The Fight Against Big Tech - A Plan for Action

Posted: Jan 17, 2021 12:01 AM
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
The Fight Against Big Tech - A Plan for Action

Source: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Anger against big tech reached a tipping point during the 2020 Election, as conservative ideas were censored and stories critical of Democrats suppressed. With the ongoing purge of social media accounts, corporations are enforcing a free speech restriction that terrifies not only conservatives but free speech advocates across the political spectrum. The question now is how do we translate anger into tangible actions that will bring about change?  

To fight big tech over the long-term, we need a comprehensive strategy that marshals the resources of investors and entrepreneurs, donors, elected officials and policy experts. Business leaders can foster an entrepreneurial ecosystem that is friendly to conservatives and individuals who want politics out of their workplace culture. Entrepreneurs in artificial intelligence, robotics, and biotechnology, among others, are already building companies that are future market leaders. Investors can assist nascent startups with becoming the next big thing in the tech industry while shaping company culture from the start.  Congress, scholars, and writers also have a role to play by ensuring a regulatory environment that is friendly to the startup community and by creating policy solutions to the challenges and opportunities from emerging technologies. Google, Twitter and Facebook might be too far gone down the proverbial progressive rabbit hole, but that does not mean the next generation has to follow.

Imagine venture capital funding with the caveat that workplace cultures must be intellectually diverse and eschew the racial and gender quotas that NASDAQ and others are proposing. Startup cultures begin the day a company is formed. As companies grow, tendencies and informal practices become the norm, and then solidified in HR policies that make it difficult if not impossible for employees to challenge without risking termination. Investors can influence these cultures from the start. Additionally, investments can be made in social-impact startups that are seeking a positive social-economic outcome. There is an abundance of fintech startups that are working to assist people out of poverty with the help of technology. The same entrepreneurial spirit can help improve public housing or assist people suffering through the opioid crisis. While these issues will always be part of public policy discussions, the private sector has a role as well. 

How would such a strategy even begin? Start by building a formal network of software engineers, venture capitalists and technology focused MBA students who reject progressive ideology. In 1982 the Federalist Society was formed to push back against the liberal ideology that dominated the legal profession. Create a similar network for conservatives in the tech industry. Incubators, pitch days and other tech forums need to be created and promoted by investors and donors that have financial means to turn ideas into reality. The network can assist its members in their career and call attention to bias practices of corporations promoting progressive policies among staff members and the public. Attorneys can assist workers who need legal assistance when they protest progressive bullying, such as mandatory trainings in critical race theory. The network can be a force in the private sector pushing back against the dominant left-wing culture of tech companies. 

The typical Silicon Valley entrepreneur is not known for being a Republican voter, but that does not mean lawmakers should not make themselves friends with the startup community. Disruptive startups often encounter regulations that require expensive attorneys and outdated regulations created decades ago. These firms lack lobbyist and the influence of bigger companies. Republican politicians should meet with the founders and CEOs in their respective congressional districts to better understand the regulations that often prevent startups from succeeding. As I have written previously, financial technology firms encounter regulations that were created for a pre-digital age. Working to remove the barriers to success will help smaller firms disrupt the status quo and foster a better relationship between tech entrepreneurs and the Republican Party. Elected Republicans should champion startups looking to disrupt the Facebooks, Twitters and Googles of the world. Rolling back regulations can be leveraged to improve relationships with small companies that have potential to scale into industry leaders.  

Underpinning these efforts must be a philosophy and policy prescriptions from scholars who research how technology is influencing society. The establishment center-right think tanks, such as the American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation and the Manhattan Institute certainly have scholars studying these issues, but they number far smaller compared to policy experts in national security, society and economics. The problem with this balance is that artificial intelligence, biotech, and blockchain are no longer just components of national security, healthcare and the economy, as they were a few years ago. They are now the driving force that will have a direct impact on how Americans experience their lives. A critique of the Trump administration is that there were no briefing books or government officials in waiting ready to implement a policy agenda for a populist president. The Republican Party faces the same challenge now, in 2020, about technology. We need a governing agenda that can be communicated to the public in understandable terms and then implemented by elected officials and appointees. 

The confluence of wealth, technology and raw power among big tech leaders is unique in our history, perhaps comparable to the industry titans of the late 19th century. The conservative movement cannot be passive confronting big tech and the challenges posed by emerging technology. A broad coalition must work across domains to challenge the status quo. We need a new, tech savvy network to disrupt the current industry titans, old hands to guide new companies, experts to develop policy proposals that are understandable to the public, and competent elected officials to implement the agenda. Just as technology now affects every aspect of our lives, so too must technology be part of every public policy discussion. Conservatives cannot sit idly by hoping the nature of the market corrects the biases of those in power. Working in concert, conservatives can build structures to change the future of the tech industry, and in so doing, change America’s future for the better.  

Recommended Townhall Video