The New York Post is jumping on the very popular “let’s have government regulate tech giants” bandwagon, with an editorial calling for government oversight over Google:
Tuesday brought endless commentary and reporting on how President Trump was being utterly ridiculous and conspiratorial to accuse Google of bias in its search algorithms. Funny: Just over a year ago, in June 2017, the European Union fined the company $2.7 billion for … bias in its search algorithms.
Yes, Trump’s off-the-cuff charge focused on political bias, whereas the EU verdict (after a seven-year investigation) was about the company “systematically favoring” its own Google Shopping feature. But all the Trump-bashers who were suggesting Google would never, ever put its thumb on the scale seem to have ignored at least one elephant in the room.
As we write, the top headlines on Google News include two CNN stories: “Trump slams Google search as ‘rigged’ — but it’s not” and “Debunking Donald Trump’s latest conspiracy theory on Google.” How is the average Web surfer to trust that Google isn’t weighting those stories?
Clearly, there can be no “trust” in the quality of speech without the involvement of, um, government:
The layman has plenty of reasons to worry about political bias to which the company could be blind: Silicon Valley is a notorious progressive place (except on issues that touch its own interests, anyway), and the internal Google discussion over “dissident” engineer James Damore showed a shocking intolerance for the merest questioning of certain left-liberal pieties.
. . . .
We’re no fans of heavy-handed government intervention, but any free democratic society is going to frown on enormous unchecked power. It certainly seems like some kind of independent oversight is called for here.
“We’re no fans of heavy-handed government intervention, but…” is a scary phrase to see about speech in a major publication. Usually, you might expect to see such phrases on the left. Like: “We’re no fans of heavy-handed government intervention, but this hate speech has really gotten out of control.” Or: “We’re no fans of heavy-handed government intervention, but government must play a role in making sure the community megaphone is available to all viewpoints.”
But no: here we have a right-wing publication calling for government oversight of speech. (And yes: it’s speech. You’re asking a Web site to tell you what the best answers are for your question, and the Web site is telling you what it thinks the right answer is. That’s speech, even if it comes in a non-conventional form that many don’t instantly recognize as such.)
This shows how easily Republicans accept anti-capitalist and pro-socialist arguments, the moment it appears to be to their narrow short-term political advantage to do so. “Enormous unchecked power” by a company is achieved in a free market by providing quality service. A company becomes big and powerful in a free market by doing a good job. For all conservatives’ whining about Google, conservatives mostly use Google for their searches. Why? Because they get you what you want more often, more quickly.
Note that there is a caveat in the above sentences: “in a free market.” True: in a crony capitalist society, companies often get ahead, not just by providing good service, but by scratching politicians’ backs. The solution for that, however, is not to break the successful companies, but to change the rules to make the market more free.
That way, any company with “enormous unchecked power” who is starting to hurt the public interest will simply be supplanted by another that does a better job.
Those who deny this ignore history and can view events only on a small timeline with a crabbed view of reality that assumes that the present situation will remain constant forever. Such people supported an antitrust lawsuit against IBM, because it was literally unthinkable to them that IBM’s iron hold on the relevant market could ever be broken. Today, the kids say IB Who? And that’s not because of a lawsuit, but because of innovators like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.
Similar examples can be found throughout American economic history.
Anytime a politician tells you that they will protect you from the speech of the Big Bad Company, Americans’ BS detectors should be instantly sounding the alarm. For a media organization to support such an effort is, quite simply, pathetic and un-American.
[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]