(The Center Square) – Many Republicans in Congress have reignited their calls to break up the big tech companies after Facebook announced last week they would maintain the suspension of former President Donald Trump’s account.
A new poll released by Rasmussen Friday found that 59% of likely voters “believe operators of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are politically biased in the decisions they make” with only 26% disagreeing. The rest are unsure.
The poll results went on to say that “a majority of voters now favor ending legal protections for social media companies.” The reported public opinion against the tech giants comes the same week Facebook announced they would keep Trump suspended from their platform, citing his alleged role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.
The poll and continued calls from lawmakers signify the difficulty tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google and Amazon have appeasing lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
One Congresswoman took to Twitter last week to blast the tech companies, saying one of her staff was blocked from Twitter. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., who is threatening to take the party’s leadership from Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., lambasted them online.
“BIG TECH on the MOVE!” Stefanik blared on Twitter, the other company to ban Trump from its platform. “Twitter just suspended my Communications Director. An unconstitutional overreach SILENCING our voices and freedom of speech. Republicans are united in fighting back against Big Tech’s tyranny. Millions of Americans will not be silenced!”
Stefanik’s rhetoric echoes that of many Republicans in both the House and Senate. In April, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., introduced legislation to restrict companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google.
“Woke Big Tech companies like Google and Amazon have been coddled by Washington politicians for years,” Hawley said when announcing the bill. “This treatment has allowed them to amass colossal amounts of power that they use to censor political opinions they don’t agree with and shut out competitors who offer consumers an alternative to the status quo. It’s past time to bust up Big Tech companies, restore competition, and give the power back to the American consumers.”
Hawley’s legislation would lead to major changes in how the tech giants do business and prevent some future acquisitions, significantly slowing their expansion.
“Free speech in America now depends on the whims of the most powerful monopoly in social media,” Hawley said in response to Facebook’s decision. “This is bad”
With Trump mulling another White House bid, Stefanik possibly rising to leadership in the House, and Hawley in the Senate with his own rumors of a presidential bid, the anti-tech company sentiments have reached the highest levels of leadership within the Republican party.
Others in the party, though, argue the anti-trust provisions violate the free market principles that defined the party in recent decades. While both parties broadly agree some form of regulation is needed to address concerns over big tech, they disagree on what those measures should look like. Some Republicans will likely balk at major regulations or anti-trust legislation, especially if the measures set a precedent for more broad use down the road.
However, the anti-trust movement may not need their votes. Though Democrats have been split on the issue, several have expressed willingness to rein in big tech in both chambers of Congress. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., made breaking up tech companies a key part of her platform during her campaign in Democratic presidential primary.
Other critics on the right argue the free market should sort out the problem without government interference and that alternatives to leading social media sites, like Parler and others, are the answer.
“There is a lot of talk on breaking up big tech, but the political realists realize that there is too much on the line right now to wait for the government to fix the problem,” said Martin Avila, Founder of RightForge, a tech infrastructure company that emphasizes free speech online. “There are already companies starting up to fight big tech despite seemingly impossible odds. The fact that long-time big tech apologists are coming around on breaking up big tech shows you that the tide is turning with every policy maker that isn’t on the big tech dole.”