Antitrust, Free Speech and Google
Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign promised to use antitrust law against oligopolies it said were “destroying an American democracy that depends on a free flow of information and freedom of thought.” The Justice Department’s investigation of Google may appear to fulfill this pledge. But Makan Delrahim, who heads the antitrust division, has voiced skepticism.
In a 2018 address, he rejected the notion that “antitrust enforcers should step beyond consumer welfare and think about . . . values like the free speech the First Amendment protects.” He worried it would lead to subjective enforcement because “Republican and Democrat prosecutors, or those of any party or political orientation, carry with them their own perceptions of what is good and bad for our democracy.”
Yet platform neutrality isn’t a strictly partisan issue. When Facebook temporarily blocked Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign ad in March, she tweeted: “I want a social media marketplace that isn’t dominated by a single censor. #BreakUpBigTech.” Her Republican colleague Ted Cruz agreed: “She’s right—Big Tech has way too much power to silence Free Speech.”