On many issues, Rand Paul is a cut above his Republican peers. But tech policy does not appear to be one of them.
The Senator from Kentucky has been nothing short of heroic on multiple issues. He is against lockdown hysteria. He has consistently opposed the growth of the surveillance state. He refuses to play along with the the grotesque spending bills that the Senate rubber-stamps year after year.
And then there’s foreign policy, where Paul was “America First” before Donald Trump was even a candidate. He opposed neoconservative foreign policy and Barack Obama’s continuation of it, the legacy of which can be seen in America’s humiliating retreat from Afghanistan, the latest of many powers to do so. In 2013 filibustered John Brennan’s appointment to the CIA
These positions flow from Sen. Paul’s libertarian principles, but there is one glaring issue that libertarianism (or at least libertarianism as we know it) is ill-equipped to fix: corporate authoritarianism.
Following the censorship of his YouTube channel over his coronavirus commentary, Sen. Paul criticized the Google-owned company — but he also defended its right to censor him.
“As a libertarian leaning Senator, I think private companies have the right to ban me if they want to,” said Paul. “So in this case I’ll just channel that frustration into ensuring the public knows YouTube is acting as an arm of government and censoring their users for contradicting the government.”
It’s unclear what kind of “right” Sen. Paul thinks these companies have.
A legal right? Thanks to the expansive legal shield of Section 230, maybe — but if that’s the case, they’ve only enjoyed it since the 1990s and there’s no reason to allow them to enjoy it further.
A natural right? I don’t think protecting a $1.8 trillion dollar behemoth’s freedom to delete your videos from the internet is what the Founders — or God — had in mind.
It’s also not clear how libertarianism comes into it. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which allows these companies to exist in their present, expansive state, and protects them from a great deal of legal blowback for their actions, is a government handout. Aren’t libertarians supposed to oppose government handouts?
They’re certainly supposed to oppose the state artificially advantaging one set of companies over another. There are few better examples of this, in the digital age, than Section 230.
It’s not just about censorship — because of Section 230, Wikipedia faces no consequences when its articles defame conservatives as neo-Nazis and white supremacists, and Google faces no consequences when it puts those articles at the top of its search results. Tiny local newspapers in Kentucky are subject to defamation laws, but Google and Wikipedia, which have more power than any other to defame, are not. Insane!
There is no libertarian defense of the tech giants, nor the legal artifices that prop them up — there is no defense of them at all. As Paul himself noted, these companies have become little more than arms of the state, and just as reckless in how they wield power. It is past time for Republicans to commit to stopping them.
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.