What is the greatest threat to American liberty today? Undocumented immigrants? Russian meddling? The lamestream media? Not being able to buy a gun at any store at any age? Or is it … computers?
Many conservatives would argue that computers — and, specifically, the enormous, market-warping platforms that connect them, and the mostly liberal companies that use them in California — are a huge threat to American freedom. Because these companies, like Google and Facebook, own the computers (servers) that people access with their personal computers (smartphones), the companies can wield a significant amount of power over what people learn or don’t learn and how far the messages that people want to publish can spread. Despite the fact that these are private companies, many still view this as a “freedom of speech” issue.
The New York Times reports this morning that right-wing journalist Peter Schweizer is readying a new documentary about Big Tech, expected to premiere during (but not officially part of) the Cannes Film Festival. Schweizer, of course, is not just some crank — or, at least, not just some powerless crank: Prior to The Creepy Line, as the film is known, Schweizer, who has ties to both former Trump confidant Steve Bannon and right-wing billionaire Robert Mercer, made the anti-Hillary documentary Clinton Cash, based on his own infamously dodgy book that was used, controversially, as the basis for some New York Times stories about the Clinton family.
The emergence of a push from influential conservatives to take on tech companies signals a shift in attention from the bias of traditional media, which is not really a secret, to medialike companies that refuse to acknowledge their role, such as Facebook and Google. The companies’ insistence that they are neutral and unwilling to take clear stances is now at odds with growing calls to clean up the exploitable and largely unmonitored centralized platforms that they oversee.
Over the last few weeks, large online platforms have started making more of an effort to curb online harassment and bullying festering on their sites, often spurred by far-right channels. In other words, they’re trying to get Nazis off of the platform, and because these quote, unquote “politically incorrect” channels are largely right wing, mainstream conservatives can also claim that they are victims of bias.
How exactly The Creepy Line will square the right’s anti-regulation stance with calls to limit tech power remains to be seen. And how people will watch it without seeing clips on YouTube or renting it from iTunes or spreading the word on Facebook or Twitter also remains an open question. Anyway, good luck!