With Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ announcement of his plan to punish the censorship of political candidates with hefty fines and his call for mandatory opt-outs of content filters within his state, we finally have a Republican with the guts to go right at Big Tech. After years of failure theater orchestrated by Republicans in D.C., DeSantis is showing the GOP how to act like winners. It’s about time we dealt with these monopolies, these unelected private corporations that have decided they will act as the arbiters of American rights.
If you believe, as I do, that the tech monopolies in their current form are one of the gravest threats to the republic, it should stand to reason that you would want any thinking Republican or conservative to follow DeSantis’ lead. Like, say, the other 26 Republican governors across the country. In the 23 states where Republicans have trifectas (governors, state senates, and statehouses), they have no excuse not to pass meaningful legislation that protects the rights of their citizens.
But of course, none of this is a given because I’m still not sure most Republicans in office understand the threat posed by the tech companies. Too many Republicans are hidebound with ideological baggage about “private companies” and their rights to do business as they see fit. I would have hoped the 2020 election meddling—from censorship of the New York Post’s Hunter Biden exposé or Mark Zuckerberg’s Center for Tech and Civic Life’s highly questionable behavior in battleground states—would have been enough to raise awareness of the problem.
The last thing we need these days are leaders who are just going to sit back and watch as Big Tech continues to determine public discourse. We want leaders who value free speech as something more than just an idea written down on an old piece of paper.
It is well past time to make a litmus test for Republicans out of the question of how candidates approach Big Tech. For me, and for others, it’s on the level of “Do you renounce Satan and all his evil works?” To every Republican elected official at the federal, state, and local level: Do you renounce Big Tech and all its evil works? Its censorship, its monopolistic practices, its abuse of speech and the free flow of information?
Before supporting any candidate going forward we need to know where he or she stands. Do you renounce Big Tech censorship and meddling with elections? Will you work to break their power? Will you reject Big Tech cash? It is troubling, but unsurprising, that many in the Republican leadership in D.C. happily accept Google and Facebook money. While it’s hardly surprising that Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Steve Scalise (R-La.) are accepting tech cash, even Freedom Caucus members like Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) (max-out from Google) and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) (Facebook) need to get righteous on this issue.
And this goes beyond elected officials. One of the hindrances to correcting the abuses of Big Tech is that Google and the rest have been buying off so-called conservative organizations to give them cover. A little money here, a little money there from Uncle Google, and organizations like the Heritage Foundation, National Review, AEI, CEI, Americans for Tax Reform, American Conservative Union (organizers of CPAC) suddenly feel the urge to trot out how dangerous it is to remove Section 230 exemptions, and insist we shouldn’t ever meddle with private corporations because “Muh free markets!”
Of course, those organizations have selective principles in these moments. They conflate corporatism with capitalism and forget that free markets don’t work when monopolies dominate a marketplace. But tech cash does seem to give folks a good case of amnesia. So moving forward, people need to be clear-eyed about these politicians and organizations. If they are still seeking and accepting tech cash in these times, they are tech collaborators—you know, like Vichy collaborators—and we should want nothing to do with them.
It’s time for people to start asking very hard questions of Republicans and conservatives on the issue of Big Tech: to be wrong on this issue is more than naïve, it is dangerous. It’s time for Americans to understand that those who get this wrong might be more than just a little dumb. Maybe they aren’t even terribly concerned about your natural rights. It’s time to get righteous on this issue as Ron DeSantis has done—or it’s time to get out of politics.