The “conservative” response to Big Tech censorship has largely been relegated to two thought-terminating lanes: “President Trump, just FIX IT already!” or “That’s capitalism, baby!”
Both real legal constraints and political considerations — imposed on President Trump by allies who are understandably reluctant to embrace the most aggressive executive branch solutions — limit his maneuverability.
Meanwhile, “free market” absolutists refuse to acknowledge the powerful forces at work that deny free speech-focused social media competitors access to a level playing field, as can be seen with even a cursory look at Gab.com’s struggle:
The biggest danger we face is that we yet again retreat to our respective bunkers and find ourselves mired in analysis paralysis until the next escalation.
President Trump is listening. We must seize this moment and advocate for a wide range of executive branch options.
NO FEDERAL CONTRACTS FOR UNAMERICAN COMPANIES
Trump should issue an executive order directing all federal government agencies to refuse to consider contracts with Big Tech firms (or their subsidiaries) that are engaging in politically biased censorship. He should also direct the agencies to, where possible, cancel existing contracts.
Some will argue that, in principle, Big Tech firms have a right to unilaterally determine the TOS that govern their platforms. But who can seriously argue that they have a right to our tax dollars?
Unlike many alternative solutions, there are two recent precedents that can be appealed to in defense of this order.
President Trump recently signed a popular Executive Order to Protect Free Speech on College Campuses. The order denies universities that refuse to defend speech on their campuses access to federal funds.
Similarly, a strong majority in the Senate, including many Democrats, passed anti-Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions legislation. The final vote was 77–23, with Senator Rand Paul being the only GOP Senator who voted against it.
Since that bill endorses a similar mechanism to limit speech, to what excuse could these establishment Republicans and their “true conservative” allies appeal if President Trump uses similar tactics to protect speech?
President Trump can do this unilaterally, as he did with the Campus Free Speech Executive Order, but it’s helpful to note that he could characterize this mechanism as being broadly supported, even across partisan lines.
The President should issue an executive order directing the DOJ & FCC to investigate whether Big Tech firms have violated anti-trust regulations.
A draft of just such a memo was circulating as recently as September 2018. It ordered relevant agencies to “thoroughly investigate whether any online platform has acted in violation of the antitrust laws.”
The memo also articulated the importance to our democratic institutions of competition in the technology sector & the free flow of information:
Whether reading news or looking for local businesses, citizens rely on search, social media, and other online platforms to provide objective and reliable information to shape a host of decisions ranging from consumer purchases to votes in elections. Because of their critical role in American society, it is essential that American citizens are protected from anticompetitive acts by dominant online platforms. Vibrant competition in the online ecosystem is essential to ensuring accountability for the platforms that hold so much sway over our economy and democratic process.
Google and Facebook were said to have been targets of the proposed investigation. President Trump should expand the list to include Twitter, Paypal, Patreon, and Mastercard, among others.
The existence of the draft itself indicates that this path may well bear fruit. Let’s encourage President Trump to pursue it.
CONGRESSIONAL PERJURY INVESTIGATION
Trump could also order an investigation into whether Big Tech executives have perjured themselves or otherwise given false statements to Congress.
These executives have repeatedly insisted in testimony before Congress that political bias informs neither their corporate policies nor their enforcement decisions.
While these claims are prima facie false, there is also a growing body of evidence that reveals the brazenness of these lies.
A recent study revealed that Google search bias may have flipped three 2018 Congressional districts to the Democrats. A leaked email insisted that employees must stop “Fake News” because it is favorable to President Trump. Another leak from Google-owned YouTube showed employees manually throttling pro-life videos.
Facebook has gone beyond banning users they disagree with to banning any user who deigns to speak positively about those users. Whistleblowers have leaked documents indicating that employees “deboost” conservative content.
An undercover Project Veritas investigation exposed Twitter employees’ efforts to “ban”, throttle, and otherwise limit the reach of disagreeable political content:
As recently as November 2018, the House Energy and Commerce Committee was reviewing apparent problems with Jack Dorsey’s testimony in light of Twitter’s clearly biased actions.
Twitter’s recent ban of right-wing parliamentary candidates’ accounts in the UK offers us a glimpse into our future if we continue to do nothing:
This is election interference, and UKIP will get to the bottom of this. @TwitterSupport
— UKIP (@UKIP) April 26, 2019
We must demand that President Trump hold these Big Tech oligarchs accountable. The massive wealth and power they’ve accumulated does not put them above the law.
In politics, self-defeating principles are bad principles. Our movement faces an existential threat as our ability to compete fairly and effectively in the battlefield of ideas is under sustained attack.
But each of the executive actions described have the additional benefit of falling well within the confines of a mainstream conservative commitment to equal justice, law & order and free speech.
It’s time to fight back.