“Ethical Markets thanks our media partner Roberto Savio for this important reporting by Ryan Grim on key issues in efforts to reform social media monopolies and how these social media giants are currying favor with the Biden Administration. Must reading for our Panel on “Social Responsibilities of Media and the Future of Information”, Feb 16th in the global online free conference “A PLANETARY MOMENT“ www.worldacademy.org. Join us!
~Hazel Henderson, Editor“
Behind Big Tech’s Crackdown on the Right Is a Fight Over Biden Antitrust Policy
Silicon Valley is currying favor with the Biden transition. Whether the Biden administration will be as friendly as Obama’s is another question.
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are seen on a screen during a meeting at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del., on Nov. 9, 2020. Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP
Big Tech, staring down the barrel of the one gun it has always feared — federal antitrust enforcement — pinned its hopes throughout 2020 on the possibility a new administration would take a gentler approach.
Early signs were good, like when Democratic nominee Joe Biden named Apple’s top lobbyist to his four-person committee in charge of vetting and recommending the vice presidential nominee. The lobbyist left her job running Apple’s Washington operation for the assignment in April. And, throughout the transition, Big Tech and its allies in Washington have been pushing the incoming Biden administration to stack the Justice Department’s antitrust division and the Federal Trade Commission with operatives sympathetic to Silicon Valley.
The problem for Big Tech, however, is that politics have shifted on the issue, as the valley’s monopolistic dominance has grown impossible to ignore. Whereas the Obama administration’s antitrust division and FTC looked into whether to come down hard on the major platforms for anticompetitive behavior, the current administration finally did so, launching the landmark case United States v. Google, which promised to be the first of several major suits checking the power of Big Tech.
In the wake of the January 6 storming of the Capitol, Big Tech has moved swiftly to ban President Donald Trump from social media platforms, suspend and ban the accounts of tens of thousands of QAnon conspiracy theorists, and crush the upstart right-wing Twitter alternative Parler. The crackdown was condemned as overreach by conservatives and some civil libertarians, but they were celebrated by Democrats across the political spectrum — precisely the audience Big Tech now needs to please.
Democratic operative Jennifer Palmieri, an alum of the Obama administration, noticed the connection. “It has not escaped my attention that the day social media companies decided there actually IS more they could do to police Trump’s destructive behavior was the same day they learned Democrats would chair all the congressional committees that oversee them,” she posted on Twitter, referring not to Biden’s certification but to Jon Ossoff’s victory in his Georgia runoff, which put Democrats over the top in the Senate.
Whether it’ll work — whether the Biden administration will be as friendly to Silicon Valley as Obama’s was — is another question. “Too little, too late from tech platforms like Facebook and YouTube,” said Sarah Miller, executive director of the American Economic Liberties Project, an anti-monopoly organization. “I think it’s well and widely understood that these platforms rely on garbage, dangerous, and false content to addict people and keep the billions rolling in from targeted ads. I don’t think they can climb back from being seen as complicit in a near-massacre at the Capitol by booting right-wingers or finger-pointing.”
At stake is the structure of the technology industry, and America’s ability to compete globally. As currently constituted, tech monopolies have the power to crush or buy any new company, stalling what had been an explosion in innovation that made the U.S. dominant in the world’s emerging industry. Unless the monopolies are checked and broken up, that era could be over, as power continues to be consolidated into the hands of a few tech oligarchs.