With the holiday season now behind us, it’s worth reviewing the shopping landscape to understand how our habits and economy have changed during the pandemic. It seems no one has benefited more than Big Tech companies, whose profits have skyrocketed while American small businesses have suffered greatly.
It’s time for the states, Congress and regulators to stop the monopolization of Big Tech.
Here in Colorado, there are promising signs that elected officials are coming to realize the threats Big Tech poses to Coloradans and our way of life. With the landmark antitrust lawsuit against Facebook that was launched in December, even Democrat Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser has been working to bring Facebook to justice, serving on the multistate lawsuit’s executive committee.
“A decade ago, most people about Facebook would have said they represented a success story, of being an upstart themselves and overcoming rivals,” Weiser said. “Over the last decade, increasingly, the story has changed. Today’s story is Facebook has chilled entry, chilled innovation and undermined investment through these anti-competitive practices.”
My Republican federal colleague representing Colorado’s 4th Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, has come to the same conclusions – that Facebook crushed competition by breaking the law – tweeting, “Big Tech’s reckoning has just begun.”
And Facebook doesn’t just stop at crushing the competition – they also crush any speech that they don’t particularly like or agree with.
When it came to the COVID-19 pandemic, Facebook has blocked too many viewpoints on vaccines and other matters solely on the opinions of their own “health experts.” Facebook should have allowed the American people to read the information for themselves and come to their own conclusions.
Thanks to former President Trump and Operation Warp Speed, vaccines have been developed and approved, and millions of doses have been delivered and are being administered as we speak, with more on the way.
Since 2016, Big Tech has, in my view, gone far beyond merely vetting obviously false information and has deliberately censored conservatives and worked to crush free speech online — including information critical of then-candidate Joe Biden.
This growing censorship and ability for private citizens like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to be the arbiter of truth online is a prime example of why policies like Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act – which provide the means for Big Tech companies to expand their power – need to be repealed.
A key part of Section 230 says: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of … any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.”
From removing Big Tech’s ability to limit free speech, to their ability to limit where you can buy your Christmas presents, repealing Section 230 would be the first step in prioritizing small businesses and American citizen’s privacy over giant monopolies.
In the midst of this pandemic, which made holiday shopping feel safer and easier to do online, we must strive to find ways to create a level playing field for small business against Big Tech.
As we speak, small businesses both here in Colorado and across the country are closing in many cases because Amazon has made it harder for consumers being able to buy their products online. Rather than allowing you to easily see quality, American-made products from a small business when you shop online, Amazon instead often places its own products first, crushing small businesses’ sales and their hopes of keeping their doors open through the pandemic.
While there have been calls to “shop local” and support small businesses throughout the pandemic, Amazon continues to destroy mom-and-pop shops that cannot afford to compete with a company whose valuation has increased by nearly two-thirds of a trillion dollars since the pandemic began.
These Big Tech monopolies will not stop without the states and Congress demanding they do so.
For the American Dream and small businesses to survive, Big Tech must be held accountable. If not, we face losing the entrepreneurial spirit and drive that has kept our economy the best in the world for generations.
By repealing Section 230 and leveling the playing field, we can return the U.S. to the competitive marketplace that supported small businesses and the freedom of speech without fear of censorship or exploitation.
Mark Baisley of Roxborough Park is a Republican state representative for House District 39 in Douglas and Teller counties.
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