Long-time readers know that I’ve been banging the drum on Google and Big Tech for a long time. The “conventional wisdom” in conservative circles has concentrated on going after Big Tech with Section 230 of the CDA. My argument has been that while 230 should have no legal standing, it’s not any kind of solution and that antitrust action will break up Big Tech monsters like Google and create a more competitive market.
The Left loves going after Section 230 because it opens the door to regulating them. And those regulations will lead to even more censorship of conservatives.
It’s easy to see where this is going with an upcoming Supreme Court case: Gonzalez v. Google.
Biden and Republican senators join forces in attack on Big Tech at Supreme Court – NBC News
The Biden administration is roughly on the same page as prominent Republicans, such as Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, in arguing in favor of limits on internet company immunity under a provision of the 1996 Communications Decency Act called Section 230.
But the loose alliance in a case involving YouTube that the court hears on Tuesday illustrates how opposition to the broad immunity companies receive for their content moderation decisions and what content users post cuts across ideological lines. There are also unusual bedfellows backing YouTube owner Google, with the left-leaning American Civil Liberties Union, the libertarian Cato Institute and the corporate giant U.S. Chamber of Commerce all taking their side.
Gonzalez v. Google is a particularly bad case that blames YouTube’s recommendations for causing Islamic terror attacks in Europe. The case strikes me as extremely farfetched on factual grounds, but nobody cares about the actual factual question of whether YouTube recommendations caused a particular ISIS attack in Europe. The endgame here is to bypass Section 230 on the way to dismantling it by arguing that it doesn’t protect algorithmic recommendations. Such recommendations can be generated automatically or with some intervention.
I understand why the Biden administration wants in on the action. It’s been obsessed with getting YouTube and social media companies to stop recommending content it doesn’t like.
But what exactly is the payoff here for Republicans? The underlying issue is discrimination against conservatives. YouTube already censors conservatives on a variety of issues, so maybe there’s not much there to lose, but I imagine a sustained government regime could quickly show us how much more there is to lose.
The endgame is destroying Section 230, but on the way to what? Senator Hawley’s legal filing concludes with, “The Court should not interpret Section 230 to shield platforms from liability for distributing unlawful content.”
Okay. I don’t think there’s a problem with the legal argument. Since Senator Lieberman began pressuring YouTube to remove terrorism videos, the company eventually gave in. But what’s the stake for conservatives in creating liability for YouTube on the content it hosts? What are we winning here exactly except more censorship?
What Biden’s people want is pretty clear.
Biden took a shot at tech companies in his State of the Union address earlier this month, although he did not mention Section 230. He was more specific in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last month in which he called for reform, saying companies need to “take responsibility for the content they spread and the algorithms they use.” A White House spokesperson declined to comment on the administration’s position in the case.
Cruz said in an interview that while there might be some common ground on legislation to overhaul Section 230, the Biden administration is mostly OK with companies “censoring” views with which they disagree.
“Big Tech engages in blatantly anti-competitive activity. They enjoy monopoly profits. And they use that power to, among other things, censor and silence the American people and I believe we should use every tool at our disposal to stop that,” he said.
How is this stopping that?
There are multiple tracks to fighting Big Tech from antitrust to treating political discrimination as a civil rights issue. If the latter were in place, then Section 230 reform might make sense within that framework. Right now all that nuking Section 230 does is make it easier for government oversight and lawsuits over content, but doesn’t provide a meaningful way for conservatives to change anything. Eliminating 230 would create a lot of liability for Big Tech, but like most government regulations will make it harder for smaller upstarts to compete.
Without Section 230, leftist lawfare could easily cripple upstart conservative upstarts like Rumble or Parler, it won’t stop Google.
When you’re doing exactly what the Left wants, it might be a good idea to check whether you’re walking into a trap.
Algorithmic Analyst says
Thanks Daniel! Always a good idea to check whether one is walking into a trap. Almost everything is liable to be a
Erik Vornoff says
Unfortunately, the GOP is not “feckless.” They are the willing passive-aggressive collaborators of the Left.
It is time to withdrawal consent from all of them. The power being the purse.
When the GOPe wing of the Uniparty is engaging in something, watch your back (and your wallet).