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THE NEUTRAL ZONE

The Department of Justice released new legislative proposals targeting big tech, specifically its legal protections from being sued for content moderation decisions. The announcement comes on the heels of accusations levied at tech platforms like Google and Twitter by conservatives who claim their content is being censored. Today, a Trump campaign ad was removed from Facebook for violating its policy on “organized hate”  due to the use of an inverted red triangle, a symbol used in Nazi concentration camps to signify political prisoners. GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel argued that Facebook was banning the political ad due to a symbol “that looks exactly the same as one of Facebook’s own emojis, graphics used on every cable network, and street signs all across the country.”

Big tech faces pressure from both right and left-wing politicians who have threatened to roll back legal protections. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) has called for Facebook to be regulated, stating, “Facebook’s ties to white supremacy-linked orgs and sympathy for disinformation campaigns is not a small thing. It is high-level decision making, and appears to come from the top.” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) introduced a bill Wednesday that would grant the authority to sue big tech platforms if they act in “bad faith by selectively censoring political speech and hiding content created by their competitors.”

Recent controversies surrounding both Google and Facebook have led to politically-charged calls for regulation. Facebook has repeatedly been cited for spreading fake news and far-right propaganda, while Google was recently accused of deleting comments on YouTube videos that criticize the Chinese Communist Party. 

Some industry experts are opposed to the increased regulation of tech companies. Economic writer and commentator Stephen Moore authored multiple op-eds arguing that breaking up tech giants is a bad idea. Moore stated that the gig industry has kept the American economy from total collapse during the coronavirus pandemic. Columbia Law Professor Tim Wu has argued that big tech must be regulated but added that trust-busting regulations have not yet caught up to the developments of modern technology.  Wu has also stated that Facebook’s purchase of Instagram was a felony, arguing that Mark Zuckerburg purchased Instagram because he saw the company as a competitive threat.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Trump administration proposes rolling back protections for big tech – Reuters – 6/17/2020
The goal of the proposal, which is being finalized, is to push tech companies to address criminal content on their platforms such as child exploitation, terrorism or cyber stalking, and boost transparency for users when the outlets take down lawful material, the Justice Department official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Former Facebook exec thinks big tech will get broken up “over the next 10 years” – TechCrunch – 6/17/2020
His more specific prediction is that Facebook, as well as Amazon, Google, and Apple, will continue to be investigated and fined by regulators around the world until they are no longer the leviathans they have become. “First, they’ll taxed to death, then they’ll get trust-busted,” said Palihapitiya. He doesn’t think it will take all that much longer, either.

Stephen Moore: Don’t break up big tech – The Daily Journal – 6/17/2020
We have seen firsthand how the gig economy saved our nation from plunging into a Great Depression over the past three months. These were terrible times, with as many as 40 million people losing their jobs. But thanks to our multitrillion-dollar tech sector — and not just Big Tech but also hundreds of new entrepreneurial online services — commerce kept flowing; food was available on the shelves; gas was in the tanks; packages were delivered; and paychecks were processed. They saved America from utter chaos and severe deprivation.

What the 1930s can teach us about dealing with Big Tech today – MIT Technology Review – 6/17/2020
Regulators have not recently exercised these powers against Big Tech because for decades they have narrowly fixated on consumer prices as the measure of whether a market is being monopolized—a measure that doesn’t work for services, like Facebook and Google, that are free. This would change if regulators allowed themselves to see how far–reaching the old antitrust mandate against market manipulation really is. With many smaller businesses now on the brink of collapse, the danger of consolidation has never been greater. A moratorium on mergers is probably a necessary stopgap.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Sen. Marsha Blackburn on Twitter, 6/16/2020: The era of Silicon Valley self-regulation is over. Consumers deserve to know when Big Tech is spying over their shoulders and abusing their trust. Legislation I introduced with @SenatorWicker will empower consumers to determine how their data is used.

Brad Polumbo on Twitter, 6/17/2020: What do you propose? I’ve no love lost for Big Tech. But I’m generally wary of regulation and big government.

James Ball on Twitter, 6/15/2020: Facebook is the result – a symptom – of the fundamental nature of the internet, not its cause. Tackling tech giants one at a time is simply a global game of whack-a-cyber-mole.

James O’Malley on Twitter, 6/17/2020: Broadly agree with this I think. I suspect that the solution to a lot of big tech’s worst excesses is going to be not to break it up but to more aggressively regulate natural monopolies.

Gary Shapiro on Twitter, 6/18/2020: The tech sector is meeting the needs of our socially distanced world – but some leaders are working against some of America’s leading companies and innovation. Read more of my thoughts on why the government and industry must partner now in @InsightsIssues.

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