The GOP Knows That The Dem's Antitrust Efforts Have A Content Moderation Trojan Horse; Why Don't The Dems?

from the getting-played-like-a-fiddle dept

Last summer, I believe we were among the first to highlight that the various antitrust bills proposed by mainly Democratic elected officials in DC included an incredibly dangerous trojan horse that would aid Republicans in their “playing the victim” desire to force websites to host their disinformation and propaganda. The key issue is that many of the bills included a bar on self-preferencing a large company’s own services against competitors. The supporters of these bills claimed it was to prevent, say, an Apple from blocking a competing mapping service while promoting Apple Maps, or Google from blocking a competing shopping service, while pushing Google’s local search results.

But the language was so broad, and so poorly thought out, that it would create a massive headache for content moderation more broadly — because the language could just as easily be used to say that, for example, Amazon couldn’t kick Parler off it’s service, or Google couldn’t refuse to allow Gab’s app in its app store. You would have thought that after raising this issue, the Democratic sponsors of these bills would fix the language. They have not. Bizarrely, they’ve continued to issue more bills in both the House and the Senate with similarly troubling language. Recently, TechFreedom called out this problematic language in two antitrust bills in the Senate that seem to have quite a lot of traction.

Whatever you think of the underlying rationale for these bills, it seems weird that these bills, introduced by Democrats, would satisfy the Republicans’ desire to force online propaganda mills onto their platforms.

Every ?deplatformed? plaintiff will, of course, frame its claims in broad terms, claiming that the unfair trade practice at issue isn?t the decision to ban them specifically, but rather a more general problem ? a lack of clarity in how content is moderated, a systemic bias against conservatives, or some other allegation of inconsistent or arbitrary enforcement ? and that these systemic flaws harm competition on the platform overall. This kind of argument would have broad application: it could be used against platforms that sell t-shirts and books, like Amazon, or against app platforms, like the Google, Apple and Amazon app stores, or against website hosts, like Amazon Web Services.

Indeed, as we’ve covered in the past, Gab did sue Google for being kicked out of the app store, and Parler did sue Amazon for being kicked of that company’s cloud platform. These kinds of lawsuits would become standard practice — and even if the big web services could eventually get such frivolous lawsuits dismissed, it would still be a tremendous waste of time and money, while letting grifters play the victim.

Incredibly, Republicans like Ted Cruz have made it clear this is why they support such bills. In fact, Cruz introduced an amendment to double down on this language and make sure that the bill would prohibit “discriminating on the basis of a political belief.” Of course, Cruz knows full well this doesn’t actually happen anywhere. The only platform that has ever discriminated based on a political belief is… Parler, whose then CEO once bragged to a reporter how he was banning “leftist trolls” from the platform.

Even more to the point, during the hearings about the bill and his amendment, Cruz flat out said that he was hoping to “unleash the trial lawyers” to sue Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and the like for moderating those who violate their policies. While it may sound odd that Cruz — who as a politician has screamed about how evil trial lawyers are — would be suddenly in favor of trial lawyers, the truth is that Cruz has no underlying principles on this or any other subject. He’s long been called “the ultimate tort reform hypocrite” who supports trial lawyers when convenient, and then rails against them when politically convenient.

So no one should be surprised by Cruz’s hypocrisy.

What they should be surprised by is the unwillingness of Democrats to fix their bills. A group of organizations (including our Copia Institute) signed onto another letter by TechFreedom that laid out some simple, common-sense changes that could be made to one of the bills — the Open App Markets Act — to fix this potential concern. And, yet, supporters of the bill continue to either ignore this or dismiss it — even as Ted Cruz and his friends are eagerly rubbing their hands with glee.

This has been an ongoing problem with tech policy for a while now — where politicians so narrowly focus on one issue that they don’t realize how their “solutions” mess up some other policy goal. We get “privacy laws” that kill off competition. And now we have “competition” laws that make fighting disinformation harder.

It’s almost as if these politicians don’t want to solve actual issues, and just want to claim they did.

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Comments on “The GOP Knows That The Dem's Antitrust Efforts Have A Content Moderation Trojan Horse; Why Don't The Dems?”

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

'How surprising, we had no idea it would do that...'

If you do something and it has a particular result that wasn’t spelled out it might be an accident.

If you do something after some random person tells you it will cause the ‘unexpected’ result the benefit of the doubt starts getting strained.

If you do something multiple times after having been warned multiple times by people/groups experienced in the relevant field that it will cause a particular ‘unexpected’ result then it’s safe to assume that that result is not a bug, it’s a feature.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: 'How surprising, we had no idea it would do that...'

Perhaps it is time to look elsewhere than senile citizens for leadership.
They are so removed from reality that you can show them here is where we told you the bill would do this, you said it wouldn’t, and you passed it and look what we told you would happen did, and somehow think they were right in what they did.

They are stuck in this stupid tit for tat game & its now to the point where the guys they are against are cheering them on to do it… how mentally damaged so you have to be to see your enemy cheering on your course of action and still think its a great idea?

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Meh, at least PV provided names and evidence, as clearly forced and misleadingly edited as it was.

AC can’t even identify which platform he supposedly worked for, let alone his position there, and those would be the very basic things required to even start to evaluate his self-proclaimed authority, let alone his conclusions.

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Koby (profile) says:

Evil Trial Lawyers > Social Media

While it may sound odd that Cruz — who as a politician has screamed about how evil trial lawyers are — would be suddenly in favor of trial lawyers

It’s all a matter of relativity. True, the trial lawyers are evil. But compared to social media corporations, only slightly so. Getting the trial lawyers to battle social media would be like unleashing hell upon itself. Let them destroy one-another in the ultimate battle!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Evil Trial Lawyers > Social Media

Bravely bold Sir Koby
Rode forth from the Internet.
He was not afraid to die,
Oh brave Sir Koby.
He was not at all afraid
To be killed in nasty ways.
Brave, brave, brave, brave Sir Koby.
He was not in the least bit scared
To be mashed into a pulp.
Or to have his eyes gouged out,
And his elbows broken.
To have his kneecaps split
And his body burned away,

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