It is time for the politicians to break up these companies. This is the right approach. Conservatives should address the censorship crisis in social media with more speech, not with socialism.
Why Does Ted Cruz Buy Into Klobuchar’s Socialist Bill?
By ROBERT H. BORK JR.
February 11, 2022 6:30 AM
Conservatives should address the censorship crisis in social media with more speech, not less.
NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE
Ted Cruz doesn’t shrink from invoking the “s” word, inveighing against socialism at every chance he gets. The Texas senator often dissects progressive bills to reveal heavy-handed government policies hidden behind deceptively innocuous names. He passionately decries the humanitarian and economic ruin of his father’s homeland, Cuba, imposed by the most extreme (and perhaps inevitable) form of socialism.
Ted Cruz is also hopping mad at the left-leaning censorship from Big Tech companies, seeing in their “woke” content decisions against conservatives a genteel form of socialist authoritarianism.
“Big Tech today represents the greatest accumulation of power — market power and monopoly power — over information that the world has ever seen,” Cruz said in a Senate hearing last year. “They behave as if they are completely unaccountable. And at times they behave more like nation states than private companies. . . . When it comes to content moderation, they are absolutely a ‘black box.’ They refuse to answer questions.”
All of which makes one wonder: How could it escape this inarguably bright man that he voted to bring a bill to the Senate floor that would subject American business to socialism and make Big Tech social-media companies more woke and dedicated to the censorship of conservatives than ever before?
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The bill that Cruz voted to forward in the Senate Judiciary Committee is Senator Amy Klobuchar’s American Innovation and Choice Online Act. Despite Klobuchar’s breathless references to her bill as being “sweeping,” she did not allow it to be subjected to a committee hearing and expert witnesses. If Klobuchar had, other senators would have learned just how sweeping it is.
If Senator Klobuchar’s bill is passed with Cruz’s help, it will decouple antitrust law from the consumer-welfare standard — the governing standard of the last four decades, by which courts and regulators act only when a merger, an acquisition, or a corporate practice harms consumers. Klobuchar would subject Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon to fines of up to 15 percent of their annual revenue for vaguely defined offenses unrelated to any specified harm.
Even for these cash-rich companies, fines of these magnitudes would be crippling. Several such fines could amount to a corporate death penalty. And these fines would be enforced at the discretion of the Federal Trade Commission, under progressive doyenne Lina Khan. The bill would inject $300 million into the FTC, engorging its budget and boosting its regulatory power across the economy.Klobuchar’s bill would also empower the state to go after social-media companies for dozens of vague infractions. Is there any doubt that the barons of Silicon Valley would be more alert than ever before to pleasing Washington’s progressive regulators, once they’re subject to being keelhauled by Washington at any time? At some point, as regulation blurs into ownership, the Klobuchar bill would treat these businesses as social properties to be politically managed.
The bill also stipulates that Big Tech companies must be fully “interoperable” and share their data with competitors. Under the current text, Chinese companies under the thumb of the Chinese Communist Party would have full access not just to the proprietary hardware, software, systems, platforms, and infrastructure of Americans’ leading companies. They would also be able to freely lift the personal data of tens of millions of Americans. Despite an attempt to amend this glaring defect in Klobuchar’s bill, it was not fixed in committee.
Finally, Klobuchar’s bill leverages the unpopularity of Big Tech to create a wedge to begin to impose its socialist approach on other companies. The bill defines its targets for regulation by large subscriber bases and levels of equity. By its definition, then, many companies — ranging from Walmart and Publix to Visa, AT&T, IBM, Netflix, and Comcast — would soon become subjected to Klobuchar’s regulation.
In the hearing, Senator Cruz made it clear that this bill would have to be amended to curb tech censorship before he would vote for it again. If progressives are willing to give something to Cruz with one hand, it’s likely they’ll take it away with another. At a time when Facebook is bleeding users and stock value, and inflation is rampant, this seems a strange time to play Russian roulette with the economy.
If Senator Cruz is interested in correcting Big Tech censorship, he should instead turn his attention to sharpening the Platform Accountability and Consumer Transparency Act, co-sponsored by his fellow Republican senator John Thune. The PACT Act would require social-media companies that are protected from liability by Section 230 to be transparent in their content decisions, give consumers procedures for redress, and offer people and businesses that are deplatformed and demonetized with standing in court.
This is the right approach. Conservatives should address the censorship crisis in social media with more speech, not with socialism.