Google doesn’t want Donald Trump’s social media platform to use its services. The tech giant told the Trump-backed Truth Social last month that it violates its “standards” and it can’t be distributed through its Play Store. Google claims it’s willing to allow Truth Social on its distribution platform, but the Twitter alternative has to censor far more of its content. If Truth Social fails to obey Google’s dictates, it will be blocked from 44 percent of the American smartphone market, and over 70 percent of the global market. Apple, which controls the rest of the market, has also censored conservative apps such as Parler.
This illustrates the evil of Google. Its dominance over the tech market empowers it to tell conservatives what to think and say. It can enforce its will through its monopoly, and conservatives will lose their ability to reach a large audience if they don’t toe the line.
This abuse of monopoly power explains why a growing number of Republicans and conservative commentators support new antitrust legislation to bring tech behemoths to heel. Unfortunately the proposal they put forward would not solve the problem at all. It would continue to allow Big Tech to censor conservatives as much as they please.
Several congressional Republicans back two new antitrust bills–the American Choice and Innovation Online Act (ACIOA) and the Open App Market Act, which claim to require tech companies to allow competitors to have equal access to their platforms. The bills have the support of U.S. Representative Ken Buck (R-Colo.) and Senators Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), among others. The majority of its sponsors are Democrats, however—many of them vocal advocates of censorship. Why would Democrats support a bill that would combat Big Tech censorship?
Because the bills don’t solve the problem. These proposals are only meant to protect these businesses—not individual users. Platforms would be encouraged to prohibit or suppress content to “protect safety, user privacy, [and] the security of non-public data.” It’s well documented how tech giants appeal to a dubious notion of “safety” to censor. Donald Trump was banished for allegedly threatening public safety. Spotify was harassed to take Joe Rogan off the air for threatening public safety after he questioned COVID orthodoxy. The Christian parody site Babylon Bee is frequently censored over its satirical articles violating Big Tech’s suspicious safety standards. The FBI essentially ordered Facebook suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story in 2020, under the guise of protecting public safety.
We can’t trust tech executives or liberal bureaucrats to “protect safety.” To them, conservatism itself is a threat to safety. Attorney Noah Peters, who has also worked on major free speech cases against Big Tech and successfully represented a conservative Google whistleblower, is skeptical of the bills. “We can readily foresee how Big Tech companies will interpret this language. Virtually every Big Tech platform has a ‘trust and safety’ or ‘safety’ section in their Terms of Service, including rules against so-called hate speech, extremism, and misinformation,” he wrote in the American Conservative earlier this year.
The best argument against these bills may come from liberal supporters. The Center for American Progress endorsed the ACIOA and the Open App Markets Act because they would not hinder censorship. The Left specifically cites the bills’ safety exceptions as proof that tech platforms will still be allowed to silence voices they disagree with.
This is not to say that we should embrace laissez-faire and trust the markets to solve the problem. That clearly isn’t going to work. It would be far smarter for conservatives to look at other solutions that specifically deal with the issues of political discrimination and censorship. Heterodox liberal Glenn Greenwald notes that existing antitrust law helps out free speech platforms like Rumble against the abuses of Google. Rumble is currently pursuing litigation against the tech giant and is having success with its endeavor.
Another serious alternative is Texas’ anti-censorship law. The bill prevents tech platforms from removing or suppressing content based on the political viewpoint of the user. Lower courts allowed the bill to be enforced before the Supreme Court temporarily halted its enactment, though there is still a good chance it will be upheld. Rather than allowing bureaucrats to censor free speech, the bill makes tech giants respect free speech.
Tech censorship is a critical issue that tests our nation’s values. Freedom of speech is meaningless if Big Tech gets the final word on what views are to be allowed to be spoken. Democrat-backed antitrust bills, however, are not a solution to the problem. They would only ensure censorship backed by government authority. Republicans should oppose them for that reason alone.