Phil Weiser racial justice (copy)

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser.

Free-market minds are thinking hard about the regulation of modern God-like tech giants — the Facebooks, Twitters and Googles of the world.

Historically, liberty-minded thinkers had a common refrain when asked if the government should have power over something like Facebook: “If you don’t like it, build your own.”

But 245 years after our country’s founding, something like Mark Zuckerburg’s intercontinental social network is not remotely the same enterprise as the 19th-century cobbler who our Founding Fathers crafted the constitution to protect. The social-media barons are, instead, a hybrid of late 19th-century American monopoly and a Big Brother-like technocratic public square.

Americans are addicted to the dopamine rush of glancing at their black-mirrored, do-everything devices (“phones”). Facebook, Google and Twitter are not only, effectively, the totality of the public square. They also hold an operative monopoly over influencing individuals, namely the impressionable youths who don’t have the self-awareness to healthily digest spoon-fed messaging.

One viewing of Netflix’s “The Social Dilemma” is all you need. The documentary outlines the terrifying ramifications. Our psyches are not yet evolutionarily adjusted to understand what this new technology fires off in our synapses. Imagine trying to explain Facebook to the nation’s founders, circa 1776. The very idea would be an almost celestial concept of communication they’d struggle to wrap their invaluable intellect around.

So, now, lawmakers like Colorado Democrat Attorney General Phil Weiser are stumping for governmental regulation of tech giants. They, like many, point to mental health problems the mediums cause, namely among teen girls. As The Gazette reported, Weiser and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro presented three recommendations in a letter last week.

The first, to develop a “comprehensive and unbiased understanding of how social media giants’ algorithms operate,” seems to be a useful idea to help the people. As long as this proposed initiative isn’t captured by political actors — a big “if,” of course — it’s something reasonable citizens can get behind.

The recommendation to create a regulatory agency with the power to “take appropriate action to protect consumer privacy, safeguard competition in the online world, and address the risks to kids and our democratic institutions” is mostly a good idea. Considering the Wild West nature of how these tech giants slyly sell to the highest advertising bidder the people’s private information, protecting consumer privacy tops what government could do — even with existing free-market solutions like VPNs.

Safeguarding competition is paramount. But considering the anti-free speech, anti-competition intimidation left-leaning voices have put on tech companies, people should be skeptical. The blacklisting this year by Jeff Bezos’ Amazon Work Spaces of something that was the closest thing to competition to the entrenched tech giants, conservative commentator Dan Bongino’s Parler platform, was a chilling example of how vocal authoritarian types shame big tech into doing their dirty work.

Addressing the risk to kids is commendable. But the government shouldn’t play a part in picking sides in the country’s culture war. Big left-leaning corporations in lockstep with the woke worldview, like Disney, are doing enough of that.

Weiser’s recommendation to “address the risk to democratic institutions” is where we grow further skeptical. And the final recommendation, to develop a regulatory framework to mitigate the risks of social media “similar to the oversight regime in place for political TV advertising,” also feels dubious.

He starts to lose us because the whole “risk to democratic institutions” gimmick was the explanation for recent unsubstantiated wastes of taxpayer money and time. These spurious narratives, like Russiagate, have turned up a fraction of the abuse Democrats claimed while also exposing how big government schemes to maintain power.

If it looks like a Trojan horse, smells like a Trojan horse, and quacks like a Trojan horse, maybe we should wonder if it’s a Trojan horse. We can go without the leftists in Washington puppeteering the big tech companies they are already cozy with. That’s especially true considering, without government oversight, these tech giants are censoring the right at a higher rate than the left. Independent journalist Tim Pool shoved that uncomfortable reality in the face of Twitter kingpin Jack Dorsey on Joe Rogan’s podcast in March 2019. The selective censorship has grown worse since.

It’s one thing if the government wants to protect children, share dirt on manipulative algorithmic technology and trust-bust our Orwellian oligopoly. It’s entirely another if they want to seize the marionette strings of the postmodern public square to further suppress speech that cuts against the Democrat narrative.

We suspect Weiser’s intentions are good, but no one should trust the leaders of his party who don’t care the least about free speech and robust competition. Let’s hope Weiser’s vision won’t inspire a monolithic federal censorship agency.

The Gazette Editorial Board


Load comments