By DOUGLAS ANDREWS October 7, 2021
When “whistleblowers” and Big Tech firms start begging for regulation, free-speech advocates had better ask “Why?”
We haven’t had much use for Jonah Goldberg since he went full Never-Trumper and made common cause with the enemies of Liberty. Still, he makes a great point in an essay titled “When Business Leaders Beg to Be Regulated, Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.”
Goldberg smells a rat. So do we. From the very start, this Facebook “whistleblower” has gotten the kid-glove treatment from the Democrats and their mainstream media fellow travelers, and free-speech supporters of all stripes should be wondering why. As Goldberg writes:
A huge and splashy expose in the Wall Street Journal, with a choreographed tease about her identity, followed by a big 60 Minutes reveal on the eve of the Senate hearings. That same night she launched a fairly elegant website that features her picture alongside this description: ‘Frances Haugen is an advocate for public oversight of social media.’ You can sign up to get emails from her there.
Think about it: When was the last time you remember a whistleblower having been rolled out like the newest iPhone model?
If you think we’re being too hard on Haugen, think again. Is it mere coincidence that, as Michael Brendan Dougherty notes, she’s a donor to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and she’s working with the press agency that White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki used to run? Or that she’s enlisted the spin-doctoring services of former high-ranking Obama flack Bill Burton?
Leftists spend sleepless nights wondering how they might silence their political enemies, and their dream of dreams is, as Dougherty writes, “that reliable progressive liars like Dan Rather can be put back in charge of the information space.” Sure, that seems far-fetched, but if you weren’t reading the article you’re reading right now, where would you be turning for trustworthy news and information? The New York Times? The Washington Post? ABC? NBC? CBS? NPR?
We need to pay close attention to these proposals for regulation. As Goldberg continues:
Facebook has been begging Washington to regulate it for a while now. Last February, under the headline, “Big Tech Needs More Regulation,” Mark Zuckerberg himself penned an op-ed in the Financial Times arguing that “if we don’t create standards that people feel are legitimate, they won’t trust institutions or technology.” He added, “I believe good regulation may hurt Facebook’s business in the near term, but it will be better for everyone, including us, over the long term.”
Big Tech regulation hasn’t gone anywhere primarily because Congress is broken, and because the warring political parties can’t agree on what to regulate. But let’s not fall for the canard that Big Tech is dead-set against being regulated. As with the robber barons of yore, a bit of well-placed regulation could knee-cap the upstarts, the lesser competitors, and leave only the Big Tech giants standing — more powerful than ever.
Progressives want to regulate Big Tech by requiring it to censor conservative political speech. That’s because the Left can’t compete with the Right in the marketplace of ideas. Conservatives, on the other hand, want to regulate Big Tech by prohibiting it from censoring political speech, which the Left euphemistically calls “content moderation.” So when you hear Big Tech oligarchs and their not-so-strange Democrat bedfellows talking about “content moderation,” remember that they’re talking about killing off publications like Ours Truly by permitting only the lamest, most anodyne of opinions and analysis.
Or worse: Big Tech could regulate conservative speech out of existence by “fact-checking” it to death.
Our Mark Alexander has been sounding the alarm about this naked encroachment on our civil liberties, which he calls the redlining of free speech. If the Left and Big Tech are allowed to collude toward this end, the first casualties will be robust debate and an informed citizenry.
Again, as Goldberg rightly warns, Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.