PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel (Gary Cameron/Reuters)
Peter Thiel, the billionaire who co-founded Paypal and has worked extensively in Big Data, has found a familiar target. Thiel has spent $20 million dollars supporting two GOP candidates in the 2022 Senate races, both of whom have targeted Big Tech companies. The latest “Thiel acolyte” to enter the Senate race is Blake Masters, who is rapidly ratcheting up his rhetoric against tech companies.
Masters recently went on Fox News Business to attack “giant software monopolies” such as Google and Facebook. Masters said on air that “we have to stop pretending that we should regulate Google or regulate Twitter the exact same way that we might treat a hair salon.” He continued: “By regulating [these companies] well and smartly, we can actually continue to unleash innovation, make sure a lot of new interesting technology companies get built up.”
Twitter censoring conservatives is different from the issue of innovation. Implementing regulation to kickstart innovation requires proving that Big Tech is stifling new companies and that regulation can help. Of course, it is possible that conglomerate tech companies are harming future innovation. The Chicago Booth Review, for instance, found that Big Tech “may have created a kill zone” by purchasing new apps before they achieve market dominance.
However, other researchers have found that innovation is not being stunted at all. Furthermore, even if there were firm evidence that Big Tech was hurting tech growth — which, to be clear, there isn’t — there would still be another hurdle to overcome. Given that current government intervention is already hurting tech innovation, why would getting the government more involved spur new research? Academics at MIT Sloan raise this exact concern.
But, that’s not the full issue. The real reason J. D. Vance and Blake Masters are running campaigns against Big Tech is that these they censor conservative voices. However, the root cause of the issue is never addressed: Silicon Valley is made up of overwhelmingly liberal people. When liberal echo chambers make decisions over what content should “trend” or what is “hate speech,” they naturally give more latitude to people they agree with. Siccing Josh Hawley on them or breaking up tech companies into smaller pieces will not change that fundamental issue.
There are two solutions that Masters overlooks when he calls to “break [Big Tech] up and focus on censorship. . . . Google would be a good start.” The first is that conservatives need to change Silicon Valley’s culture. Conservatives should help like-minded students get involved in the tech industry by financially supporting fellowships or internships for Silicon Valley conservatives. This process might take a number of years, but it would be a more lasting solution.
The second solution is to utilize the existing social media more effectively. Twitter users are more likely to identify as Democrats — and those conservatives that are on the platform tend to post less often. Encouraging conservatives of all stripes to be more active on social media would alter the algorithms to show more conservative content. Perhaps more important, it would send a signal to Big Tech executives that the far Left is only a small percentage of their user base.
Peter Thiel and his protégés may think that government regulation is the only way to solve the problem of censorship. However, a group of highly motivated citizens can do more to solve this issue than any bureaucrat in Washington can. Instead of going after social media, Masters, Vance, and Theil should be telling folks to get on social media.
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