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Senate subpoena of big tech is sign of ominous future for internet giants

The Senate Commerce Committee voted unanimously this week to issue subpoenas to the CEO’s of Google, Facebook and Twitter.

“Representatives for Facebook and Twitter declined to comment. A Google spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment,” says CNBC.

The unanimous vote is a move that could signal a more ominous future for the tech giants going forward as they face opposition on multiple fronts depending on which political party is asking the questions.

For Republicans, the issue is one of censorship over conservative thought and opinion, which is increasingly touchy for the big tech companies under pressure from Democrats to delete content helpful to the GOP.  

The White House, the Department of Justice, along with Congressional Republicans, have said they will seek to repeal internet immunity from the big tech companies, known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, as companies have begun censoring conservative opinion, acting as publishers rather than a platform for publishers.

“In May 2020,” says the Council on Foreign Relations, “Trump issued an executive order aimed at limiting the legal protection offered by Section 230. The move came after Twitter appended fact checks to several of his tweets regarding voting by mail. The president has long feuded with big tech companies, arguing they are trying to ‘rig the election’ against him and are masquerading as neutral while suppressing content they disagree with.”

Section 230 generally protects internet companies from liability regarding content published by users, which Google, Facebook and Twitter say they don’t control on their platform. It’s a claim increasingly hard to make, however, as they delete conservative content.

“There has never been such an aggregation of power in the history of humankind as big tech enjoys today, with money and monopoly, power and the hubris that comes with the unchecked use of power,” Republican Sen. Ted Cruz said after the vote according to the BBC.

For Democrats, the more pressing issue now that big tech is acceding to their demands to censor conservatives is the monopoly power of big tech, which– while it won’t be a topic of testimony at the hearings– will loom under the surface as a threat to big tech by Democrats.

Top Senate Democrat, Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), has aggressively put forward a plan to break up big tech companies which she thinks have too much power.

Warren says that nearly half of all e-commerce goes through Amazon and more than 70% of all Internet referral traffic goes through sites owned or operated by Google or Facebook.

“The tech companies are being criticized on the left and right for slightly different reasons but the underlying arguments being made are quite similar,” said Christopher Koopman, Executive Director for the Center for Growth and Opportunity. “(Democratic Sen. Elizabeth) Warren and (Republican Sen. Ted) Cruz may not agree on much, but they would agree that Big Tech is a problem.”

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