Some friends on the Right are angry about Google’s opaque efforts to block prominent conservative personalities and think tanks from the search engine and the company’s advertising program. Their anger is understandable, but why is anyone surprised? Despite a short-lived and undeserved reputation for libertarianism, the tech industry has always leaned left. Today, Silicon Valley is evangelically liberal and very rich—a nasty combination.
A move toward a kind of left-wing, techno-totalitarianism was predictable—and predicted.
Why else do you think Google happily made common cause with the most totalitarian state in the world, the People’s Republic of China, while at the same time repressing American conservative groups and individuals?
Don’t forget that the Department of Defense, in dire need of support from American tech firms, last year offered a $10 billion contract to whichever American tech firm could build the Pentagon’s cloud computing system. Google was among one of the top bidders. Google would have been a natural fit for the project, since the tech giant is a pioneer in cloud computing. But, following a protest from some employees about helping America’s “war machine,” Google took itself out of contention. Amazon remains a competitive bidder, but the fact that Google abandoned the project not because it might damage their financial interests, but instead out of ideological opposition to the U.S. military, is—to say the least—disturbing.
This occurred, incidentally, as Google was moving its artificial intelligence research arm into China. Undoubtedly, the move to China will help Google’s bottom line. After all, China is a massive untapped market and it is rapidly growing into the world’s most dynamic technology innovation hub. But everyone knows that China has a pernicious state capitalist system. Therefore, any American firm doing business in China will be required to share proprietary data with Chinese state-owned enterprises.
Even if Google desires to keep their artificial intelligence research confined to the civilian realm, they will be unable to keep it that way for long. Inevitably, Chinese entities will get their hands on Google’s research and reproduce it indigenously—and not merely for civilian consumption. In effect, the next generation of advanced Chinese weapons might be run by an artificial intelligence that Google helped to develop, even as they refused to do business with the U.S. military.
While this occurs, Google creates algorithms meant to stymie the free speech of conservative Americans. Many Google employees believe we Rightists are racists, fascists, bigots, war mongers, and homophobes. They hate those of us on the Right for the same reason they refuse to do business with the U.S. military (missing, apparently, the fact that today’s military is increasingly Left-leaning itself). We embody the America of their fathers and grandfathers; we symbolize the America they hate. It also happens to be the America that the Chinese Communist Party despises. So that’s two things they have in common.
Rightists should stop being outraged that their free speech is being infringed upon by a corporation that routinely collects and sells the personal data of its users to the highest bidder, refuses to work with the “warmongering” Pentagon, and gladly jumps into bed with the Chinese Communist Party. Instead, we should support calls to better regulate Google and other tech firms, so that they cannot act with as much impunity as they have done.
Meanwhile, conservatives should drop their obsession with Ayn Rand for a moment and recognize that the U.S. government needs more power to prevent American tech firms from doing business with China.
In that regard, the powers of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) should be greatly expanded. This group is the best way to complicate Google’s (and other corporations’) attempts to sell us out to China. According to the United States Treasury Department, “CFIUS is an interagency committee authorized to review certain transactions involving foreign investment in the United States (‘covered transactions’), in order to determine the effect of such transactions on the national security of the United States.” If a foreign trade is determined to be a national security threat, then CFIUS can block that trade. This happened several years ago when Fairchild Semiconductor was forced to reject an acquisition offer from a Chinese firm. CFIUS blocked the deal out of fear that China would be able to corner the all-important semiconductor industry. CFIUS needs more robust powers, though, to fully defend against Chinese attempts to gain access to critical American technology through trade.
Also, the Pentagon should increase its understanding of the threat that unfettered free trade between U.S. tech companies and China poses to our country.
Few may realize it, but our leaders are woefully uninformed about the extent and nature of the threat that doing trade with China poses the United States, especially in the high-tech sector. This is partly because the private sector and public sector are both terrible about sharing information with each other. This is also because the incentives for American businesses to deal with China are fundamentally different from the incentives for America’s defense establishment to stunt trade with China.
The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) was a great first step toward bridging this knowledge gap. Established in 2015 by the Department of Defense, the DIU is headquartered in Mountain View, California with offices in Boston and Austin (two other major tech corridors in the United States). Currently, the group is focused on providing funds to tech companies that assist the Department of Defense in resolving critical national security issues. It is staffed by a who’s-who compendium of tech sector notables, academics, military officials, and hedge fund types who specialize in funding technology firms.
Yet, it is not enough.
A greater synthesis between the national security sector, the business community, academia, and the political leadership of the United States is needed if we truly and effectively want to prevent American tech firms from building the weapons of tomorrow for China to use against us today. The goal should be to create a comprehensive capability that can protect vital intellectual property and punish corporations acting against America’s best interests. DIU would complement an expanded CFIUS—as well as a stricter regulatory policy for U.S. tech firms—by providing key insights and intelligence to policymakers charged with oversight of the tech sector.
The time for outrage over Google’s transgressions against the American people has long passed. We on the Right have an ally in the White House with a skeptical view both of the tech industry and China’s intentions. What’s more, President Trump is more willing than his predecessors to make corporations pay for their actions when they harm America.
Rightists everywhere would do well to use this to their advantage. The administration has an opportunity to rein in Google and other tech giants that, left to their own devices, would sell out this country, trample our God-given freedom of speech, and empower the Chinese Communist Party. Time is of the essence.
Photo credit: JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images
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