power for Big Government.

The four CEOs of the nation’s largest Big Tech companies appeared Wednesday before the House Judiciary Subcommittee via virtual means due to the ongoing coronavirus social-distancing policies on Capital Hill. It quickly became evident, as we noted yesterday, that both Democrats and Republicans share a highly critical view of Big Tech — but not for the same reasons.

Republicans’ beef with Big Tech focuses primarily upon social media censorship by clearly leftist-biased companies. Conservatives have repeatedly observed their content subject to constantly changing standards that only ever move in the direction of increased censorship of free speech.

Florida Republican Matt Gaetz hit Big Tech companies over their all-too-cozy relationship with China. (Heck, in the hearing, Apple’s Tim Cook even praised Chinese tech giant Huawei, which is infamous for espionage.) “It’s not that they are just working with China,” Gaetz said. “They are trying to turn our country into China. Google, in particular, is the most dangerous election interference organization in the world.” He further noted, “The Department of Justice should go and investigate these major tech platforms and prove that they are not biased. We’ve got enough smoke. There’s definitely fire.”

On the other hand, the Democrats’ problem with Big Tech stems not from increasing censorship (Democrats want more of that) or business ties with communist China. Instead, their problem centers on the fact that these corporations are big, non-unionized, capitalist companies. Democrats like Rhode Island’s David Cicilline assert that Amazon in particular is “killing the small businesses, manufacturing, and overall dynamism that are the engines of the American economy.”

Yet as The Wall Street Journal editorial board points out, “All four face ferocious competition, often from each other. Amazon is supposedly an unbeatable leviathan in retail. But the company has only about a 1% share of the overall global retail business and less than 4% in the U.S. Walmart is bigger and its online business is growing fast. In cloud computing services, Amazon faces competition from Microsoft, Google, Alibaba and more. Apple’s iTunes must contend with Spotify and Amazon Prime.” In fact, Amazon is a major online platform for over a million and a half small businesses, and without it many would likely have folded due to COVID-19 shutdowns.

The real issue for Democrats is a desire for greater government control over Big Tech. Specifically regarding social media, the Dems’ gripe is not that people’s free speech is being censored but that Big Tech is not doing enough to control the information people can access. As the mainstream media falls further and further behind social media as the primary source of news and information for Americans, Democrats worry that, without filtering the information people have access to, their ability to control the political and cultural narratives will be severely diminished — despite the fact that these social media companies are dominated by leftists.

Democrats are doing two things: issuing a warning to press these companies to continue suppressing conservative speech and placating their own increasingly anti-capitalist base.

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