Forbes

Big Tech’s Big Blun­der

- Social Media · Twitter · Congress of the United States · Facebook · Amazon · Democratic Party (United States) · White House · AT&T

When it comes to cen­sor­ship, Big Tech is mak­ing a big mis­take. Twit­ter and other high-tech gi­ants are try­ing to se­verely re­strict or stamp out con­ser­va­tive opin­ion. For years they have hin­dered or, on oc­ca­sion, blocked right-of­cen­ter post­ings.

Now, in the af­ter­math of the hor­rific mob at­tack on Capi­tol Hill, th­ese com­pa­nies have shed all pre­ten­sions of ob­jec­tiv­ity. Most egre­giously, they have shut down Par­ler, a rel­a­tively new com­peti­tor to Twit­ter. The moguls run­ning Twit­ter, Face­book, Ama­zon and oth­ers pi­ously claim that they’re against fo­ment­ing vi­o­lence, which is laugh­able given the ran­cid, mur­der­ous post­ings from Chi­nese and Ira­nian pro­pa­gan­dists—not to men­tion other over-the-top posts from in­di­vid­u­als and var­i­ous or­ga­ni­za­tions—that go un­touched. For ex­am­ple, the for­mer CEO of Twit­ter last year called for the shoot­ing of cap­i­tal­ists he found ob­jec­tion­able.

Big Tech may think it’s buy­ing pro­tec­tion in­sur­ance from Democrats, who have won con­trol of the White House and both houses of Congress. But they’re only cre­at­ing se­ri­ous ill will, which will even­tu­ally come back to hurt them. Ar­ro­gance and a pub­lic-be-damned at­ti­tude al­ways in­vite ret­ri­bu­tion, no mat­ter how pow­er­ful com­pa­nies and or­ga­ni­za­tions think they are.

By try­ing to de­stroy sites like Par­ler, Big Tech is trig­ger­ing a raft of law­suits ac­cus­ing them of re­straint of trade. More­over, soon-to-be plain­tiffs are ex­plor­ing other av­enues of le­gal at­tack, such as the con­cept that cer­tain sites

qual­ify as pub­lic com­mon car­ri­ers and there­fore can­not block posts that don’t vi­o­late the law, just as pas­sen­ger rail­roads or tele­phone com­pa­nies can’t bar cus­tomers.

Big Tech’s ac­tions are pro­vid­ing grist for an­titrust ac­tions, which states and other coun­tries were al­ready pur­su­ing. They are also fan­ning the anger of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans who feel that big busi­ness and haughty, power-hun­gry, out-of-touch politi­cians are at­tempt­ing to marginal­ize or sup­press them.

This anger and sense of alien­ation isn’t healthy for the po­lit­i­cal and cul­tural en­vi­ron­ment.

Th­ese tech gi­ants should have re­al­ized years ago that their well­be­ing ul­ti­mately de­pends on pub­lic good­will—or ac­qui­es­cence, at least.

Decades ago AT&T was a le­gal tele­phone monopoly. Ma Bell, as the com­pany was nick­named, went out of its way to please one and all. Ser­vice was im­pec­ca­ble. Its per­son­nel were the essence of po­lite­ness and help­ful­ness. Every me­dia out­let got ad­ver­tise­ments from AT&T. All that pro­tected it from po­lit­i­cal at­tack. Tech­nol­ogy, not pol­i­tics, ul­ti­mately broke up the old AT&T monopoly.

It’s too bad Big Tech hasn’t fol­lowed that model.

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