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Left and Right are Both Wrong to Wage War on Big Tech With Big Government

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One of the great unforeseen consequences of the 2016 presidential election is the war being waged on Silicon Valley. Increasingly it is facing attacks from the Left and Right, both wrongly advocating for government intervention in tech rather than a robust protection of the free enterprise system that spawned these enterprises and will spawn their competitors if we permit it.

Let us start with the Left, where Big Tech must be stunned that it is taking a beating in light of its monolithic progressivism.

The recent hysteria around the social media companies’ “complicity and collusion in the conspiracy to elect Donald Trump” – the effective charge – is something to behold.

The fact is, as with the Russiagate revelations of grave offenses at the highest levels of the national security and law enforcement apparatuses, the backlash against the tech companies that President Barack Obama brought to Washington, D.C. is purely a function of Hillary Clinton’s loss.

Scapegoats must be found. Crises must not be let go to waste.

First there was the panic over Russia influencing the U.S. election by disseminating propaganda on social media in support of a variety of issues and at least four candidates according to the relevant Mueller special counsel indictment (contrary to the propaganda’s purported pro-Trump, anti-Hillary propaganda bent).

What was the size of this operation? As Byron York summarizes, Russians purchased 3,000 ads totaling approximately $100k across Facebook and Instagram combined, or one-tenth of one percent of the $81 million the Trump and Clinton campaigns spent on those two platforms. Fifty-six percent of the 11 million views of those ads came after the 2016 election. 25 percent of the ads were never seen. Most of the ads did not deal with the presidential election, voting or a candidate.

If those social media messages swung the election, every last campaign consultant should be fired. Moreover, it is hard to see how a Soviet Union equally adept in active measures, dedicating resources several orders of magnitude greater than $100k to such tactics for decades, would not have triumphed over us during the Cold War.

Russia’s expertise in spreading propaganda and disinformation to destabilize its foes is no laughing matter. What is laughable is the idea that social media posts elected Donald Trump, as if Americans have no agency and a Russian hundred-grand is worth infinitely more than American millions. What is further laughable is the impression one gets from our media that Russia’s efforts to influence the American political system began in 2015. From the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt onward the Soviet Union sought to infiltrate and subvert our political system. Beginning in the 1950s, U.S. national security policy explicitly acknowledged the Soviet Union’s use of active measures, and emphasized the importance of engaging in information warfare to counter such efforts.