On March 25, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai will appear virtually before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in a hearing about “misinformation” on online platforms.
As a former member of this committee, I am concerned about the increased calls for political censorship that it may fuel.
In announcing the hearing, the Democratic leaders of the committee said, “Whether it be falsehoods about the COVID-19 vaccine or debunked claims of election fraud, these online platforms have allowed misinformation to spread, intensifying national crises with real-life, grim consequences for public health and safety.”
Unfortunately, what appears to be the Democratic leaders’ of the committee’s classification of “misinformation” — content that they disagree with politically — does not track with the dictionary’s definition of the term.
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Already, Facebook is removing COVID-19-related claims that run contrary to data from the Chinese Communist Party-influenced World Health Organization (WHO).
Big Tech has also gone so far as to censor content from a respected 30-year environmentalist who changed his mind on climate change matters and limit the distribution of a news report that appeared damaging to the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee.
It has even banned conservative influencers outright, including the then-president of the United States, for not adhering to the script found on the mainstream media’s accepted 3×5 index card of allowable opinion.
Apparently, however, this tilting of U.S. news and opinion coverage isn’t enough for the Democratic Party, which appears to have called a full hearing just to pressure Big Tech into going further.
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Without question, misinformation is a problem on social media, but it has come from too much — not too little — censorship.
Misinformation is spread with the most speed when these digital monopolies allow the public to only see one side’s point of view — preventing them from separating fact from fiction and forming their own conclusions.
That’s why Republicans on the committee can’t let the Democrats’ misinformation narrative go unchallenged. They need to pivot the conversation at the hearing to how Big Tech has, through predatory and collusive behavior, created a cartel with the power to mislead the public and artificially tilt the scales of news coverage and political debates online.
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For example, Google now controls nearly 90-percent of internet searches, with clear evidence of bias in its search algorithms. As the Supreme Court is reviewing in Google v. Oracle, the company didn’t get this power from good old-fashioned ingenuity.
It appears to have taken coding without a license to bring Android to the market. This move secured its dominance in the early years of the mobile revolution, where mobile searches quickly surpassed desktop in use and popularity.
Now, the company controls the search results to just about every question the American public wants answered by desktop or phone.
Facebook is not immune either. The Federal Trade Commission and 48 states have already sued Facebook for “buying up competitors—chiefly WhatsApp and Instagram—in order to liquidate competition in the social media industry.” These acquisitions have allowed the company to gain control of large swaths of the free flow of information in the digital square, allowing it to control what millions of Americans can see and not see.
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Big Tech appears to think it’s become the arbiter of what’s true and what’s not. Democrats now want them to go further, but the country doesn’t.
Antitrust law was created to stop monopolistic behavior like what we see from these giants. Any hearing on digital misinformation should start with discussing that as a remedy. More censorship will only make the problem worse.