By Michael Petricone
April 26, 2019 at 5:00 am ET
Many conservatives urge activists to “take the red pill.” This metaphor comes from the extraordinary science fiction movie “The Matrix,” where protagonist Neo is urged to take the “red pill” that will allow him to see the world as it really is. Now it’s time for conservatives to take the red pill: so-called “tech bias” does not exist.
Content moderation is challenging. A platform such as Twitter gets 500 million user submissions per day, and must police them for everything from bots, to hate speech and other misuses.
Social media companies are working hard to keep bad actors from exploiting their platforms, but it’s exceptionally difficult. Following the terror attack in New Zealand, Facebook removed or blocked 1.5 million videos worldwide of the attack within the first 24 hours, and YouTube said it worked to rid its site of an “unprecedented volume” of videos using both automated systems and a team of human content monitors. Mistakes sometimes happen; harmful comments fall through the cracks, and innocuous ones are mistakenly removed. But in most of these situations, the issue is quickly fixed.
The fact is: Mistaken flagging of posts happens all the time. There is no team of tech liberals behind the curtain orchestrating the demise of conservatives across the country – and no in-house conservative team targeting liberal voices. Push aside the curtain and you find billions of lines of computer code, sorting through a massive network of user comments from around the world. Over 350 million Facebook photos and nearly 8 million Instagram posts are shared per day.
Look at your own news feed – accusations of bias are contrary to your everyday experience. Even casual users of platforms such as Google, Instagram and Twitter can see they contain diverse views and opinions. Understanding that we will at times encounter views at odds with our own is the price of admission to using social media – much like understanding that you may not agree with every book you find at a public library. More, it’s a healthy aspect of a free, democratic society.
Economically speaking, a bias against conservatives doesn’t make business sense. Companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google are businesses – with advertisers, investors and stockholders. They exist to make a profit. Alienating people and groups would infuriate users who would quit using the product, shareholders who would lose money and employees who would lose faith in the integrity of the platform.
President Donald Trump himself said social media, a “modern form of communication,” was key to his victory in the 2016 election. Complaints of conservative “blocking” don’t align with the success of the administration’s own internet-driven campaign strategy. Today the Trump campaign is spending twice as much as the entire Democratic field combined on Facebook and Google ads. Why make this investment if they believe their views are blocked?
Conservatives must stick to free market principles. In a free market society, if you don’t like the way a business or platform works, you can move to a different platform or even start a competitor.
People across the political spectrum should agree – we can’t allow the government to regulate private sector speech. That involvement would violate the First Amendment. And once we allow government to decide what speech is appropriate, everyone – Republicans, Democrats, Independents – becomes vulnerable. That would be the real censorship in this debate.
Conservative calls to intervene in the market in the name of “tech bias” are as misled as liberals demanding to break up tech companies because they are too successful.
America leads the world in technology because our government, until this point, has stepped back and let innovation move forward. Let’s not change our successful strategy now.
Michael Petricone is senior vice president of government and regulatory affairs with the Consumer Technology Association.
Morning Consult welcomes op-ed submissions on policy, politics and business strategy in our coverage areas. Updated submission guidelines can be found here.