If Republicans are worried about anti-conservative bias, they should fight tooth and nail to save net neutrality
Congressional Republicans are calling out tech giants like Facebook and Twitter for what they call “anti-conservative bias.” At a House Judiciary hearing last week, GOP lawmakers lambasted the social media giants for allegedly filtering online content based on their own political persuasions. But if Republican lawmakers are truly concerned about combating censorship and preserving free expression online, they should be fighting tooth and nail to save net neutrality.
Net neutrality is the first amendment of the Internet. It prevents telecom goliaths from manipulating the free flow of information and opinions online, and abusing their monopoly status to control what websites and apps we use, rather than letting the free market decide.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s decision to gut net neutrality will concentrate even more power in the hands of the Silicon Valley tech giants that Republicans are accusing of political censorship. Incumbent mega corporations like Google and Facebook will thrive in the new pay-to-play Internet ecosystem, where they’ll be able to easily squash competition from startups who can’t cough up “protection money” to Big Cable.
And if conservatives are worried about social media companies clamping down on free speech, they should be terrified by the prospect of giant cable and big media companies having free rein to do just that.
Without net neutrality, Comcast could arbitrarily decide to slow down FoxNews.com and speed up NBCNews.com (which it owns). Verizon could decide to block all websites with information about firearms because anti-gun activists complain. AT&T could gouge startups and small businesses by charging extra fees just to reach customers, while cutting special deals with mega corporations like Netflix and Amazon.
If you don’t like Facebook’s algorithm or Google’s search results, then killing net neutrality just means you’ll be stuck with them forever. Nothing will ever replace these giants in a world where they can cut deals with ISPs to give users free access while their competitors are throttled or slapped with extra fees. If you’re concerned one group of companies is engaging in political censorship, the solution is not giving a group of even larger, more powerful, companies, the ability to do the same at an even greater scale.
If net neutrality is not restored, the result over time will be an Internet where a few companies get to decide what speech is and isn’t okay, which opinions we’re allowed to express, and which news sources we’re shown. That’s an Internet that everyone should be afraid of, and fighting to prevent.
For decades, the Internet has thrived as a free market of ideas thanks to the basic principles of a free and open web embodied in net neutrality.
If Republican lawmakers are truly concerned about the silencing of conservative voices online, they should do what GOP representative Mike Coffman (R-CO) did, and sign the discharge petition to force a vote on a resolution to overrule the FCC and restore net neutrality. If they don’t, polls show they’ll likely pay a price at the ballot box. Voters overwhelmingly agree: they don’t want their cable company controlling what they see and do online.