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Sunday, March 28, 2021

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Big Tech was on the hot seat again last Thursday.    

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testified again before Congress, this time in a House Energy and Commerce Committee virtual hearing. The three men were the essence of cool. Nothing ruffled them. Well, almost.


In fact, their cool, almost robotic articulation was unsettling, though it contrasted well with what unfolded at the other big Washington event on Thursday — President Biden’s first press conference. Mr. Biden looked lost at times, often ending mid-sentence and blaming his predecessor for the border disaster that he unleashed. He also threatened to push for an end to the Senate filibuster. All in the name of unity.     

Anyway, the Big Tech hearing was about whether Congress should amend Section 230 of the Telecommunications Act, which shields them from content liability. The trouble is, when they censor content, which they do billions of times each year, they’re acting like publishers, not utilities. Democrats want more, not less, censorship. Republicans want conservative content left alone.  

Big Tech has power that would have made the turn-of-the-century robber barons feel like pikers. Alphabet (Google and YouTube), and Facebook, which also owns Instagram, have billions of users and are together worth $2.1 trillion, according to Forbes.  

Google, which accounts for more than 90% of Internet searches, can determine elections by adjusting algorithms to favor one party over the other. In 2020, this cost President Trump as many as 6 million votes, according to Harvard-trained behavioral psychologist Robert Epstein.

One after another, Democrats blamed Big Tech for the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riot, the only one they care about. As for social media’s role in the other more than 200 riots in 2020, who cares? 

“You have failed to meaningfully change after your platforms played a role in fomenting insurrection, in abetting the spread of COVID-19, and trampling Americans’ civil rights,” said committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr., New Jersey Democrat. Ouch.

The Big Three moguls looked directly into their screens and gave pithy answers as members demanded “yes” or “no” answers to complex questions. I began almost feeling sorry for them. Then, I reminded myself that, although they’ve created technological marvels from which we all benefit, they’ve fueled and abetted the Marxist revolution that’s destroying our country from within.  

In 2020, Mr. Zuckerberg spent $400 million on “election assistance” for personnel and ballot collection boxes in non-polling locations in highly Democratic areas, such as Philadelphia. Neutral, he’s not. 

Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican, questioned Twitter’s Mr. Dorsey about blocking The New York Post’s shocking scoop about Hunter Biden’s China scandal in October at the height of the 2020 campaign. Mr. Dorsey brushed it off, saying that it was a “mistake” corrected within 24 hours.  

That would be news to The New York Post, whose site was down for two weeks and for people whose accounts were blocked for reposting the story. 

Mr. Scalise noted that Twitter still hasn’t taken down The Washington Post article that lied about President Trump’s December phone call to Georgia’s elections investigator, which triggered Mr. Trump’s second impeachment.

Google’s Mr. Pichai matter-of-factly noted that “after the December 8 safe harbor for states to certify the elections, we removed content from YouTube that alleged widespread fraud changed the outcome of the election.” Gone. Just like that. Maybe he’ll be a judge someday. 

Nearly every social conservative I know has been in “Facebook Jail” or blocked on Twitter or had Google demonetize sites. YouTube has taken down videos of testimonies from people who have overcome same-sex desires or gender identity confusion. By contrast, LGBTQ activists and BLM get whatever they want from the Big Three.

The Techies did endure a browbeating from leftist warhorse Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois. A co-founder of Chicago’s Black Panthers chapter, he accused Twitter’s Mr. Dorsey of promising at a 2018 hearing to conduct a diversity audit. 

“Where is it?” he demanded. When Mr. Dorsey responded that they had “taken a different approach,” working with civil rights groups instead of doing an audit, Mr. Rush said, “you lied to the committee,” and vowed to “deal with you.”  

Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington State told the men that, “your platforms are my biggest fear as a parent.” Democrat Kathy Castor of Florida called social media a “toxic stew,” reeling off shocking statistics about teen depression, suicide and other bad effects linked to social media and how it addicts users.  

Mr. Zuckerberg, who has two children aged 3 and 5, acknowledged that Facebook is about to launch a new Instagram service for children 13 and under. But don’t worry. They’re not out to get kids hooked early. Really, they’re not.

Some comic relief came when Rep. Bill Long of Missouri asked all three men, “Do you know the difference between ‘yes’ and ‘no?’” 

They were incredulous. How could anyone pose this to the Masters of the Universe? One by one, they reluctantly said “yes,” managing not to roll their eyes. 

Mr. Long grinned and said, “I just won a steak dinner from a colleague who said I couldn’t get an answer.”

Then, Mr. Long asked a serious question. Mr. Zuckerberg had boasted about forming an independent “oversight board” to moderate Facebook’s content, so Mr. Long asked, “How can we trust the oversight board?”  

Mr. Zuckerberg assured him that “we picked people” who back “free expression.”

Well, maybe not. The oversight board is stacked with liberals and only a couple of token conservatives.    

The hearing ended after five-and-a-half hours. For the Masters of the Universe, it’s back to business. 

• Robert Knight is a contributor to The Washington Times. His website is roberthknight.com.


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