Big tech censorship is growing—here are the 4 solutions you haven’t read about yet
Scrolling through Twitter in recent weeks, I’ve found it hard to go ten tweets without seeing some disgruntled user plug their Parler username—usually partnered with some variation of the words: “Add me on here, I’m done with Twitter.”
Conservatives have been fleeing the site for months as the social network cracks down on people posting right-of-center beliefs—especially if it’s about legitimate election fraud—but the exodus is reaching record speed. Parler frequently takes the title of “Most Downloaded App on the Apple App Store.”
“It’s not a battle for liberal speech. It’s only a battle for conservative speech,” Dan Gainor of TechWatch, a big tech watchdog publication run by Newsbusters, said. “There is actually no movement afoot to restrict liberal speech.”
President Donald Trump’s tweets almost always receive a flag or fact-check and prominent news outlets are being slapped with week-long bans for posting factual stories. Conservatives are done with Twitter—but there must be real solutions to fight discrimination by big tech outside of running from the problem.
Soon candidates on the right won’t have access to the most vital forms of communication and conservatives will lose elections.
There is still hope, however, and the following four options are the tools to win this fight so speech can once again be protected and free to all—even on Twitter.
1. Strip Big Tech of Section 230 Protections
This is certainly the most discussed solution today, and that is because it’s an essential starting point to curb bias. President Trump made headlines when he threatened to veto the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act unless it repealed Section 230.
Section 230 is a small portion of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA)—an act passed with the purpose of preventing minors from accessing sexually explicit materials on the Internet. The CDA itself was an addition to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which sought to expand competitiveness in this groundbreaking internet market. The CDA was added on as an amendment—Title V—months later and thus Section 230 became law.
The Section dictates that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” In other words, tech companies are not publishers and cannot be held legally responsible for the content posted to their platforms by users.
It also allows big tech companies to remove and block content it deems to be “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.” The law’s only boundaries are that removal of speech be done in “good faith.”
Intended to allow internet companies to block harmful content and to avoid consequences for content put out by their users, this section has since been hijacked to pave the consequence-free way for big tech to shadow-ban, silence, and squash conservative thought.
Representative and House Judiciary Committee member Matt Gaetz (FL-01) has positioned himself on the frontlines of the fight against big tech discrimination and for the repealment of Section 230.
“Right now, technology companies enjoy special immunities that even local newspapers, even your television network doesn’t enjoy in terms of their responsibility for content,” Gaetz said in an email.
Section 230 pertains to “interactive computer services,” which is defined as “any information service, system, or access software provider that provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server.” Meaning this privilege only applies to big tech companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Google. It’s a special treat for social media platforms and no one else.
Representative Ken Buck (CO-04) is a member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law along with Gaetz and recently published a report titled “The Third Way” in which he spells out his solutions to big tech bias.
“Section 230 protects big tech in ways, at least it’s been interpreted to protect them in ways that allow them to discriminate,” Buck said. “Their bias shows in the algorithm they have created.”
Gaetz and Buck argue that these companies are not acting in good faith and thus should have these protections revoked.
“[Big tech companies] enjoy those protections because they hold themselves out to be unbiased and neutral platforms,” Gaetz said. “But if they aren’t willing to demonstrate they, in fact, are unbiased and neutral, I think we should repeal that section of law.”
With the protections gone, these companies can be held responsible for their blatant biased behavior against ring-wing users.
Repealing 230, however, comes with difficulties and Buck notes that “it’s not the best alternative.”
Holding big tech companies responsible for acting outside the bounds of what an actual fair and neutral platform would do is beneficial. But accidentally squashing those big tech company’s competitors is also a possibility—and would make the problem worse.
Opponents to repealment of Section 230 argue that the sole thing protecting alternatives to big tech companies—like Parler and Rumble (Twitter and Youtube’s biggest competitors)—is this very section itself. Without its protections, sites like Yelp could be sued for a user leaving a bad review, argues former Congressman Rick Santorum in a National Review piece this month. And while a massive multi-billion dollar cooperation could fight frivolous lawsuits, a small startup could not.
“You don’t want lawsuits against a company when they don’t control the content of what is being put on their site,” Buck said. “We need to create in Section 230 a protection that smaller startups can use moving forward.”
Like most issues in politics, the repealment of Section 230 is complicated. Twitter is no longer a neutral platform and clearly acts against conservatives so it should not have the special privileges found in the section. But frivolous lawsuits could crush any free market solution to these tech giants.
“We could make it clear what 230 covers and what it doesn’t cover,” Buck proposed. Any such reform, however, could be hard to enact if the very elected officials tasked with this are receiving donations from the violators.
2. Prevent Members of Congress from Accepting Big Tech Campaign Donations
Reform will have to come from senators and representatives with bills and acts. This is difficult in our current political climate because these elected officials are eagerly accepting donations from these companies.
“Congress is not going to rein in Big Tech, because Congress is bought by Big Tech. That’s why I refuse to accept any PAC donation from any special interest group,” Gaetz said. “We need more members in Congress who are willing to stand up to Big Tech and stop taking their PAC donations.”
In the 2020 election alone, Google’s parent company Alphabet gifted out $21 million, Microsoft $17 million, and Facebook $6 million. The vast majority of this green paper went to the Biden campaign through individuals and PACs. These tech giants have forced Biden and other Democrats to be beholden to their anti-free speech activism. Also, for reference, here is what abysmal percentage of those massive donations went to Republicans, in order of above listing: 7%, 14%, and 10%.
“Our democracy should be powered by the people of our country, not by a few Silicon Valley monopolies,” Gaetz argued. “There are just simply too many members of the House and Senate who are beholden to Big Tech either because of political donations or because their family members are getting employed by Big Tech.”
Campaign reform is heavily discussed but barely acted upon for obvious reasons but “until that happens, Congress will not do anything about major tech platforms’ censorship,” Gaetz warned.
But even if the government does decide to take action, there will not be enough resources in the necessary agencies to effectively respond.
3. Increase Funding to Antitrust Agencies
Action against big tech will take place in antitrust agencies in the federal government. Specifically the Federal Trade Commision and the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division, which are the main enforcers of the antitrust laws in the United States.
In 1890, Congress passed the Sherman Act, which was the first antitrust law in the country. Serving as a “comprehensive charter of economic liberty aimed at preserving free and unfettered competition as the rule of trade,” the act laid the groundwork for fighting monopolies in the economy. Two more acts followed: the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Clayton Act. These three acts are the main antitrust laws in the nation.
These laws are violated by big tech with their monopolistic status but the enforcers can’t act on it because the funds are too low.
The American government invests $510 million into its antitrust agencies, compared to the big tech sector which accounts for $2 trillion—or nearly 10 percent of the US gross domestic product.
Congressman Buck has been a strong advocate of increasing the funding to these agencies—he put out a publication calling for this as the main solution to big tech bias.
“Congress has failed in its role. We have not given the tools to the FTC and Antitrust Division to do their job and we have not updated the law to cover big tech,” Buck said. “In order to level the playing field, the FTC and Antitrust Division need more resources.”
Aside from the clear need for more funding, the antitrust agencies need to begin to heavily enforce the laws being violated by Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and others.
“The Obama Administration’s weak enforcement of antitrust laws allowed big tech companies to achieve near-monopoly status,” Gaetz said. “They have used their vast size to harm competition and consumers. Antitrust issues affect all Americans, and we should work across the aisle to address them.”
Gaetz had demanded Attorney General Barr do more to enforce the antitrust laws in the country before his departure from the DOJ.
“The Department of Justice is not doing enough today to enforce antitrust laws,” said Gaetz, in an interview last month. “Bill Barr needs to be doing more to enforce antitrust laws in litigation in actions against the companies that utilize their market power to redefine the nature of speech in this country.”
Buck said he would not put the burden on Barr since he has been in office for a short time, but agrees the DOJ as a whole has lacked in enforcement.
“The Department of Justice over time should have been more involved,” Buck said. “The government has failed to adequately oversee this area for the last ten years.”
Like violent neighborhoods receive more funding for police officers and said officers are given the power to enforce the law, so should the big tech threat be met with adequately funded antitrust agencies with the ability to actually enforce the anti-monopoly laws on the books since the late 1800s.
4. Focus on Appointments to the FEC and FCC Boards
Another avenue to fight the bias is by ensuring selections made for the Federal Election Commission and Federal Communications Commission are people who understand this issue and are willing to fight it.
“Big Tech bias is election interference. Their bias is also a violation of our communication standards and they’re not bound to certain liabilities under the Communications Decency Act,” Gaetz said. “There should be a significant focus on appointments to the FCC and to the FEC with people who understand this concept.”
Since the bias is affecting sectors that these two boards oversee, action should be taken by them—especially since Congress is so ineffective.
“The House of Representatives and the Senate are not going to take on Big Tech; we need a direct focus on appointments to these boards,” Gaetz said. “A second term of President Trump would be crucial in this fight because a lot of these boards have staggered terms, and I am confident in the Trump Administration taking bold executive action to vindicate our free speech rights.”
Appointing ethical, informed, and brave Americans to these boards would increase the chances action would be taken against the big tech monopolies as they interfere in elections and the communications of the country.
Whichever solution is utilized, the fight against big tech bias must be on top of every elected official’s list—for the sake of free speech and the ability to ever win an election again.
“To put America first and to put the American people first,” Gaetz said, “we need to ask not what our country can do for our tech companies but what our tech companies can do for our country.”
You can follow Ben Wilson on Twitter @BenDavisWilson