Big Tech, Antitrust, and National Security: Why the Gaslighting Must End
Last week, I participated in a George Mason University panel to discuss the national-security implications of antitrust as they relate to Big Tech. According to my fellow panelists, groups like the Internet Accountability Project (IAP), which I lead, should back away from supporting legislation aimed at tackling Big Tech’s dominance because Big Tech companies are somehow integral to our national security. We are concerned that these conservatives are gaslighting the rest of us on behalf of the wokest, least patriotic companies in the country.
This gaslighting needs to stop. There are many DC policy wonks who rely on the Big Tech platforms financially. They don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them. We get it. On behalf of the rest of the conservative movement, however, we say this to them: you may not want to bite the hand that feeds you but, in so doing, you are in reality failing to bite the hand that’s starving us all.
You see, Big Tech companies are not our friends. They censor conservatives, they interfere in our democratic elections, and they push woke “right think" on us under the guise of their so-called “content moderation” policies.
More importantly, Big Tech companies are not even America’s friends. Here’s a good example: In 2018, news broke that Google had abandoned a Pentagon research project known as Project Maven. Project Maven was a contract Google entered into with the Pentagon to provide our armed forces with drone-related AI technology. Following pushback from Google employees (all of them seemingly suffering from a severe dose of Trump Derangement Syndrome), Google withdrew from its contract with the Pentagon, leaving U.S. national security high and dry. Because of Google’s market dominance, there were few competitors that could easily step up and fill the void. In other words, not updating and enforcing our century-old antitrust laws to tackle the dominance of Google, a trillion-dollar monopolist, actually harms – not helps – our national security. As if that wasn’t enough, later in 2018, an investigation by the Intercept revealed that Google had for several years been in discussions with the Communist Chinese government to develop and launch a censored search engine that would allow the CCP back-door surveillance access to its citizens’ searches. Google, seemingly a fan of secret code names, called this effort Project Dragonfly. In other words, just three years ago, Google was unwilling to continue its drone contract with the United States – but willing to serve as the censorship partner with the Communist Chinese government. And Google is as American as apple pie, huh?
Fast forward to 2021 and my fellow GMU panelists would have conservatives believe that Big Tech platforms are “national champions” in the same vein as Lockheed or Raytheon. Relying on this assumption, they go on to argue that because Big Tech companies are “national champions,” they are integral to our nation’s national security. They further argue that these Big Tech “national champions” should not be broken up or otherwise subject to U.S. antitrust scrutiny because doing so would undermine national security.
Can you see where this circular argument is headed? It’s a self-licking ice cream cone: Google = national champion = we must protect Google from antitrust scrutiny.
In truth, Big Tech’s argument is a fallacy because it is based on a sneaky assumption: namely the assumption that Big Tech platforms are on Team America in the first instance. The Project Maven and Project Dragonfly stories mug this assumption with reality, bringing down the whole GMU panels’ house of cards. Remember: at the same time that Google backed away from U.S. national security because “Orange Man Bad,” it was locking arms with the Chinese Communist government, which is the closest thing to a transnational criminal organization disguised as a national government the world has ever known. Yet, according to Google’s conservative DC defenders, we are supposed to trust Google when it says we should protect and defend its monopoly from Congress? We don’t think so.
It’s time for conservatives to have an honest conversation about Big Tech. And this conversation must be grounded in reality. If the past is prologue, Big Tech is not on Team America when it comes to our national security -- and likely never will be. What happens when there’s another Republican president in the White House for whom none of Google’s woke employees voted? This is why we need competitors to Big Tech that will honor their contracts with the Pentagon and stand firm for American values at home and abroad, not undermine American values in collusion with the CCP. Antitrust is the key to unlocking this competition.
IAP supports updating and enforcing our nation’s century-old antitrust laws so we can tackle Big Tech’s malign influence on our economy and our nation more broadly. And yes, that includes our national security.