- Fuming Republicans find themselves powerless over tech clampdown
Donald Trump has spent the better part of his presidency railing against the big tech companies, accusing them of anti-conservative bias and demanding that Congress strip them of their legal protections.
Now he and his supporters are largely powerless to respond as the same companies muzzle him and one of their favorite alternative platforms.
Trump and his allies are seizing on the latest clampdowns by Twitter, Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon to fire up conservative outrage over being kneecapped by Silicon Valley — a theme the GOP hopes to ride as a campaign message into 2022 and beyond. But with Democrats set to take power in Washington, Republicans have few if any immediate avenues for punishing the companies that squelched Trump’s social media accounts and knocked the free-wheeling Parler platform offline after last week’s deadly Capitol assault.
“There’s just not any options left” before Inauguration Day, one GOP congressional aide said Monday.
“I don’t think that Trump has many options,” said Rachel Bovard, senior director of policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute, a right-leaning political advocacy group. “Should he put out an executive order, it’ll just be reversed … and the same goes for Republicans. They don’t have power in any meaningful way right now.”
Responding to tech companies’ recent actions is still the №3 priority for Republicans right now, behind sorting out their reaction to the rioting on Capitol Hill and the brewing impeachment battle, a second GOP congressional aide said. But the aide said the party, traditionally opposed to regulatory burdens on business, has no clear consensus on how to move forward on the tech front.
“I don’t think that anyone has coalesced around any specific response,” the aide said.
It all adds up to a big loss of influence for a party whose lawmakers have hauled in Silicon Valley CEOs for numerous hearings in recent years — and for the president whose appointees filed two major antitrust suits last fall against Google and Facebook. Washington’s power struggle with Silicon Valley remains very much alive, but the incoming Democratic Congress and President-elect Joe Biden will largely decide where it goes next.
One of the only potential regulatory avenues left is a rulemaking effort that the Federal Communications Communication announced in October, requested by Trump, which could narrow legal protections for the online industry. But the FCC’s last Trump-era meeting is on Wednesday, and Chair Ajit Pai said last week that he doesn’t plan to bring it up.
Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro took a swipe at Pai’s decision. “Backbones in short supply in the DC Swamp,” he tweeted over the weekend.
But for the Republicans whose reign in Washington is sunsetting, the main response was to cry foul, with some calling for Congress or the executive branch to act.
“Amazon, Google and Apple’s decisions to block the download or use of Parler by their consumers is dangerous,” tweeted Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.). “This blatant monopolistic behavior is designed to shut down debate and silence conservatives.”
- Date of publication:
- Tue, 01/12/2021 - 12:59
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