Our Government made it so and NOW they need to Fix It !
Despite growing complaints about censorship, privacy breaches, unfair business practices, and even election tampering from the right and now the left, no one has been able to do anything to rein in the harmful actions of “Big Tech.” Why is that? Well, as is often the case, the best place to start is in the beginning. A recent conversation with a Congressman revealed an interesting, and incredibly disturbing, fact about what happens when successful tech startups, like Facebook, go public.
Most Americans expect that when a company does its Initial Public Offering (IPO) that the Government makes sure that the company becomes responsible to the people who buy their stock. The Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) has rules upon rules about financial disclosure and transparency for “public” companies. So, how is it that a “public” company like Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg are not responsible or accountable to their stock holders?
You see, what our government has been allowing these so called “public” companies to do in their IPO’s is set up different types of stock. There is nothing wrong with that – normally. Many companies have several types of stock. Facebook has Class A shares, which the public gets to buy, and they have one vote per share. It also has Class B shares, which only insiders get to buy, and each share gets 10 votes. It is believed that Zuckerberg controls 60% of the Class B shares himself. What that means is that Zuckerberg has the votes to do whatever he wants and the stock holders can’t do anything about it and believe me they have tried. He isn’t even accountable to the Board of Directors whom he can vote out if he wants.
So, if one person can make all the decisions for a “public” company and even the stockholders have no say, how is that a “public” company at all? How is this possible? Why would government regulations allow them to get away with this behavior? We will answer that question shortly, but the problem gets worse.
Most public companies are accountable to not only their stockholders and Board of Directors, but also to their customers. Customers can obviously choose which companies they buy from, so that is one way consumers hold companies accountable. Except Facebook and Google are in fact monopolies, so customers do not have that option.
For customers of regular companies, if they do not get the products or services they ordered or signed up for, or are injured in some way by the company or its products, they can sue in court for damages. Guess what? Thanks to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and the rest of Big Tech can’t be sued by their customers – for anything! Our government gave them this very special protection and now Big Tech is using that to grow and flex its power – over us.
Facebook, meaning Zuckerberg, is not accountable to its stockholders. Facebook is not accountable to its Board of Directors. Facebook is not accountable to its customers. At this point it isn’t even accountable to any Government in full – particularly the U.S. government! How is that possible?
Well, let’s just say that it looks like their monopoly power wasn’t an accident. It was quite possibly a quid-pro-quo as documented in this little known research done by Scott Cleland that lays it all out, chapter and verse, names and dates, of how Google and Facebook were rewarded with massive monopoly power in exchange for helping to re-elect Barack Obama to a second term. Be sure to click on the timeline link in his blog.
Then there are massive lobbying efforts and campaign donations by Facebook, Google and others in Big Tech. It was creepy in April of 2018 to see Zuckerberg testifying in the House Energy and Commerce Committee knowing that nearly every single Congressman questioning him had taken donations from Facebook. Who was representing citizens or customers at that hearing? Little wonder that over a year later, nothing has been done to reign in Big Tech.
The point is that these companies may be more powerful than the government itself and are financially larger than most countries in the world. Facebook was in Washington just this week talking about starting its own currency. Next I guess they will have their own military – if they aren’t already controlling ours!
As we are seeing, this is dangerous in so many ways, but most of all it is a danger to everyone’s freedom, to democracy itself, and literally to free thought. Dr. Robert Epstein, the foremost expert on Google search censorship and search manipulation, calls what Google is doing “The most powerful form of mind control ever developed by man.”
Finally, President Trump and his administration are waking up, but if they do not act immediately, it could be too late. Missouri Senator Josh Hawley has been leading the fight with Texas Senator Ted Cruz to take the most important step – getting Section 230 revised so that Big Tech becomes like our cell phone companies. They provide a service by delivering our content, but they have nothing to say about that content.That relieves them of liability and returns our free speech rights. That is the simplest fix and it should be done now.
Wednesday, the FTC hit Facebook with a $5 billion fine for its past abuse of users’ privacy. Although this penalty amounts to the largest penalty ever levied against a tech company, experts don’t expect it to change the social media giant’s behavior because Facebook’s quarterly revenue is three times bigger than the fine brought against it – and Zuckerberg avoided personal liability even though he ordered the companies illegal actions.
So more must be done. I have been told that Congress is drafting legislation, which we hope would receive bipartisan support, to change the law so that one person cannot have voting control over a public company – like Facebook does. As Dr. Epstein suggests, the Google Search Index should be made a public property, similar to how ICANN controls internet addresses. Certainly, the DOJ and FTC need to look at what happened in the Obama Administration and explore ways to break up these monopolies which, in my opinion, were illegally created from the start. All of this needs to be done!
This threat to world democracy, to our freedom to think and debate and believe that which we can reason, brings us to a major decision point in world history. Are a handful of technical people going to dictate to billions of people how they live and even think, or are we going to act to ensure that technology serves humanity and respects our freedom?
Like it or not, now is the time to decide and our elected officials are the ones who must do as they swore to do, and that is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and the rights of all our citizens. The people have already decided. We want Big Tech brought down to size and under control and we want that to happen NOW! One thing is crystal clear, if our Representatives do not act, the results on election day 2020 will be devastating to them and our nation.
Tom Zawistowski is the President of the We the People Convention, a state wide TEA Party group in Ohio, and has been the CEO of TRZ Communications in Akron, OH for the past 35 years.