Trump Be Warned: Google Is Not Great
Two tweets from President Trump have recently caused a stir across the tech world. Last Thursday, the president tweeted against Twitter’s shadow-banning of conservatives as a “discriminatory and illegal practice.” A week earlier, he praised Google as “one of our great companies” in response to the European Union’s five billion dollar antitrust fine against the search giant.
The president is correct that Twitter’s policies are discriminatory and illegal. California law (to which Twitter is subject, as a California company) holds that businesses cannot discriminate based on political affiliation or viewpoint, and the companies cannot engage in false and deceptive practices such as covertly favoring certain types of speech over others while holding themselves out as a free speech platform. I am currently representing Jared Taylor, a self-described white advocate who was kicked off the platform pursuant to Twitter’s unlawful censorship policies. Taylor has controversial views on many issues, but freedom of speech at its most basic definition means “freedom for the thought that we hate,” and users could simply choose not to follow Taylor if they did not want to hear from him. A California state judge has greenlighted our claim that Twitter deceived users into believing it is free speech platform, when it is in reality a platform for censorship.
I welcome President Trump’s comments on Twitter, but am surprised he is giving Google a free pass. The search giant’s censorship and bias is every bit as severe as Twitter’s. And this bias is dangerous indeed, given Google’s dominance over the economy and the distribution of ideas on the Internet. In fact, Google has used its monopoly power in Android—the very issue with the E.U.’s fine — to stifle free speech in order to benefit Twitter and its new censorship policies.
In 2015, Google entered a partnership with Twitter to put topical tweets in real time ahead of its search results. Most observers saw this as Google abandoning its own social network, Google+ after it failed to compete against Facebook and Twitter. As Search Engine Land noted at the time, “By elevating an alternate social media stream above their own, Google is leaving Google+ users further behind.”
The next year, a small startup called Gab launched as the “free speech alternative” to Twitter. In 2017, Google helped Twitter crush this new free speech competitor by banning the app from the Android’s Google Play Store — which controls the majority of smartphones in the U.S.—on the grounds that it did not sufficiently censor their users.
This is not the only example of Google’s political bias. It has demonetized and restricted YouTube videos from mainstream conservatives such as Dennis Prager’s Prager U on topics such as “Israel’s Legal Founding” and “Why Did America Fight the Korean War?”
Google partners with the Southern Poverty Law Center to help censor content on YouTube, as a “trusted flagger.” As the Daily Caller’s Peter Hasson reported, Google gives the far left organization “digital tools allowing them to mass flag content for review by YouTube personnel” and “guides to YouTube’s content monitors and engineers who design the algorithms policing the video platform.” YouTube recently removed videos from Alex Jones’ Infowars. While many of Jones conspiracy theories are “out there,” this sets a dangerous precedent for more viewpoint-based censorship. Supreme Court precedent has held for many decades that the First Amendment protects rhetorical hyperbole, such as characterizing the negotiating position of a real estate developer as “blackmail” or calling a worker who crosses a picket line a “traitor.” Policies that ban users who express harsh criticism of government officials on the grounds that they violate “community standards” are irreconcilable with what the Supreme Court called our “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.”
Google has also has also teamed up with George Soros-funded groups like the Poynter Institute to change the algorithms on Fake News. Its search results have listed Nazism as the official policy of the California G.O.P. and labeled Republican lawmakers as “bigots.” Google claims that this is completely accidental–just as Twitter insists it was not intentionally shadowbanning any Republican politicians (despite findings that Republicans and conservatives were somehow the only ones affected). However, Google and Twitter have offered no transparency whatsoever into their algorithms. We are supposed to believe that it is a pure coincidence that these companies are changing their algorithms to disfavor conservatives at the same time that they have started teaming up with left-wing advocacy groups like the SPLC to censor content and, in the case of Google, purging conservative employees from working at their company.
While Google has created many great and innovative products, they are not a “great company.” They are a liberal-dominated monopoly which uses its market power to promote its favored left-wing ideology.
So why did Trump tweet against the E.U.’s fine? Most likely, the president is legitimately worried about American companies being singled out by foreign regulators. President Obama made a similar point in 2015, noting “We have owned the internet. Our companies have created it, expanded it, perfected it in ways that they can’t compete. And oftentimes what is portrayed as high-minded positions on issues sometimes is just designed to carve out some of their commercial interests.”
However, this is not the situation with Google. As Obama correctly noted, American tech companies dominate the internet. But this dominance is so strong that both Google and its competitors in Europe are U.S.-based. This is why companies including Yelp, News Corp, Getty, and Oracle have signed a letter arguing that Google’s anti-competitive conduct hurts Americans in Europe.
Trump deserves great credit for standing up against Big Tech censorship. However, we cannot have any hope for free speech online if we do not hold Google accountable for its anti-competitive policies.
Noah Peters is an attorney in Washington, D.C.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.