Whether you agree with President Donald Trump’s rhetoric or not, the outsize role that Big Tech — Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Twitter — has played in censoring the sitting president of the United States and erasing Twitter’s conservative alternative, Parler, should worry you. The actions taken by these media giants last week show exactly why Congress needs to rein in the massive power held by these monopolies that can instantly turn off an alternative viewpoint with no opportunity for recourse.
When my family and I legally immigrated to the United States after the 1979 Iranian revolution, we fled a government that controls the media and what its people hear, while also censoring and persecuting its people based on their religion, as well opposing ideology and views. Today, platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter remain banned to people in Iran, mainland China, North Korea and Syria. As we’ve seen with the removal of Parler from the Amazon cloud, Apple and Google, these tech titans are creating a shockingly parallel line of banning speech in the United States, very much like these oppressive nations.
For dictators and thugs, like the Islamic Republic of Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, or the supreme leader of North Korea Kim Jong Un, who have banned their people from social media, Big Tech should similarly block them from using their accounts, especially when they spread lies and propaganda. In 2014, Khamenei sent out a tweet denying that 6 million Jews perished in the Holocaust. Just last week, the Chinese embassy tweeted on Uyghur Muslim women and sterilizing them. Though these accounts were never banned, millions of conservatives’ accounts were, even if they were nowhere near the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
In what is sure to be a showdown with Big Tech, expect to see Republicans in Congress offer legislation to break the monopolies of Big Tech, as well as repealing their liability protections better known as “Section 230.” In states, a divesting of state contracts with Big Tech companies, as has been offered by Florida House Republican Rep. Randy Fine, are sure to spring up as well. We can also expect to see more private internet service providers (ISPs) block their users from sites like Twitter and Facebook, as one provider has already done in Idaho.
But regardless of what happens, banning accounts of conservative voices on social media platforms, with 330 million actively monthly users on Twitter and 2.7 billion on Facebook alone, demands Congress’ immediate action. As Florida Sen. Marco Rubio aptly said, “We are now living in a country where four or five companies, unelected, unaccountable, have the monopoly power to decide, we’re gonna wipe people out, we’re going to erase them, from any digital platform.”
The fallout from the horrific acts that took place on Capitol Hill, which resulted in the deaths of five people including a Capitol Police officer, will be etched in our memories forever. Unfortunately, the acts of some unlawful, unpatriotic criminals come at the expense of millions of conservative voices being censored and banned from these platforms and the complete shutdown of the number one downloaded app, Parler. What would be even worse is if we allow these Big Tech giants to continue down their path of censorship, without any congressional oversight, which could quickly lead the greatest and oldest democracy on earth to crumble into a country that is no better than intolerant nations like Iran and North Korea.
Amanda Makki was a 2020 Republican candidate in Florida’s 13th congressional district. She is a lawyer who worked in Congress for a decade as a health care policy adviser and at the Pentagon just weeks after 9/11. She is a native Farsi speaker and lives in St. Petersburg.