Even in these hyper-partisan times, Democrats and Republicans alike can at least agree on one thing. Both sides share an intense dislike of the giant tech firms that dominate social media and on-line commerce.
The House’s top antitrust subcommittee called the chief executive officers of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google to testify, and they all came in for harsh questioning from both sides of the aisle. The two sides didn’t have the same complaints, as Democrats are mostly worried the companies are using their considerable clout to crush potential competitors, while the Republicans are mostly worried the companies have a left-wing bias and are censoring right-of-center opinions.
Both sides came with evidence-backed questions the CEO’s had difficulty answering, but we can’t get on board with the booing and hissing.
We don’t worry much about monopolies, as they tend go away without any government intervention. Once upon a time there was worry that Sears & Roebuck would wipe out every Main Street retailer in America, but no one is afraid of the company anymore. More recently Wal-Mart was expected to dominate the retail sector of the economy, but it’s now a distant second to Amazon, which is so dominant that some big money will try to take a chunk out of its market share, and by that time Amazon will be too ponderous to respond to whatever new idea the competition comes up with. Apple is powerful, but it’s a stretch to say they have a monopoly on the rapidly developing computer industry. If you don’t like Google you can search the internet on Bing, which is owned by the Microsoft Corporation that once seemed poised to take over the world. Facebook doesn’t have any significant competition in social media business at the moment, but we notice that people routinely abandon it and assume they’re finding other ways to share pictures of what they’re having for dinner.
As for the worries about censorship, we only worry when the government is doing the censoring. We’re free speech purists, but we also support the right of any company decide what information it wants to disseminate. Some on the right are angry that a video calling itself Frontline Doctors has been pulled from most of the social media platforms for being skeptical about face masks and social business and economic restrictions, saying that hydroxychloroquine is a proved cure, but they also believes that some gynecological diseases are caused by women having sex with demons in their dreams and doctors are creating medicines with alien DNA and the Illuminati are developing a vaccine against religious belief. We can’t see why any conservative would want to equate that with conservatism, and conservatives should also distance themselves from the conspiracy theories and racist rants that are routinely banned. There are still other places to post such nonsense, and if they’re not as widely viewed there’s a free market reason for that.
It’s nice to see both sides united, if only for a moment and for far different reasons, but it’s hard to see them coming up with any legislative solution that will satisfy everyone. For now, we have bigger problems to worry about than Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.
— Bud Norman