Recently, Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard went on Tucker Carlson, defending her decision to sue Google for allegedly suspending her campaign ads. According to Gabbard, this move on behalf of Google constitutes “election interference.” Gabbard further went on to say that her lawsuit would underscore the extensive power of Big Tech, and shed light on its violation of free speech. Gabbard’s gripes are very reminiscent of the feelings many conservatives also have towards Big Tech.
Day by day, Big Tech companies, such as Facebook and Twitter, have been shutting down the accounts of various figures they deem “controversial”; among these are Alex Jones and Louis Farrakhan. Like Gabbard, many conservatives proclaim that this is an infringement on the right to free speech and liken big tech companies onto monopolies. Thus, they assert that the solution is for the government to punish these companies.
This line of thinking has been the traditional method in which conservatives have fought for repercussions against the so-called injustices of censorship. However, what many people have failed to realize is that this pursuit in favor of regulation has only made matters worse. It has guided many well-intentioned people down a path of unfruitfulness.
The Effects of Big Tech on Free Speech
Let’s first address those who proclaim that Facebook and Twitter, for example, have become monopolies. If this were the case, these firms would have the exclusive right to control the social media market, and the government wouldn’t let in any other firms to compete against them. This is simply not the case, as many alternative platforms, such as Gab and Parler, have begun to form in a dissent to the trend of censorship.
This dissent in itself underscores something very fundamental, i.e., the mechanisms of the free market. If one firm has failed to satisfy its customers, those customers will gradually begin moving to firms that better satisfy their needs. If Facebook begins to ban a large sector of its users, a new social media platform will come about to provide for those users. This is what has happened with Gab.
NYU law professor Richard Epstein mentions the importance of freedom of association: “That principle is reflected in the rule that most organizations can decide whom they want to invite as members and whom they want to exclude… It is instead best understood as a way to facilitate decentralized cooperation by like-minded individuals”. We can apply this to social media outlets.
Censorship Versus the Free Market
Perhaps Facebook has a set vision as to who they want to have on their platform. Perhaps Facebook only caters to snowflakes and abhors anyone who brings up anything controversial. It is within Facebook’s right to ban this controversial bloc of people, but they must suffer the consequences imposed by the free market. Those who are bastions of free speech will begin to call out Facebook and leave the platform in an act of dissent. If Facebook is to maintain any respect, it must change its closed-mindedness or lose money and prestige.
The fact of the matter is that introducing a government regulation to counter Facebook would be a dangerous step in the wrong direction. If we handed this power over to the government, rather than the consumer, who’s to say that they won’t sway in the wrong direction and later impose regulations against platforms that would actually respect speech? It is these regulations that will be keeping out genuine competitors and protecting giant big tech platforms. Bloated big tech platforms are just a symptom of government intervention.
We should not be calling to regulate Facebook, but rather demanding an end to government partnerships with such corporations, and welcoming a truly free market that allows different platforms to cater to different types of people. If Facebook decides not to cater to conservatives, a new social media outlet will rise to serve this purpose. Let the rugged individualists and the safe space junkies go their separate ways.
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