- The Washington Times - Monday, September 9, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Free-market purists may not like it, but when it comes to reeling in Google and Facebook and putting them in their conservative censoring places, recently announced antitrust investigations may prove the hook.

Then again, maybe not. We’ve been down this investigative road before.

Here’s the hope eternal side of things: “Nearly every U.S. state jumps into Google antitrust probe,” Politico wrote.

That headline comes as eight other states, days ago, announced a separate investigation into the dominance of Facebook’s market. And that comes as the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission have jumped into investigative mode as well, announcing queries into the competitive practices — or lack of — of some of Big Tech’s biggest.

On the latest, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the states will consider “whether large tech companies have engaged in anticompetitive behavior that stifled competition, restricted access and harmed consumers,” ABC News reported.



Sounds dramatic, right? Indeed.

But truly, it would be nice if this didn’t end up being all for show.

It’d be nice if these investigations actually led to something more than CEO denials of censorship and CEO promises to quote, unquote “do better” — whatever that would mean — and collective hand-raising and shoulder-shrugging of nonetheless properly outraged politicians.

Thing is, we’ve been here before.

And nobody knows that better than the objects of these investigations.

As Kent Walker, Google’s chief legal officer, wrote in a widely reported blog post: “We have answered many questions on these issues over many years, in the United States as well as overseas, across many aspects of our business, so this is not new for us.”

In other words: Nothing to see here, folks. Go home.

The fact is Alphabet Inc., the parent of Google, gives big money to political causes and candidates, mostly aligned with the Democrat Party.

The Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets.org site found that in this current 2020 political cycle, Alphabet has so far donated $1.54 million to Democrats versus $208,397 to Republicans. The 87%-12% split is the widest it’s been for years; in 2018, Alphabet gave a total of $6.04 million to Democrats and $1.25 to Republicans — a difference of 73% versus 15%. And in 2016, the company gave $5.73 million to Democrats, versus $2.07 million to Republicans, which breaks down to 62% for liberals and 23% percent for conservatives.

“Since 2004, Alphabet employees have contributed a little over 90% of their political dollars to Democratic candidates and causes,” GovPredict reported in 2018.

And in 2018 alone, “Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, [spent] more than $21.7 million on lobbying — a more than 40 percent increase from two years prior,” the website FollowTheMoney.org reported.

And it’s not just at the federal level that the Alphabet money is rolling.

“In the last seven years,” FollowTheMoney.org reported in August, “Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google spent more than $24.3 million lobbying in … 20 states.”

The money trail runs long.

And it weaves around some interesting rabbit holes, populated by politicians of all walks, of all types, of all persuasions.

Now add in the free market and there’s your answer on why Big Tech has been able to wield and wave its censorship wand for so long.

Big Tech, in the end, is Big Money.

So long as the money continues to flow — so long as America’s markets continue to be free — it’s hard to see how any investigations will bring any change at all.

• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter, @ckchumley.

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