Big Tech would be smart to sit out 2020, but can it?
If Big Tech's executive offices contain smart people, and there's little reason to believe they don't, their companies will sit out the next election, starting immediately. A failure to do so will risk the wrath — and retribution — of both parties.
Google, Facebook, Twitter, et al. should remember that the 2020 presidential election has already begun, among Democrats, at least.
Recently, a number of news outlets have reported the intentions of large technology companies to meddle in and influence the results of the next presidential election. An ex-Google engineer says the company has "very biased people running every level of the company" who will not allow President Donald Trump to win a second term.
But if Big Tech intends to pick a winner in the 2020 general election, what's to prevent it from picking winners — and losers — during the Democratic primary process?
Paradoxically, some of the people who stand to gain most in November 2020 from Big Tech's political biases seem eager to break these companies up. According to The Hill, a number of Democratic presidential contenders, including Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, and Amy Klobuchar, "are sounding the alarm on Big Tech's impacts on user privacy, competition, workers and fair elections."
USA Today published a piece describing how "Google and Big Tech can shift millions of votes in any direction." Got that? Any direction...
Big Tech is wielding a two-edged sword. There's an excellent chance the Democrats/socialists (pardon the redundancy), or, at least some of them, will soon begin piling on Big Tech, depending on how they perceive the degree to which tech companies "interfere" in their primary process.
The Trump campaign is certainly smart enough to make that connection no matter who wins the Democratic nomination. Because Big Tech is already in some of its candidates' crosshairs, the allegation alone has the chance to encourage the Democratic primary losers' disappointed supporters to sit out the general election.
In that scenario, to the reflexively paranoid Left especially, the more the tech companies deny charges of interference (from both sides), the more plausible the charges will become.
Big Tech already faces competition and privacy concerns on both sides of the aisle. Furthermore, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes published a New York Times op-ed calling for a breakup of his former company.
In mid-June, Robert Epstein, senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution. His testimony was titled "Why Google Poses a Serious Threat to Democracy, and How to End That Threat." After identifying himself, his testimony began, "I love America and democracy, and I am also not a conservative. I have been center/center-left my whole adult life. You'll see in moment why this fact is relevant to my testimony."
There may be nothing Big Tech can do on either side to recover its credibility. Conservatives know they've been targeted, and object, but if tech outfits stop deplatforming and shadowbanning conservatives, they will suffer the wrath of the Left.
Unless Big Tech recognizes and respects every American's First Amendment rights, applies them equally, opens up its utilities to all users, and makes its services fully transparent, its "influence" in the 2020 presidential election could have serious unintended consequences.
Ironically, there may be well earned negative consequences even if it does comply.
Email Jerry Shenk: firstname.lastname@example.org.