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Conservatives Need To Take On Big Tech Now

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File

There is growing and bipartisan alarm among Americans about the bad acts of Big Tech companies. For far too long, Big Tech has gotten away with profiting from human trafficking, revenge-porn, the opioid epidemic and drug addiction, terrorism, and other forms of human misery, while engaging in egregious business practices like snooping, spying, political bias against conservatives, employee abuses, and anticompetitive conduct. 

Big Tech has engaged in this deplorable conduct largelfree from any real oversight from Republicans or Democrats in Washington. That’s not surprisingespecially if you understand the ways of the DC Swamp. Big Tech is feeding chickens” — in the form of political contributionscushy jobs and consulting gigs, and the like — to satiate the out-of-touch Ruling Class of the DC Swamp. Just like Big Tech Obama Democrats, Corporate Republicans take these handouts from liberal Silicon Valley executives, while taking potshots at principled Republicans and Democrats who dare to raise concerns about the Big Tech bullies. The DC Swamp is the only place on the planet where the reptiles lack backbones. 

Fortunately, bold and courageous conservativeand populist progressives are stepping up on behalf of the American people in the fight against Big Tech. This includes new U.S. Senators Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), joining a bipartisan chorus of 51 attorneys general from across the United States. 

We recently launched the Internet Accountability Project (IAP) with the goal of supporting bold, principled leaders who have the courage to stand up to Big Tech’s bad acts, hold them accountable, and give a voice to real Americans — especially grassroots conservatives — throughout the country. 

Since our launch just a few weeks ago, we have already heard from many conservatives across America who have shared their stories of Big Tech censorship and their growing concerns about Big Tech, especially Google, Facebook and Amazontaking more control of their data and eroding privacy rights. 

Enough is enough. It’s time to re-boot Big Tech, upgrade and reform the sweetheart laws that protect them, and enforce the antitrust, consumer protection, and similar laws already on the books. 

Enforce Our Antitrust Laws 

We are pleased that the bipartisan 51 state attorneys general, along with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, recently took the bold and courageous steps of investigating Big Tech under the antitrust laws. As conservatives, we should support law enforcement. A free market requires a functioning market, so we should praise government officials in their efforts to investigate and hold Big Tech accountable. Conservatives should not shy away from these antitrust investigations; we should support vigorous enforcement. After all, antitrust law enforcement is the great American solution to the problem of undue political and market power. Rather than impose regulations on every company in a sector using a regulatory hammer, antitrust law enforcement uses a scalpel and goes after only those companies that are harming markets. As conservatives, we believe that antitrust law enforcement is a better approach to take than heavy-handed regulation. Wnow have a populist Republican back in the White House, making it an opportune time for antitrust law enforcement to return to its roots and for antitrust law enforcers to rein in Big Tech. It is time for today’s Republicans to take on Big Tech using antitrust law enforcement, just like Republican trustbusters like President Teddy Roosevelt did before them. 

Upgrade Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 

Beyond antitrust, conservatives should also look to modernize Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. Section 230 was a well-intentioned piece of legislation back in 1996 when enacted. It was intended to protect Internet start-ups from being wiped out by defamation suits for content posted by users online. The big idea underpinning Section 230 was that the internet would be a thriving marketplace: competition online would be fierce because entry barriers for new websites were very low. In 1996, Congress believed that Section 230 was needed in order to protect nascent Internet companies. Of course, today’s Internet is nothing like the Internet lawmakers envisioned back in 1996 when they passed Section 230 into law. Fast forward to 2019 and instead of robust competition, for many people Google, Facebook, and Amazon are not just websites, they are the Internet. And they are no longer simply online chat rooms; when they censor conservatives, they are publishers of content. They should not be permitted to hold sway over our economy and our political discourse because they are protected from liability for their actions by Section 230. Instead, conservatives should see Section 230 for what it really is: a government subsidy to rich and powerful liberal corporations. Modernizing Section 230 to eliminate this government subsidy and make the platforms more accountable for their actions would be a good step in the right direction for conservatives. 

Personal Data = Personal Property 

Conservatives should also support the idea of data as a property right. Every year, and largely without our understanding, Big Tech makes hundreds of billions of dollars by harvesting our personal data. We are just beginning to comprehend the enormous cost in our loss of privacy for “free” social-media accounts, email addresses, and Internet searches. Creating a robust and interoperable market for data is a free-market solution to Big Tech’s dominance that would compensate and empower consumers, it would also foster marketplace competition and innovation by allowing consumers to decide which services get their business and which services do not. 

What This All Means To Conservatives 

As conservatives, we don’t want to see any economic activity over-regulated. Fundamentally, we’re advocating for the end to the “free ride” Big Tech has enjoyed over the last 25 years. These companies have abused their power and influence over our economyour democracy, and our lives. It is important that conservatives join the movement to protect Americans from Big Tech’s unfettered political power, especially given that these companies have made no secret of their disdain for the president, the conservative movementand the Republican Party, all while bowing to the whims oBeijing. The time is now for principled conservatives to join Senators Hawley and Blackburn and step up for the American people before it is too late. It is time to hold Big Tech accountable for their bad acts.  

Mike Davis is the president of the Internet Accountability Project. He is a former top lawyer at the Senate Judiciary Committee and Department of JusticeDavis also clerked on the Supreme Court for Justice Neil M. Gorsuch. 

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