Google’s warning against the Federalist is why libertarians will lose fight over Big Tech – Washington Examiner

Posted: June 24, 2020 at 6:41 am

When it comes to the regulation of private businesses, I consider myself a libertarian. But as a realist, I recognize that when businesses become big and begin to be seen as abusing their power, they make it much harder for defenders of a pure free market to prevail in the regulatory debate.

NBC's attempt to deplatform the Federalist was only made possible by the immense power that Google has, with a near monopoly on the search traffic that fuels its advertising business. While it turns out that NBC got the story wrong, Google did put the Federalist on notice that it could lose access to Google Ads revenue if it didn't change its comment section, which has been temporarily removed.

In the debate concerning whether to target tech companies over their bias against conservatives, I've been on the side of arguing that private businesses should have the right to set any rules they want for users. I was critical of a proposal by Sen. Josh Hawley that would have ended the immunity that social media companies have against lawsuits for content posted on their platforms. Under his proposal, companies would have to apply to the federal government for temporary certificates of immunity after demonstrating they've been free of political bias in removing content. On the left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren has proposed breaking up large tech companies though for different reasons.

Arguments in favor of the free market are always weakened when businesses behave in ways that make it easy for people to portray them as the bad guys.

A free market healthcare system has been made harder to achieve by stories of insurers fighting to deny care to those who have insurance, of hospitals issuing exorbitant bills that are hard to justify, and of drug companies that rely on patent protection to charge jaw-dropping amounts for prescription drugs. Manufacturers that recklessly polluted and then tried to cover it up made it more difficult to argue against environmental regulations, and big banks that blew up the economy and then demanded bailouts made it more difficult to make the case against financial regulation.

Google, in trying to explain its threat against the Federalist, stated, "Our policies do not allow ads to run against dangerous or derogatory content, which includes comments on sites." To which many people had the same reaction: Has Google not looked at the comments section of any typical video on its own YouTube service?

This was not lost on Hawley.

On Wednesday, he is introducing legislation that would give "users the right to sue if the big platforms enforce their terms unfairly or unequally." He is being joined by Sens. Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, and Mike Braun.

In a political world in which most people are more interested in outcomes rather than underlying principles, if the power of Google and other large tech companies is used to disproportionately target conservatives, it's going to be increasingly difficult for those on the libertarian side of the spectrum to win any argument over the freedom of these companies to self-police.

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Google's warning against the Federalist is why libertarians will lose fight over Big Tech - Washington Examiner

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