Minority Parliamentary Leader Kevin McCarthy issued a warning in response to Wednesday’s decision: “A Republican majority in the House will limit great technological power over our speech.”
Now Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg face up to six more months of public wrangling over a Trump controversy they hoped to put behind them.
“It blew up in their faces,” said Jim Steyer, CEO of left-wing group Common Sense Media, adding that the board basically said to Facebook, “We’re sending it back to you.”
The supervisory board issued a mixed decision on Wednesday, upholding Trump’s suspension but directing Facebook to reconsider what the panel called the company’s “arbitrary” and “vague” decision-making. This puts the tech giant in the same unenviable place it found itself in January: having to make a massive, but controversial, appeal on how to handle accusations that Trump used his platform to help. to start an insurgency.
The immediate result – Trump’s continued absence from Facebook’s 2.7 billion-member platform – has fueled Republicans’ grievances over the so-called cancellation culture and allegations that the technology is biased against the conservatives. And the move could do more lasting damage if it serves to rally Republicans around a strategy to attack the company and its Silicon Valley cohorts.
There are indications that are already happening.
Angered by Trump’s latest muzzling on social media, Republicans on Wednesday posted signs of warming legal changes once considered forbidden for the traditionally pro-business party, all to restrict Facebook’s conduct.
Republican House Rep. 2 Steve Scalise gave a notable boost to calls for Congress to update U.S. antitrust laws, which so far have largely gained ground only among the wing populist and anti-Big Tech GOP. “Big Tech has a choice: have the same standards for ALL – or – we look at antitrust laws to limit their monopoly power,” he tweeted.
Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker, the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, has expressed support for legislation to treat social media companies like common carriers, a dramatic move that could rob them of their ability to exclude certain users of their services. This echoed a recent suggestion from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who used a recent case to express concern over “control of so much speech in the hands of a few private parties.”
“Even with the grassroots voters right now, there is just serious distrust of the system, and I think that’s why you see the fight against Big Tech censorship as priority issues,” he said. said Jon Schweppe, director of policy and government affairs at the American Principles Project, a conservative think tank.
Republican strategists and activists said the remarks by lawmakers are emblematic of the GOP’s shifting tides against the power of Big Tech companies, which are beginning to converge around possible avenues to strike back at Silicon Valley companies. This includes efforts to overhaul U.S. antitrust laws and roll back the liability shield that protects digital platforms from lawsuits regarding the content of user posts.
That’s a progression from the GOP’s attacks on Silicon Valley during the Trump era, which only saw support for these changes pick up in his final months in office.
“The Republicans are still moving from where they were four years ago, openly defending Big Tech, to get back to where they [Sen.] Josh Hawley on a branch, ”said Schweppe. “And now I think it’s become the dominant opinion of the party that something needs to be done. So we just have to figure out what that policy will be. “
“Republicans are responding to the mounting evidence that there is market distortion, there is an imbalance of power [in Big Tech] and they’re looking at the tools they have, ”said Rachel Bovard, senior policy director at the Conservative Partnership Institute.
The move by Facebook’s supervisory board marked an immediate setback for Trump’s potential campaign fundraising efforts before 2024, at least temporarily denying him access to the platform’s powerful organizing tools. Still, Tory leaders argued on Wednesday that the party could exploit accusations that Silicon Valley is suffocating Tories to rally support before the 2022 midterm, and potentially even take back the House.
“@Facebook thank you for securing the majority of the GOP in 2022,” tweeted Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), Member of the Conservative Freedom Caucus.
The ordeal has also emboldened left-wing critics of Facebook, who seized on the decision on Wednesday to call for more radical government action against the platform. As the board upheld the ban on Trump’s account, responding to a long-standing wish of some liberal advocacy groups and officials, Democratic lawmakers have indicated that they are largely not impressed by the quasi-judicial proceedings. And they said it underscored the need for the federal government to take a more active role in monitoring platforms, rather than letting Facebook regulate itself.
“While this is a welcome step for Facebook, the reality is that bad actors still have the ability to exploit and militarize the platform,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) Said in a statement. “Policymakers ultimately need to get to the root of these problems, which includes promoting effective oversight and moderation mechanisms to hold platforms accountable for a business model that is spreading damage around the world. real.”
At the same time, company critics have warned that as long as a political lightning rod like Trump is at the center of Facebook’s troubles, it might be more difficult to find agreement in Washington on how to respond.
“When Donald Trump is in the conversation, we are talking about political speech, we are talking about moderation of content, we are talking about individual things that people say,” not the broader structural issues of the company, said Rashad Robinson, CEO from the Color of Change racial justice group.