Republicans have seemingly been at war with Big Tech for at least the past year and a half. They feel as if the tech companies are discriminating against their political beliefs after seeing conservative sites’ posts having their distribution altered or flagged with third-party fact-checkers or outright taken down, with certain conservative personalities being banned altogether from Twitter or Facebook. However, conservatives are using the wrong approach to handle the problems they face. Rather than use the force of government to compel companies, Republicans should use their market force and leave the “biased” platforms they decry.
To date, Republicans in Congress have spent countless hours trying to look at ways to amend or repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Jeff Kosseff wrote a book on it called The Twenty-Six Words That Created The Internet because, without such crucial legislation, the digital world we experience today would look radically different. The critical law provides legal protection from content posted by third parties when companies moderate their websites. However, despite the beliefs of Republicans, modifying the law won’t solve the underlying issue of bias. In fact, changing the law could result in, not less, but more censorship of online content from companies who would rather take down content than be held liable.
Despite their belief, conservatives are actually quite valuable to these platforms. They offer diversity of thought coming from a different perspective that challenges liberals’ ideas. In fact, according to a recent poll, 28 percent of Americans identify as conservative. If a significant number were to start leaving big tech platforms, they’d feel the loss and adjust their behavior or run the risk of losing more users.
If these companies do not alter their behavior, it is not surprising that alternatives to the dominant social media platforms pop up. A great example of this is Parler, an app similar to Twitter, which has exploded in popularity since the election, with the platform having over 4 million users as of November.
Recently, I went on the Moving Forward With Young Voices podcast, hosted by Brian Hyde, to talk about this issue. Normally, whenever a clip is made available, I share that interview through my various platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn). I had created a Parler account over the summer, but barely used it. I posted that interview to their platform, and it went absolutely viral. With over 1.5 million views, the post had enormous levels of engagement, and my following grew to nearly double my Twitter following overnight. In one post, I discovered a new platform to leverage and express my ideas.
Looking forward, conservatives should implement the most important tool they have yet to utilize: leaving. If they want big tech to take their complaints seriously, then conservatives need to take more significant action. The reality is that amending or repealing Section 230 does not solve the underlying issue of bias conservatives feel. The only thing that achieves is relegating the internet back to the dark ages.
Conservatives should go back to their roots and look to the market to solve problems they face, rather than the force of government. Whenever the government gets involved, one thing seems certain, and that is that everyone loses out.