In what will surely go down in Big Tech history as an “about time” moment for censor-weary Americans, the U.S. Justice Department filed a suit against Google, accusing the online giant of antitrust violations.
Google, prepare to be cowed. At least a little bit.
Even citizens who aren’t especially political have a point of order to make in this case, and it’s one that goes like this: Quit clamping speech!
“Today’s lawsuit is the most important antitrust case in a generation,” said Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, in a statement. “Google and its fellow Big Tech monopolists exercise unprecedented power over the lives of ordinary Americans, controlling everything from the news we read to the security of our most personal information. And Google in particular has gathered and maintained that power through illegal means.”
Specifically, DOJ is alleging that Google has outright and purposely stifled competition by juggling its online search returns to favor the company’s own special winners and picks. Google dismisses those allegations as frivolous.
“Today’s lawsuit,” a company spokesperson said to Fox News, “is deeply flawed. People use Google because they choose to — not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives.”
Google has a point.
It’s one thing for government to stifle individual speech — that’s a blatant First Amendment ding.
But private companies, frankly speaking, have a legal right to set the standards for what speech is allowed versus which speech is booted. And yes, when money and revenues and competing money-making, revenues-generating companies are involved, these waters get murky, due to antitrust laws. But in the end: who’s to say a company’s too big? Who’s to say a company doesn’t have a right to win against the competition?
On surface, laws against monopolies seem the antithesis of capitalism. That’s an argument that indeed can be made.
On surface, too, the government dictating to private companies what speech must be given platform versus which speech is OK to boot seems the antithesis of Americanism — or at least free speech. That’s an argument that can indeed be made as well.
But these Big Tech companies have been pushing, pushing, pushing the buttons of Jane Q. and Joe Q. American for a very long time, censoring this, censoring that, all the while claiming the right to do so — and when that didn’t fly, all the while denying they were doing so at all. And Google, in particular, plays a crucial role in determining the news habits of every American — holding the keys, for instance, in returning positive stories for one political candidate versus negative stories for another.
With a tight presidential election in the works, that’s a lot of power to wield.
Stiff competition would stifle Google’s ability to wield such power.
But the competition isn’t there. It’s non-existent. Which makes even the freest of market-minded take pause and wonder at the antitrust suit and think, hmm, maybe.
Maybe it’s just what the free market ordered.
“[We’re suing to stop Google from] unlawfully maintaining monopolies in the markets for general search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising in the United States through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices and to remedy there effects of this conduct,” the DOJ put out, in a statement.
Well, it’s not the top choice of the capitalist crowd — to send in the government dogs against a private business. But Big Tech won’t listen to reason. Big Tech won’t self-regulate. Big Tech won’t even admit there’s a problem.
So it’s high time Big Tech was thumped on the head.
This lawsuit, whether it gains steam or falls flat, is at least an attention-getter. It’s at least a way of forcing them to a state of submission, however small, however slight — if only for a moment.