The tide has been turning against Silicon Valley tech giants in Washington for quite some time from both sides of the aisle, but this week appears to have reached a tipping point when Google flexed its unchecked power in a move that could mean the end of the free exchange of ideas.
On Tuesday, NBC reported that Google banned The Federalist and website ZeroHedge from profiting off its search engine ads. Considering that Google is one of three companies to control 70 percent of all digital advertising, such a move could kill almost any news organization.
Tuesday afternoon however, Google released a statement debunking NBC’s reporting that the network successfully convinced the internet kingmaker to demonetize The Federalist. It appears the NBC reporter from the network’s “Verification Unit” colluded with a left-wing British think tank complaining about The Federalist’s reporting that exposed the mainstream media’s deceptive coverage of the riots. Google said it was merely warning the The Federalist that it could be demonetized, not for its corrective journalism, but for content in its comments section, an ironic twist considering Google’s ownership of YouTube which famously hosts the most nefarious comments sections on the entire internet.
What protects Google and every other website from legal liability for third-party content on its platforms, is a 26-word passage from the 1996 Communications Decency Act known simply as “Section 230” which states:
“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
The 24-year-old law however, doesn’t protect websites from corporate censorship.
While The Federalist has temporarily deactivated its comments section (they’ll be back), prominent Washington lawmakers and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have ramped up their efforts to peel back the now controversial protections that have long been debated as the California tech empires continue to amass overarching influence on daily American life with vast capabilities to sway the outcomes of U.S. elections.
Even Georgia Republican Rep. Doug Collins, who had previously been an ally of the tech giants endorsed the Justice Department’s Wednesday announcement that it would seek to roll back Section 230 immunity in the aftermath of Google’s most recent free speech intrusion.
I’m glad to see Attorney General Barr taking action to roll back Section 230 immunity.
Google — along with every other big tech company — shouldn’t be allowed to get away with content filtering or censorship.
Section 230 must be repealed! https://t.co/EZCOk4GvRh
— Rep. Doug Collins (@RepDougCollins) June 17, 2020
Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, who is the leading Senate agitator of big tech also wrote a letter Wednesday to Google CEO Sundar Pichai condemning the company’s threats to employ selective censorship on The Federalist.
“Your company is well aware of the central role played by advertising in the modern online ecosystem, and has spent years amassing an enormous trove of internet users’ data through the Google ads platform,” Hawley wrote. “That, in turn, has granted your company vast powers to shape what users see, believe, and buy… Now your company is attempting to further manipulate the information marketplace by transforming advertising platform access into a cudgel wielded against dissenting voices.”
Fellow long-time Senate Republican critics of big tech like Ted Cruz of Texas and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee also joined the fray to condemn Google’s partisan discrimination.
Cruz blasted the company in a Wednesday letter demanding answers related to its decision while Blackburn was appointed to chair a task force on the Senate Judiciary Committee to monitor the tech giants.
“The recent actions of Google to ‘demonetize’ a conservative media publisher, The Federalist, raise serious concerns that Google is abusing its monopoly power in an effort to censor political speech with which it disagrees,” Cruz wrote. “This is part of a bigger problem. The culture of free speech in this country is under attack, and Google is helping lead the charge.”