The free market will solve the Big Tech problem

Posted 1/14/21

The protests in Washington, D.C., in which a group of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building and forced it to be evacuated, were disturbing to say the least.

As these events unfolded, …

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The free market will solve the Big Tech problem


The protests in Washington, D.C., in which a group of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building and forced it to be evacuated, were disturbing to say the least.

As these events unfolded, social media giants began a purge of anything they claim was inciting the violence. Twitter flagged President Donald Trump’s posts for misinformation, and both Twitter and Facebook banned him. Facebook this week began removing posts containing the phrase “stop the steal.” Apple, Inc. blocked users from downloading the Parler app, and then Amazon Web Services stopped hosting the app, making it unusable. These are just a few examples.

Parler is a non-partisan alternative to Twitter and bills itself as a free speech platform. It became a haven for conservatives seeking alternatives to platforms that are increasingly unwelcoming to those who don’t entirely agree with liberals. Before it was shut down, Parler was one of Apple’s top downloads.

Both Apple and Amazon Web Services say Parler was not doing enough to remove posts inciting violence. Posts in question include statements like, “Who do you think the first Democrat assassination will be” and “time to put all that ammo to use.”

It’s hard to fault companies for not wanting to platform such violent messages. However, when considering how these companies inconsistently apply their standards, it’s hard not to see political biases at work.

The riots that followed the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minnesota police officer resulted in 19 deaths, according to Forbes, not to mention billions of dollars in damages. Yet, when prominent figures used social media to praise and support the violence, the response from Twitter and Facebook was tepid at best.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, who recently praised the offlining of Parler, last summer tweeted to her army of followers that people in “marginalized communities” had “no choice but to riot.” Twitter had no problem with this overt defense of political violence.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who also has millions of Twitter followers, used her account last summer, along with a dozen of Joe Biden’s campaign staffers, to help coordinate donations to a Minnesota crowd-funding effort that paid bail for arrested rioters. The Minnesota Freedom Fund brought in more than $35 million.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, has been the target of violent tweets related to an incident where his neighbor attacked him over a yard dispute. Paul’s wife, Kelly, recently tweeted to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, “Remember how for the last three years you have allowed thousands of hateful tweets celebrating my husband’s assault and encouraging more violence against him? I do.” It’s an excellent question.

Not only did Amazon and Apple come down on Parler in a way it never did for platforms hosting violent content from the left, they did so with a swiftness that left little time for Parler to find other service providers. While there’s no defense for some of the violent posts on Parler, it’s clear they were used as an excuse for a decision that was politically motivated.

Some conservatives have argued these mega-companies have become so large that they are assaulting free speech protections and should be regulated like utilities. But that’s like arguing a book publisher violated your free speech by refusing to publish your book. The First Amendment was meant to protect people from governmental punishment for what they say. It was never intended to force anyone to grant a platform for anyone else’s ideas. 

In the face of such great influence these social media giants have, it’s tempting to use regulatory power to force companies to do what we want, such as unbanning Donald Trump from Twitter and Facebook.

However, imagine if the tables were turned. Conservatives would be mortified if a conservative platform was forced by the government to host Joe Biden’s messages, simply because the site became enormously popular.

Regulation is always a double-edged sword, because the power used against companies you don’t like today can be used against companies you do like tomorrow.

The social media giants’ push to be the arbitrators of what we can and can’t say is an amazing opportunity for entrepreneurs to establish and host platforms that welcome a free exchange of ideas unfettered by leftist censors. Many are pursuing that noble goal and profiting from it. Parler is not the only platform available. The alternatives include Signal, MeWe, CloutHub, and YouTube alternative Vimeo, among so many others, which are not surprisingly soaring in popularity as of late.

Rather than having big government coerce Big Tech into running their platforms a certain way, let’s allow consumers and the free market to send the message.