Trump Plays With "Fairness" Fire

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

President Trump, who should be looking for ways to abolish antitrust law, is instead preparing to use it as a cudgel against Google for allegedly biasing its search results against conservatives.

As I noted years ago:

Google didn't become big by giving incomplete search results and it won't remain big by earning a reputation for doing so. Aside from the fact that the problem will take care of itself in an unregulated Internet, it is wrong for the government to be regulating (or running) utilities in the first place. Government interference with any business, large or small, violates everyone's right to production and trade, prevailing practices to the contrary.
Or, as the Los Angeles Times stated recently:
We have full control over which search engine we use. (Image via Pixabay.)
Over the years, Google has notoriously tipped the search scales in favor of affiliated products and services, such as YouTube and Google Shopping. But it has an obvious and powerful market incentive not to promote anything so divisive as an ideology: Google's search makes money off advertisements, which means it can't afford to cut the audience that its advertisers could reach in half (or by any meaningful percentage). Republicans would recognize this instantly if they were still believers in the free market. [bold added, links omitted]
Fortunately, there are efforts to alert the Oval Office in terms of clearly spelling out the dangers of this anticapitalist and incredibly short-range tactic. I hope the following, from a letter (PDF) sent to the Attorney General, will avert the President from setting this terrible and potentially disastrous precedent:
Even if a Fairness Doctrine for the Internet were somehow constitutional, it would undoubtedly backfire against conservatives: What the Reagan FCC said about the original Fairness Doctrine would inevitably be true for an Internet Fairness Doctrine: "controversial viewpoint[s] [would be] screened out in favor of the dreary blandness of a more acceptable opinion." Moreover, the Fairness Doctrine "in operation inextricably involves the [government] in the dangerous task of evaluating the merits of particular viewpoints," and making such determinations after the fact inevitably gives vast leverage over media to whoever controls the government.

The last thing conservatives should want is a Democratic administration with such arbitrary power (or a Republican administration, for that matter). A Warren administration, say, could use such powers to coerce existing social media sites and search engines to disadvantage conservatives (in the name of neutrality and fairness, and stopping "fake news," of course) and also to prohibit the "Facebook for conservatives" network recently called for by Donald Trump, Jr. [footnotes omitted]
It's a sad day when a left-wing media outlet has to educate a self-proclaimed de-regulator on the nature of the free market, and a worse one when the same figure may blunder into severely curtailing the free exchange of ideas we all enjoy today.

-- CAV


Today: Corrected a typo. 

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