Everywhere you turn these days, big tech companies are under fire. Instagram’s supposedly addictive and negative effects on teenage girls have lawmakers comparing its parent company Facebook to Big Tobacco.
Conservatives like Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) and Gov. Gregg Abbott (R-Texas) have signed controversial legislation banning social media platforms from suspending or moderating the accounts of political candidates. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas has suggested private businesses like Twitter and YouTube should be classified as common carriers, subject to strict regulation by the federal government.
Liberal legislators in Colorado have proposed creating a “digital communications commission” that would have the power to change how platforms do business in the name of fighting “hate speech” and “misinformation.” Lawmakers in at least 38 states have introduced over 100 laws in the past couple of years to regulate online speech and related issues.
In his new book Tech Panic, Reason Senior Editor Robby Soave says such attacks are nothing more than modern-day witch hunts whose main accusations fall apart under even mild scrutiny. They are contemporary versions of past freakouts over video games, rock music, and comic books. “We shouldn’t fear Facebook or the future,” writes Soave. The actual threat, he says, comes not from private companies but from politicians, woke mobs, social conservatives, and activists whose real goal is to limit speech they don’t like.