Four Things and they’re All Important

Several things today starting with Governor Kristi Noem on reopening schools.

Doing governance as it should be done.

Rachel Bovard at The Federalist has some thoughts about Big Tech and Monopolies.

Conservatives have alleged for years that these companies exhibit a bias against conservative points of view despite the fact that entities like Facebook and Google constitute a “global town square” and see themselves as key facilitators of free expression. This allegation has only grown louder as conservative members of Congress were shadow-banned. […]

In a January field hearing, the antitrust subcommittee heard testimony from small tech businesses who recounted in detail how Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon were “wielding their massive footprints as weapons, allegedly copying smaller competitors’s features or tweaking their algorithms in ways that put new companies at a costly disadvantage.” Or, in the words of Patrick Spence, head of the speaker company Sonos, the platforms “leverage dominance in one market to conquer or destroy adjacent markets, especially markets that may one day pose a threat to their dominance.”

Amazon, in particular, is dealing with discrepancies between what they told Congress — that they do not use third-party sales data to set prices for Amazon-branded products — and what their employees told the Wall Street Journal. Amazon is also facing allegations that they met with startups about investing, only to swipe other companies’ ideas for their own product lines.

Google has faced allegations that it self-preferences its search results, demoting non-Google results even when the information contained therein was more relevant to an individual’s search. The Wall Street Journal reported that Google has altered its search algorithm on behalf of big businesses like eBay while modifying search results for terms like “abortion” and “immigration.”

None of this would matter so much if these companies didn’t wield such unprecedented amounts of power. But when Google constitutes 92 percent of worldwide internet searches, the opaque, unaccountable ways the company decides to filter information has tremendous consequences for business, human behavior, and independent thought.

Conservatives are rightly skeptical of government interference in the marketplace. But violations of existing antitrust law in the form of anticompetitive behavior isn’t regulation, it’s law enforcement. As the supposed champions of small entrepreneurs, conservatives should want to ensure that the field of commerce and innovation is fair and equally accessible.

Many on the political right have said for years that people unhappy with social media platforms should just “build their own.” So shouldn’t those same people want to make sure they still can?

The Threat to Individual Privacy

As an industry that makes money from the commoditization of hyper-individualized data, Big Tech knows more about us than any industry in human history. Indeed, Big Tech’s business model is based on knowing where we go (physically and virtually), what we say in our emails and text messages, what we buy, and even what our voices sound like.

This presents huge policy ramifications around what is “ours” and what is “theirs.” Do human beings have a property right to their data trail? Should there be limits on the type of data companies collect, what Big Tech can do with our data, or who they can share it with?

Consider that under a provision of HIPAA, hospital chains have shared the names, dates of birth, and medical histories of up to 50 million Americans with Google without the knowledge or consent of the patients or doctors. Google won’t say what they’re doing with the data, or the data they’ve recently acquired on 28 million users of Fitbit. In this bizarre legal landscape, Google has a right to your medical record, but you don’t.

These companies are also serial violators of individual privacy, despite presenting themselves as the opposite. Google reads our emails. Facebook reads our texts. Google still tracks the location of users who turn off geolocation services.

There quite a lot more and you should read and understand what she is saying.

Here is my take: I’m basically libertarian on economic policy, which most of you know BUT and its a big but: When the founder’s set up our government they endowed it with checks and balances against any branch becoming all-powerful. Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 28:

Power being almost always the rival of power, the general government will at all times stand ready to check the usurpations of the state governments, and these will have the same disposition towards the general government. The people, by throwing themselves into either scale, will infallibly make it preponderate. If their rights are invaded by either, they can make use of the other as the instrument of redress. How wise will it be in them by cherishing the union to preserve to themselves an advantage which can never be too highly prized!

This has worked reasonably well over the years, but as business grew so large it became a power center in its own right, as we see now in Big Tech, where Google, for instance, will not cooperate with the US Department of Defense but is readily willing to work with the Chinese military. There are plenty of other examples. So, it seems that the government must be the check on unchecked business, because no other entity is large enough to do so, especially including other businesses. Here too it is as Madison said in Federalist 51

If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

Via CNN:

Herman Cain, the former presidential candidate and former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, has died from coronavirus, according to an obituary sent from his verified Twitter account and Newsmax, where he was launching a television show.

May he rest in peace having fought the good fight.

And finally, Sgt Joe Friday has some words for Antifa and Black Live matters that ring as true today as they did when written in 1968.



Do Big Tech, and David French Want Conservatives suppressed?

It wasn’t long ago that we spoke of Senator Josh Hawley‘s bill to disestablish the article 230 exemptions that the social media companies operate under. Jeremy CarlAdam Candeub adds to the literature, writing in The Federalist.

A majority of Americans now get their news from social media, and it is the primary source of news for young Americans. Such a marketplace of ideas, skewed by a discriminatory Internet, will further disadvantage conservative ideas in a media environment already hostile to them. Given this reality, conservatives have a clear and compelling interest in ensuring that our views can be seen on 21st-century news sources.

Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley realizes what is at stake. His recently introduced Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act will stop major internet firms from targeting conservatives.

Congress passed Section 230 in 1996 to protect nascent internet platforms, such as Prodigy or AOL, essentially eliminating the liability resulting from user-generated content. In other words, Section 230 freed AOL from liability for libel or illegal threats resulting from their users’ postings.

This immunity is extraordinary, going far beyond that granted to other content providers. After all, bookstores and newsstands are liable for the libelous or otherwise tortious or illegal speech for which they have notice, newspapers have liability for the advertisements they publish, and even cable systems have liability for statements made on their public access channels.

One would think all conservatives would rejoice at a policy that would ensure conservative voices can be heard. Social media has become the public square, the village green, the telegraph and telephone networks of our times. Yet a tiny clique control it—a clique hostile to conservative ideas. If they are to receive the benefits, monetary and otherwise, of Section 230 protection, then they should be obligated to treat users without regard to their political views.

Please, Sir, May I Have Another

Even though many conservatives are delighted that at last they have a champion on Internet issues, some, notably David French writing in National Review and former representative Christopher Cox writing in the Wall Street Journal, have decried the bill. French, who attacks the bill as an unwise unconstitutional “mess,” assures us that “conservative sites and posts do very well on Facebook,” failing to note that it is precisely that success that has caused the aggressive campaign for banning by our tech overlords.

French calls for “persuasion not coercion” and voluntary First Amendment standards of moderation, closing by saying “sometimes you have to convince people to change.” Nonsense. The Internet moguls know exactly what they are doing, and the only way they are going to change is if they feel sufficiently threatened by the alternatives to doing so.

They are not censoring conservatives because they fail to understand our viewpoints and their implications, but because they understand them all too well. Anyone who thinks otherwise is engaging in idle speculations of political philosophy, not politics. French holds a strange faith that his arguments will make the scales fall from the eyes of the Internet monopolists, who have evidenced nothing but contempt for conservatives. French had better argue quickly before he gets kicked off the internet and can no longer exercise his persuasive powers to transformative effect.

David French and his cohorts are more the problem than the left itself. They constitute a very visible Trojan Horse in the conservative camp. They so often argue points that sound either conservative or libertarian but work to the detriment of conservatives in the real world. It’s very nearly a masochistic outlook. They, and their thinking is why, until Donald Trump, we lost every battle, because they are excellent at cutting the ground from under their own feet and thus falling into the hole they dug.

It’s time to cut the crap. If we do not fight for conservatism, conservatism will not survive. It has always been plenty robust enough to survive its enemies but often has been defeated by its friends. We need to make sure it is different this time, we may not get another chance.

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