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Big Tech has drawn the ire of both the left and right recently, but prominent conservatives are already losing faith in this preemptive alliance. Testimony from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen to Congress on October 5 won her the admiration of legislators like Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), who called her a “21st-century American hero.” Haugen’s presence at the hearing certainly won the immediate attention of both parties, though there was clearly an agenda being formed since the beginning of her testimony.
On social media, Republicans sounded the alarm on the rhetoric being employed at this hearing. Rather than objectively criticizing Facebook’s predatory intrusion into the lives of children, teenagers, and young adults, Haugen, with the assistance of sympathetic Democrat senators on the Judiciary Committee, made politics the center of the hearing. Notably, Haugen stated that Facebook’s ongoing outage at the time prevented the social media giant from promoting misinformation, harming democracy, and threatening America’s national security. In the first place, Haugen was an algorithm specialist who served as a project manager at Facebook. Her position directly addressed topics related to democracy, misinformation, and counter-espionage issues. All these topics have been highlighted by Democrats as evidence that Facebook harbors and protects right-wing extremists for not immediately censoring them.
The files Haugen provided to The Wall Street Journal that led to mass public outrage mostly pertained to Facebook’s harmful effects on children and teenagers. Still, the bulk of the hearing consisted of Haugen explaining and criticizing Facebook’s social engagement system that Democrats have alleged has promoted domestic extremism in the country. On a few occasions, Republican senators like Ted Cruz (R-TX) attempted to question Haugen about Facebook’s censorship of right-wing viewpoints, though no significant exchanges arose from that conversation.
On Twitter, influential media pundits like Matt Walsh accused Haugen of acting as a sponsor for political censorship due to her unabashed support for increased government regulation of Facebook. Combined with her reluctance to call for anti-monopoly investigations against the social media giant, a significant wave of Republicans on Twitter began to agree with Walsh. After all, Haugen outright objected to calls for Facebook to face any antitrust enforcement, an unpopular stance with prominent legislators and bureaucrats like Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and current Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan. Throughout her testimony, Haugen continuously brought up the “dangers” of unrestricted speech on social media, claiming that this speech was a threat to democracy.
Conservatives almost unanimously condemned the actions of Big Tech leading up to the 2020 election. Many argued that these corporate giants were manipulating headlines and engaging in censorship in support of Joe Biden. This unofficial alliance with liberals and progressives was formed out of necessity to prevent corporate executives from affecting the outcome of elections in the future. Unfortunately, this strategy may have backfired if naysayers turn out to be correct. Critics of Haugen now believe that her testimony will be used to justify increased surveillance and the censoring of political dissidents. The definition of a domestic extremist seems to expand as time passes, and conservatives on social media are starting to feel the pressure of the left’s quest to censor their political opponents into submission.
~ Read more from Jose Backer.