Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) has called out Big Tech for abuses of power, singling out Google as the “greatest threat to speech in the market.” The congressman has introduced a bill in the House that would attempt to limit the economic and political sway of several tech giants.
Speaking to the Heritage Foundation on Jan. 11, Buck railed against what he sees as unfair business practices. The congressman recalled the story of Parler, the pro-free speech social media startup that faced numerous hurdles from competitors and pressure from U.S. officials in 2021.
Parler’s popularity skyrocketed in late 2020 and early 2021 as conservatives flocked to the platform in response to the censorship surrounding the Hunter Biden laptop story coverage and the removal of former President Donald Trump from Twitter.
“Overall, the app was the 10th most downloaded social media app in 2020 with 8.1 million new installs,” TechCrunch reported.
Following the Jan. 6. 2021, Capitol breach, political pressure mounted against the startup, with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) publicly calling for Apple and Google to remove the app from their platforms.
“What are Apple and Google Play doing about this?” the congresswoman wrote on Twitter two days after the riots.
“They were able to take Parler down in a matter of a few days,” Buck said. “Twitter was being used at the Capitol on January 6. Facebook was being used. … Parler was a competitor, and January 6 provided the perfect excuse to wipe it out.”
Influencing Election Outcomes
Buck also took aim at Google, saying the tech company wields too much power, allowing it to influence U.S. election outcomes. The congressman stressed the importance of using government regulation sparingly so as to not disrupt market dynamics.
“I’m a free market person. I apply that principle to just about everywhere,” Buck said. “When Google controls 94 percent of the searches in this country, you don’t have a free market.”
He warned that Google’s market dominance can have devastating effects on our elections, mentioning how the search engine has allegedly altered frontpage results to be more flattering for Democratic candidates.
In 2016, SourceFed pointed out that Google search results for Hillary Clinton yielded more favorable auto-complete suggestions despite many unlisted negative terms receiving greater traffic from users.
Buck, a ranking member of the House Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law Subcommittee, said lack of competition is the problem.
“They affect the outcome of elections because there is no free market,” he said.
“Congress needs to step up and update the law.”
The congressman put forth a bipartisan package of bills—which passed in the House in September 2022—to fight against the tech behemoths. Additional funding for the Department of Justice to enforce antitrust law, incentives for states to conduct antitrust cases of their own, and mandatory disclosures for companies that receive subsidies from China are some of the ways the package hopes to curb Big Tech’s power.
Assuring the conservative Heritage Foundation audience that he doesn’t wish to undermine capitalistic ideals, Buck praised tech entrepreneurs for their work.
“I give these folks credit. They’re geniuses,” he said. “I’m not sure they are bad; they are just taking advantage of a system.”
Buck said he disagrees with drastic solutions proposed by fellow Republicans such as Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who has considered a country-wide ban for the Chinese video app TikTok.
“We know that competition is what allows innovation,” he said, emphasizing that allowing competition strengthens the United States in the long run. “The one thing we can do better than anyone in the world is innovate.”
However, the congressman does recognize the risks posed by foreign apps such as TikTok and said the app is “clearly a tool that the Communist Party is using in China to monitor U.S. data.”
In December 2022, President Joe Biden signed a law banning the use of TikTok on government mobile devices, the proposal originating from legislation previously introduced by Buck and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).
Journalist Glenn Greenwald praised Buck as “one of the most serious Big Tech opponents in the GOP House’’ in a November 2022 tweet.
Buck concluded his speech by encouraging everyday people to make efforts to disrupt tech monopolies, encouraging consumers to use alternatives to Amazon and Google. He acknowledged that such decisions might result in a decrease in the quality of service.
“One of the reasons these companies are powerful is because they’re good,” Buck said. “You actually can have an impact on the market with your personal choices. … Be part of this solution.”