Here’s a terrifying thought: Mark Zuckerberg is the only person in Silicon Valley that the political and intellectual right can trust when it comes to ‘Big Tech’. Wednesday’s ‘Antitrust’ House hearing resembled a group of Neanderthals trying to reason with Data from Star Trek. The worst of both sides was on show as Democrats and Republicans jockeyed for the news cameras, rather than getting real answers on antitrust practices or how Silicon Valley bows to the authoritarian regime in China. I watched the grueling insurance seminar so you don’t have to: here are the four big lessons.
1. No one in Congress over the age of 50 should be sitting on a committee overseeing ‘Big Tech’
From 103-year-old congressman Jim Sensenbrenner doing his best Judge Valkenheiser impression while peering over a bottle of hand sanitizer, to questions about boomer blog the Gateway Pundit, congressional committee members showed themselves to be woefully undereducated and unprepared for answers from witnesses. At the bare minimum, people running for Congress should at least have to demonstrate they know how to install a Google Chrome application before asking the CEO of Google about acquisitions from 10 years ago. Members would be better served bringing their TikTok teen daughters to the hearing and letting them grill Mark Zuckerberg over Instagram’s hostile acquisition.
2. Congress doesn’t actually know what ‘Big Tech’ means
Having the CEOs of Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon all testify at the same hearing on antitrust is perplexing enough. Each of those companies specializes in different areas of consumer technology. Facebook’s product is not the same as Apple’s product, which is not the same as Amazon’s streaming service or Google’s search engine and analytic services. In Facebook’s case, there is no product at all, except the user who is being targeted for mass micro advertising. Each of the four CEOs deserved their own full hearing, covering a range of topics including antitrust issues, relations with foreign governments and politically driven censorship.
3. Congress doesn’t care about the threat of China…and neither does Big Tech
Apple’s Tim Cook, Google’s Sundar Pichai, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos were only asked about China’s hold on their companies and technology three times. Two of those inquiries came from the same member of the Committee, Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado. When pressed by Rep. Greg Steube on if China steals technology from American companies, Mark Zuckerberg was the only witness to admit they did it. Pichai was only lightly peppered with questions about catering to CCP demands on shutting down location tracking services, Gchat and Gmail apps. Other than committing to making sure none of the products were made using Chinese slave labor (how brave!), Tim Cook was not asked about whether making Apple products was relevant to cost of purchase in the United States. Nor was Zuckerberg really pressed on Chinese bot farms utilizing his platform for political purposes, both in the upcoming 2020 election and in other countries. This is perhaps the most pressing issue facing any of the four companies, as it relates to China’s human rights abuses in Hong Kong and unleashing a global pandemic on the world: an outbreak which has resulted, in Jeff Bezos’s case, in record profits for Amazon.
4. The right’s attacks on Mark Zuckerberg are head scratching
Surprisingly, Mark Zuckerberg is the most adamant voice when it comes to free speech in Silicon Valley. He has stood up to both busybody journalists and network anchors, who see their failed brand of journalism dying out at the hands of an audience that has chosen Zuckerberg’s social media platform over their biased narratives. Zuckerberg declared in his opening statement that he doesn’t believe Silicon Valley nor Facebook should be the ‘arbiters of truth’ on his platform or others. This is undeniably true, even as desperate journalists demand he transform his platform into an outdated digital newspaper where only they may distribute information. As Twitter’s Jack Dorsey buckles to finger-wagging commentators, Mark Zuckerberg has provided a platform largely dominated by conservative news and viewpoints. The thanks Zuckerberg receives? Being quizzed about taking down Donald Trump Jr’s Twitter account. Zuckerberg is by no means perfect, or let’s face it, even human, but right now he’s the only thing standing between free expression and a media and Congress eager to regulate his platform out of existence.