Why I Sympathize with Big Tech
The rise of Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other social media bases have provided ordinary Americans with the chance to easily communicate, quickly perform everyday tasks, and conduct international business. I am writing this article on Google Documents, a testament to the opportunities that these platforms provide can give. A big concern, though, is how the political climate could potentially bring an end to the success that these technological platforms have brought us.
The recent moves against “Big Tech” have been from both sides of the political aisle. For ages, Democrats and Republicans have been unable to agree on almost anything except attacking Big Tech.Both sides use their platforms against Big Tech as a guaranteed strategy to curry favor with Americans who are increasingly distrustful of the services, they use to communicate every day, both personally and professionally.
According to CNN, “State attorneys general are warning Silicon Valley's biggest companies they are also planning to get in on the tech crackdown." The article continues stating, "Fines are not enough to rein in companies such as Google and Facebook, according to the top law enforcement officials of Louisiana, Nebraska and Tennessee, at a conference Wednesday in Omaha, Nebraska."
Let’s be clear, there are real problems with how some social media companies have been operating in recent years. One of the most impactful issues was Facebook’s failure to tackle interference from the Government of the Russian Federation in the 2016 American Presidential Election. A report from the Guardianstated, “Facebook believes 120 fake Russian-backed pages created 80,000 posts that were received by 29 million Americans directly, but reached a much bigger audience by users sharing, liking and following the posts.”
Further, in 2018 the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. It was revealed that 50 million Facebook users had their data used for political purposes without their consent, which revealed the inner workings of how certain political campaigns were effective on the social media site as they were the beneficiaries of the data provided. However, with possible investigations by the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, the House Judiciary Committee, and now the States themselves - one cannot help but feel that Big Tech, while not being perfect, is being attacked…. Why are they being attacked?
Social media companies, for example, are operating in a lose – lose scenario.Take down or silence one "offensive" post and conservatives scream censorship. The Washington Postreported that "Republicans led by Sen. Ted Cruz on Wednesday pilloried Facebook, Google and Twitter over allegations they censor conservative users and content online, threatening federal regulation in response to claims that Democrats long have described as a hoax and a distraction." It continues stating, “The tensions played out over more than three hours ata Senate hearingwhere Cruz, the leader of the Judiciary Committee’s constitution-focused panel, pointed to reports that he said showed a “consistent pattern of political bias and censorship on the part of big tech.”
If companies don't censor the content on the social media, liberals will try to frame it as if you actively support and promote the original posters political beliefs. On Twitter, one of the primary complaints has been that it is a breeding ground for far-right activity and conspiracy theorists. The executive summary of a report by Voxexpressed, “In addition to prominent Trump supporters, many of the most influential accounts in the network promoted conspiracy theories. For the most part, conspiracy content was marbled into the network, serving to support one of the themes identified above, rather than existing as an independent theme.” This could refer to the now-banned Alex Jones, host of InfoWars who actively promoted a conspiracy theory about the Sandy Hook shooting in 2011, the result of which has been successful legal action by the families of the young victims against Jones. Then, there's the elephant in the room, Elizabeth Warren, self-proclaimed warrior against the elites and especially big tech. She proposes breaking up big tech, a proposal which is gaining ground in some quarters despite its many flaws even on first glance.
While they might be underregulated at this moment, there is a risk of over-regulation which would prevent the minds of Silicon Valley from improving our lives even further. It is not a major risk but it is one that Americans should be concerned about - no matter how far they go, I suspect those who wish to bash big tech for political gain will attack it no matter what action is taken and continue to push for ever greater regulation.
It is important to stress that Big Tech is not the boogeyman which some politicians claim it is and there is no reason that a big company is bad in nature just by being a big business. Every company and case of alleged abuse of their power should be taken on a case to case basis and overgeneralizations of any sector, particularly one of such economic importance to the United States is irresponsible and opportunistic to the core. My advice: let the clearer heads prevail and if any regulation has to be done, it has to be limited and proportionate to the abuse in question.