Mike Davis: Stop Big Tech’s Neo-Robber Barons From Killing Independent Media

April 28, 2021


Daily Caller

Big Tech’s conservative defenders have long argued that there is little role for Congress to play in regulating the industry. They tell us that there will be a correction — that Big Tech’s power will, over time, be subdued by market forces. “More competition” is their mantra, and their response to Big Tech’s many abuses is that conservatives should simply “build their own Twitter.”

Parler, they claimed, showed proof of concept; conservatives harmed by Twitter were always “just a click away” from a viable alternative. Big Tech and the corporate media’s work to de-platform Parler has demonstrated that these naive, academic arguments fail to grasp the reality of the iron grip on the market that Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Twitter hold. Indeed, Big Tech owns the market. Misguided aphorisms about how the free market solves all problems are now plainly contradicted by evidence. The time for defending Big Tech practices is over — now is a time for action. Congress must level the playing field and end the anti-competitive control over information.

Conservatives should feel compelled to craft legislation to restore balanced markets for the free flow of ideas. Indeed, they have been working to stop anticompetitive practices for over a century. Antitrust law came into being during the era of the “Robber Baron” when companies like Standard Oil dominated their respective markets. It was the likes of Republican President Teddy Roosevelt and Senator John Sherman — the original trust busters — who recognized that the American people suffer when business oligarchs make fair competition in a free market impossible. Free markets require functioning markets, which can be achieved only when oligopolistic abuses are held in check.

Like the oligarchs of generations ago, the Big Tech neo-robber barons have their competitors in a chokehold. While Google and Facebook gobble up billions in advertising revenue, local media companies — which produce the content upon which Big Tech relies — are left with scraps. The result is that independent publications are forced to close, leaving Americans with fewer and fewer sources of news, and giving Big Tech an ever-louder voice. Without action, we may not be far away from a world in which the content of only the large corporate news organizations survive.

A bipartisan coalition, led by Republican Colorado Rep. Ken Buck, Democratic Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, Republican Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy and Democratic Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, recognizes that Congress has a role to play in protecting the American people from the corrosive practices of tech oligarchs. What these leaders propose, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), promises to be an essential tool for curbing Big Tech’s anticompetitive practices. Specifically, JCPA will achieve balance by allowing journalists to band together to negotiate with Google and Facebook for compensation for the use of the content these journalists created. In doing so, news organizations will be able to secure the advertising revenue they desperately need to survive and to provide reliable reporting to the American people.

Supporters of JCPA recognize that it will not curb every abuse. In many respects, Google, Facebook and Twitter will continue to serve as gatekeepers for the vast majority of content reaching the American people. In that capacity, they have had the ability to censor information with which they disagree. We saw their abuse of such awesome power during the 2020 election when they chose to kill legitimate news stories before the public had a chance to evaluate them. We have seen this in the recent Twitter ban of James O’Keefe for his CNN expose and Facebook preventing Americans from sharing a New York Post story — one of our nation’s oldest newspapers — on the property spending spree of a BLM co-founder. And in Australia, Facebook recently blocked users from sharing any news articles and even prevented authorities from circulating emergency messages — all in an attempt to pressure the government into backing down from enacting legislation similar to JCPA. Manipulation such as this ought to scare every American, and lawmakers from both parties should give serious thought to legislation aimed at limiting Big Tech’s unrestrained power.

JCPA is a crucial first step to restoring fairness because it will ensure that independent sources of news — from across the political spectrum — will not be suffocated by Big Tech’s neo-robber barons. We need more Republicans to join the effort in helping to reform federal laws that have allowed Big Tech to dominate competitors. It is time to put an end to unfair tactics that are not just crushing mom-and-pop shops, but entire industries that form the bedrock of our society. The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act is just one antitrust solution to the Big Tech problem. It is time for fair-minded conservatives to step up to the plate and stop Big Tech’s abuses before it is too late.

Mike Davis is founder and president of the Internet Accountability Project (IAP), a conservative grassroots advocacy organization that opposes Big Tech and seeks to hold them accountable for their bad acts.

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