During Donald Trump’s presidency, the major parties diverged widely over their specific grievances against the awakened Silicon Valley monopolies that serve as guardians of the 21st century American public space. Republicans, by and large, have focused on censoring conservative speech online. Democrats, on the other hand, tended to focus on economic concentration; the five US companies with the largest market caps, for example, are tech giants Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google Alphabet and Facebook. This divergence has hampered efforts to curb the Big Tech oligarchy on issues such as Section 230, the 1990s provision allowing platforms to make publisher-style content moderation decisions without being legally treated as editors.
Conservatives still have a myriad of concerns about Big Tech’s noxious mix of speech suppressions, phantom bans, and inexplicable misdemeanors. These concerns are both legitimate and justified by Big Tech’s ever-growing list of wrongdoing. But there is a radical shift in the way conservatives conceptualize the relationship between the unlimited latitude to moderate Big Tech content and the sheer economic clout wielded by the business players involved.
Indeed, many conservatives are reassessing their previous libertarian-inspired bromides on the alleged harmlessness of concentrated corporate power. President Ronald Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help. The “private” power that gave birth to what Angelo Codevilla calls a new American oligarchy, might submit that the new “most terrifying words” are: “I am from the ruling class and I am here to subjugate you.”
The radical right-wing antitrust shift began under the Trump administration: then Attorney General William Barr launched an antitrust investigation against Google, and the Trump-era Federal Trade Commission launched its own antimonopoly lawsuit against Facebook. But during Joe Biden’s presidency, and especially in the aftermath of the post-Jan. 6 Nuking of the upstart social media platform Speaking through what looked a lot like blatantly collusive behavior, the intellectual momentum for antitrust reform accelerated dramatically.
In the Senate, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), perhaps the most shameless free market in this entire legislative chamber, introduced legislation that would codify the use of antitrust jurisprudence to the “welfare standard of the consumer ”by Judge Robert Bork. Basically, Lee’s legislation would define the standard as having several components, including innovation, quality, and consumer choice, moving it away from its singular dependence on price. After all, singular reliance on price in settling antitrust disputes is anachronistic in the age of “free” big-tech services like Google search and Twitter tweeting.
Lee’s colleague Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., Has gone even further, introducing aggressive antitrust bills in recent months that would effectively ditch the consumer welfare standard and replace it with something closer to a “big is bad” standard, reminiscent of the pre-Bork antitrust stock market of those like Judge Louis Brandeis. Notably, Biden’s controversial FTC candidate Lina Khan, a 32-year-old progressive sweetheart and “neo-Brandeis” antitrust leader, has just achieved 69 confirmation votes in the Senate, including 21 Republicans, nearly half of the caucus. from the GOP to the Senate.
In the House, Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), A former diehard Tea Party critic turned scathing Big Tech, led the way by introducing a set of five bills that would strengthen U.S. antitrust laws, putting the focus on Great technology. The Buck House-led effort is completely bipartisan, and there’s every reason to believe Biden may ultimately sign some of the bills. Given the scale of the Big Tech threat – that is, a supposedly sovereign population that is outsourcing its most cherished standards of autonomy in terms of access to speech and information to people. Unaccountable corporate workers – Conservative Big Tech critic Rachel Bovard is right to express the Buck package as a “Put it up or shut up” moment for Republicans. “
For decades, a corporate Republican Party has blithely adopted a libertarian antitrust line, instinctively opposing all but the most blatant trade restrictions. But antitrust isn’t necessarily better conceived of as harmful economic “regulation” – it is targeted law enforcement, as suggested by the very fact that the Department of Justice has an antitrust division. . Given the rise of Big Tech and the related rise in awakened capital, the GOP’s antitrust overhaul isn’t happening too soon. If even Mike Lee recognizes that the status quo is not working, there is no excuse not to act and immediately restore a citizen’s sovereignty away from the grip of predatory technologists.