Webb: Big Tech won't change; the tech sector can

Webb: Big Tech won't change; the tech sector can
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I have always been a fan of capitalism and “fair” competition combined. It is one thing to shout at the Big Tech wind but more effective to have a long-term competitive strategy. In recent years, many new social media platforms have emerged. Some are instant hits but all too often geared for a particular audience. My belief is not cancel culture or simply counter-platform. I believe in more voices, not less. To be successful, the technology and the organization policy must align and be open to all. This is essential to free and open speech. 

CloutHub, a social networking platform, is one of the growing competitors. I am on CloutHub and many other social media platforms. It’s part of my business model. I spoke with the founder Jeff Brain to pick his brain. 

 

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You’ve often said that Big Tech is beyond redemption. Why? 

Based on recent events, there is no reason to believe social media giants will change their repugnant behavior of silencing dissenting voices, invading our privacy and manipulating the facts the public gets to see — but with the help of robust competition, the American people can still protect themselves from Big-tech’s totalitarian ambitions. 

In late July, the Media Research Center’s Free Speech America  released its second-quarter Big Tech Report Card, giving tech giants such as Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Apple, Google and YouTube an “F” for online freedom. 

Of course, those who’ve been paying attention to the worsening behavior of tech giants were not at all surprised by this damning verdict. For months, Big Tech executives have done nothing to address the concerns of the American people, or uphold their vows to protect free speech online. The seemingly thoughtful congressional testimonies of Jack Dorsey, Mark ZuckerbergMark ZuckerbergHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — US cracks down on tools for foreign hacking DC AG adds Facebook's Zuckerberg to Cambridge Analytica suit Senator asks Facebook's Zuckerberg to testify at hearing on kids' safety MORE, and other tech executives, it turns out, were just public relations stunts, selling false hope that the social platforms could be reformed.

 

Can federal legislation fix Big Tech? 

Regrettably, the American people can’t rely on the federal government, either. Thanks to a recent admission by White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden says he would tap National Guard to help with supply chain issues GOP memo urges lawmakers to blame White House 'grinches' for Christmas delays Regional powers rally behind Taliban's request for humanitarian aid MORE, we now know that government officials were telling Facebook to censor accounts that expressed skepticism about COVID-19 vaccines.

“Within the surgeon general’s office, we’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation,” she infamously said during the recent press conference. The federal government, in other words, is an active participant in online censorship. 

Make no mistake — this is not an “I told you so” moment. At one point or another, all of us retained some level of optimism about reforming Big Tech corporations from within. Sadly, fighting tech giants with legislation no longer seems possible in the current political environment. 

 

How can we keep tech giants accountable for their actions? 

The only path to meaningful change is through robust competition — and the free market is already responding to the rising demands for alternatives. 

Mainstream social media, after all, has missed a massive opportunity: in today’s digital society, social networks have tremendous power to bring people together and address the issues we care about. At a time when political polarization in the U.S. has reached an all-time high, platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are making no attempt to use their platforms to unite the American people. In fact, they are doing just the opposite.

 

What are the dangers of online censorship? 

The act of political censorship, is inherently partisan and divisive — traditionally, the important and difficult task of separating fact from fiction was reserved for the public square, and for good reason. Political arguments are notoriously nuanced and complex — and often evolve with the discovery of new information that comes through open dialogue. It’s laughable to think that a group of woke college graduates in the Silicon Valley believe they can do a better job adjudicating public discourse on the issues impacting our lives, our society and country than the whole of society. 

While supporters of online censorship frequently claim that it’s easier to spread disinformation in the digital age, this assertion is fundamentally misguided. The internet provides unprecedented access to factual information and academic literature that was once only available to wealthy elites, or the shelves of public libraries. 

Today, the average American voter has access to more high-quality research than at any other time in our country’s history. Voters must be able to hear all sides, debate the issues and make up their own minds without Big Tech interference. 

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Crucially, Big Tech is also inconsistent when it comes to its censorship policies. While former President TrumpDonald TrumpHarris stumps for McAuliffe in Virginia On The Money — Sussing out what Sinema wants Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — The Facebook Oversight Board is not pleased MORE’s social media accounts remain suspended, terrorist organizations such as the Taliban reliably use mainstream social media to spread actual disinformation. 

 

Is censorship the biggest problem with Big Tech? 

Big Tech has also failed in other major areas. Despite widespread concerns about privacy and mental health, social media giants continue to exploit users’ personal information and promote addictive behavior. Senseless scrolling — not productivity — is the name of the game for platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Mainstream social media, in other words, has merely become a source of frivolous entertainment. 

It appears tech giants won’t be reversing course on these issues any time soon — data mining and endless engagement are the critical components of their business model. 

All platforms are invited to my public square here, on radio or any platform where I am found. I don’t fear dissent and disagreement. I see it as an opportunity to debate in the free marketplace of ideas.

 

Webb is host of “The David Webb Show” on SiriusXM Patriot 125, a Fox Nation host, Fox News contributor and a frequent television commentator. His column appears twice a month in The Hill.