Big Tech censorship is out of control when the president of the United States can be kicked off Twitter with impunity, Facebook can remove an estimated 12 million posts expressing unapproved views on the Covid crisis, and Google can lead a Silicon Valley charge that silences an upstart rival like Parler for more than a month.
Politicians in Washington are wailing loud and long about Big Tech censorship, promising to rewrite Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 that protects Big Tech against libel and slander litigation.
And maybe the politicians actually will someday get around to rewriting that section of the law that has granted Google, Twitter, Facebook and the rest of the Silicon Valley giants a monopoly so much more powerful than anything John D. Rockefeller ever enjoyed.
But Big Tech’s most immediate problem is what will happen if Mom and Dad wake up to the reality that Big Tech is inflicting some of the most damaging effects that could possibly happen to America’s young.
Two Republican members of the House of Representatives — Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington State and Bob Latta of Ohio — gave the Big Tech gurus a peek at what could lie ahead for them during Thursday’s joint meeting of two subcommittees of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Here’s how Rodgers put it in her opening statement:
“10 years ago when I joined Big Tech platforms I thought they would be a force for good. I thought they would help us build relationships and promote transparency in Congress.
“I can testify today, I was wrong. That is not what has transpired. You’ve broken my trust.
“Yes, because you’ve failed to promote the battle of ideas and free speech. Yes, because you censor political viewpoints you disagree with. Those polarizing actions matter for democracy.
“But, do you know what has convinced me Big Tech is a destructive force? It’s how you’ve abused your power to manipulate and harm our children.
“Your platforms are my biggest fear as a parent. I’m a mom of three school-aged kids. My husband and I are fighting the Big Tech battles in our household every day. It’s a battle for their development, a battle for their mental health, and ultimately, a battle for their safety.”
It’s one thing for senators and representatives to be threatening to rewrite laws and force career bureaucrats to revise regulations in ways that could, eventually, create problems for Big Tech.
Changing laws and regulations takes time, lots of it. More than a few politicians can also be bought … excuse me … influenced by campaign contributions, lucrative speech honorariums, clever lobbyists.
But those things don’t mean much to Mom and Dad, especially when they can see right before their eyes the horrendous damage that is being wrought on their kids by Big Tech. And Mom and Dad have the power to act right now to protect their kids against Big Tech.
Latta knows this, too. Here’s how he put it when it came his turn to speak at the joint subcommittee hearing:
“While the little brother problem of censorship is frightening enough, other serious harms are occurring on these platforms that affect ordinary Americans.
“Young American children and teenagers are addicted, actually addicted, to their devices and social media. This problem has been exacerbated by the pandemic and will only get worse if children continue to be separated from their peers and cannot learn from their teachers in a classroom.
“Your platforms are purposely designed to keep our children hooked to their screens. The use of social media has been linked to increased rates of depression, mental illness, cyberbullying, and suicide among America’s youth. Illegal drugs continue to be sold online despite your previous commitments to solve these issues … Serious problems continue to persist, and I wonder how much you are truly dedicating to combatting these actions.”
What’s becoming increasingly clear to Rodgers and millions of other Americans is that Big Tech’s actions in recent years make it clear the answer to Latta’s question is: They aren’t dedicated to combatting the problems they create.
Rodgers told the hearing of conversations she keeps having with worried parents:
“A day doesn’t go by that I don’t talk to friends and other parents who tell me their 14-year-old is depressed. She used to love soccer. Now, they can’t get her to do anything. She never gets off her device or leaves her room.
“I think about a mom who told me she can’t leave her daughter alone EVER because she harms herself. Or the family who is recovering from almost losing their daughter to a predator she met online.
“These stories are not unique to me or Eastern Washington. I recently heard of a young college student who has lost nine friends to suicide. This is unimaginable.”
Rodgers is the ranking Republican on the energy and commerce committee, while Latta is the top GOPer on the panel’s key subcommittee for Big Tech regulatory issues.
Talking about rewriting Section 230 is important, but bringing the issue of Big Tech home in the most personal way possible for millions of American parents is far more likely to create a future that Big Tech Robber Barrons will find unimaginable.
Mark Tapscott is an award-winning investigative journalist who covers Congress for The Epoch Times, and is founder and editor of HillFaith, an apologetics ministry sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with congressional aides on Capitol Hill.