Sometimes Bigger Is Better

Republicans and Democrats are working together on an antitrust push against big tech. It will backfire big-time.

Photo Credit: Getty

Mark Zuckerberg was having one of 2020’s worst Zoom meetings. It was July 29, and one of the most influential men in the world was sitting, pale and perspiring, in a sparse white room getting attacked by members of Congress from both parties. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican and close ally of President Donald Trump, was scolding the Facebook CEO about the “content moderators that you employ [who] are out there disadvantaging conservative content.”

But before Zuckerberg could offer much in the way of a response, he was attacked from the left, as Rhode Island Democrat Rep. David Cicilline castigated Zuckerberg for not taking down the same content. For Cicilline, “the problem is Facebook is profiting off and amplifying disinformation that harms others because it’s profitable.”

For good measure, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, asked Zuckerberg why Facebook temporarily took down Donald Trump Jr.’s account over a post promoting hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment. Zuckerberg pointed out that the incident happened on Twitter.

The House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law was holding a formal hearing with the CEOs of four of the nation’s biggest technology companies as witnesses. The purpose of the hearing, as indicated by its title, was “examining the dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.” It was the sixth such hearing since last June, out of a series of seven. Ostensibly, Republican and Democratic lawmakers were on opposite sides of the issue. But as the hearing went on, it became clear that although they had very different views about how big tech companies should conduct their business, they shared a conclusion that some tech firms had grown too big and too powerful—and that the federal government must intervene.

The two parties took different routes to their verdicts. The new breed of populist Republicans are mostly concerned with regulating political speech in their party’s favor. Democrats tend to be more concerned with the sheer size and power the bigger tech companies wield. But either way, as far as they were concerned, big tech was guilty as charged. And that verdict may coincide with legal consequences, as the Trump administration and state attorneys general begin to wage their own battles against the tech giants in federal courts.

On October 20, the U.S. Justice Department and a group of state A.G.s filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google alleging illegal dominance in online search and advertising. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will likely bring a case against Facebook before the end of the year. Amazon, Uber, Apple, and several other tech companies are all under some kind of regulatory scrutiny. Facebook dominates social media, and conservatives believe it is biased against them. Amazon is being criticized for selling self-branded products and giving them prominent virtual shelf space, even though nearly all major brick-and-mortar retailers and grocers do the same thing. Uber, the largest ride-sharing company before the pandemic, is the largest food delivery service during it. Software developers and regulators are critical of the 30 percent cut Apple typically pockets of App Store purchases.

Read the full article at Reason.