Two antitrust bills that have attracted support from conservatives in Washington DC on the grounds of “bipartisan” efforts to curb the power of Big Tech are now being defended by progressives on the grounds that they will make the censorship of tech platforms easier.
Free speech activists on the Right are divided over the American Choice and Innovation Online Act and the Open App Marketplace Act. The ACIOA limits when Big Tech platforms can discriminate in favor of their own products against other “business users,” and the Open App Markets Act limits app hosting platforms (in practice, Google, Apple, and to a lesser extent Microsoft), from favoring their own apps or forcing other apps to use their app stores.
An analysis by the far left Center for American Progress, Evaluating 2 Tech Antitrust Bills To Restore Competition Online, endorsed both laws on the grounds that they will increase censorship. This heightens concerns that the two bills’ loopholes for “safety” and “security” will be used to enable censorship.
As Breitbart previously reported, the bills appear to make it harder for Google and Apple to discriminate against free speech apps such as Parler, Gab, Rumble, Truth Social, or potentially a Elon Musk-owned Twitter. When the Musk deal appeared to be on course, far-left Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King tweeted that Apple and Google would remove a free speech-friendly Twitter from their app stores.
I am told this morning that Apple and Google will remove Twitter from the App Store if it does not moderate and remove hate speech under @ElonMusk.
This isn’t a new policy, but a commitment already made.
Amazon Web Services has the same commitment.
So there’s that.
— Shaun King (@shaunking) April 27, 2022
“I am told this morning that Apple and Google will remove Twitter from the App Store if it does not moderate and remove hate speech under @ElonMusk,” said King. “This isn’t a new policy, but a commitment already made. Amazon Web Services has the same commitment. So there’s that.”
It can be difficult to know who’s telling the truth since corporate lobbyists with a vested interest against Big Tech have a habit of playing both sides in D.C., telling Republicans that their preferred tech regulation bills will fix censorship, while simultaneously telling Democrats that the bills will curb “misinformation.”
Some conservatives have endorsed the laws, claiming that this will punish the companies for censorship because “these monopolies don’t just distort the market, they distort the free exchange of ideas.” On the flip side, as Breitbart News reported, other populist conservatives expressed concerns that the exemptions for “privacy” and “security” would make the law impotent.
Attorney Noah Peters, who represented both Meghan Murphy against Twitter and whistleblower Kevin Cernekee against Google, noted: “we can readily foresee how Big Tech companies will interpret this language. Virtually every Big Tech platform has a ‘trust and safety’ or ‘safety’ section in their Terms of Service, including rules against so-called hate speech, extremism, and misinformation.”
The Center for American Progress report appears to elevate these concerns. It was authored by the Center’s technology director Erin Simpson and Facebook’s former top lobbyist Adam Conner, who both repeatedly criticize big tech for not censoring enough, even calling for the government to step in and create “best practices” for censorship.
The pair wholeheartedly endorse the bills on the grounds that it will encourage “much-needed improvements in content moderation practices and technologies.” It quotes the General Counsel for Yelp Aaron Schurr, who claims ACIOA will not prevent censorship because the bill was written so it would not hinder Big Tech’s censorship to “prevent hate speech or stop vaccine disinformation as ‘discriminatory’ behavior” under the bill.
Conner and Simpson cite the safety and security exception to explain how it would give a big tech platform immunity to censor Alex Jones because of his alleged “long history attacking victims of a school shooting and spreading false cures for COVID-19, among other outrages, these actions should fall squarely in the category of YouTube’s ability to take action to protect the safety or security of its users.”
They also argue that the exemption may cover “brand safety,” because big tech platforms “are primarily funded by advertising and have heavily touted their efforts around ‘brand safety’ to their advertisers, marketing it as a core feature of their advertising products.”
“Brand Safety” is a code-word which left-wing radicals such as Sleeping Giants have used to justify boycotts of Breitbart News, Tucker Carlson, and other conservatives.
Considerable momentum has been built up on the right to tame Big Tech, in large part due to the reporting of Breitbart News, which has covered Big Tech censorship since its earliest beginnings in 2015. That has led to red states passing laws that would genuinely curb the power of platforms like Twitter and Facebook to censor, such as the one passed in Texas.
In Washington DC, however, there is a danger that the momentum against Big Tech on the right could be co-opted by corporate lobbyists like Yelp’s, who have little interest in addressing the censorship question, and will back bills with loopholes that specifically allow it, so long as it pleases Democrats who hold the majority.
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election. Follow him on Twitter @LibertarianBlue.