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Are Fears Over Facebook and Other Big Tech Companies Overblown? | Video
Author Robby Soave explains why he’s ”extremely skeptical“ of both political parties’ push to curb Big Tech
Are concerns over Big Tech’s outsize influence on our day-to-day lives overblown?
Reason Magazine Senior Editor Robby Soave thinks so — and it’s the focus of his upcoming book, “Tech Panic: Why We Shouldn’t Fear Facebook and the Future,” to be published by Simon & Schuster on September 28.
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“Obviously, new technology and new communication platforms pose new challenges, so I’m not making the claim there’s nothing wrong with social media or there are no problems to address,” Soave told TheWrap’s tech reporter Sean Burch. “But I think the history of moral panics over new methods of communication should make us skeptical this is so bad [that] it’s an apocalypse.”
Soave made it clear he’s not a fan of every censorship decision that Facebook and YouTube make. But at the same time, he said, there isn’t much that can be done about it.
“At the end of the day, these are private companies making decisions that are well within their rights on what kind of content they want on their platforms,” Soave said. “So I may disagree with it, but there’s no policy to address it — it’s impossible under the First Amendment.”
Soave’s book comes at a time when Silicon Valley’s popularity is waning, both with lawmakers and the American public.
According to a recent Axios poll, 57% of both Democrats and Republicans support breaking up tech giants — one of many polls this year that indicate there’s bipartisan support for clamping down on Big Tech. And broadly speaking, GOP senators like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley have railed against tech platforms for their censorship — or “content moderation” decisions, as it’s usually called — while many left-leaning politicians like Sen. Elizabeth Warren have supported breaking up Amazon and Facebook, claiming they’ve become too big.
There’s clearly momentum against Big Tech; Google and Facebook are currently facing major antitrust lawsuits led by the U.S. government, and there’s also been a push to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — the 25-year-old law that gives platforms a legal shield against being sued for what its users post.
But Soave said he’s “extremely skeptical” that changing Section 230 would satisfy conservative users who are upset over Facebook and Twitter’s censorship decisions.
“The issue with that is, if you take away this liability shield, then certainly these platforms are going to engage in more takedowns of posts,” Soave said. “They’re going to be more liable for the content that appears on the sites, and that’s going to make them more likely to engage in knee-jerk, overly-sensitive crushing of the exact sort of right-wing content that right-wing people are very concerned about being taken down.”
For the full conversation with Soave, watch the video above.