No, Tucker, Google shouldn’t be regulated as a public utility

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Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson didn’t appreciate Google’s decision last week to fire engineer James Damore for circulating through company channels his critique of Google’s diversity efforts. Therefore, Tucker has decided, the government should be the arbiter of the free flow of information through the internet search giant.

That sounds like a great idea, said no conservative ever.

To be clear, I’m generally a fan of Carlson. He’s entertaining and doesn’t pull any punches when he’s tangling with opponents—usually from the political left.

In a segment on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Carlson asked, “Why should a company that shuts down free speech for political reasons have the power to dictate what the world knows and thinks?”

For starters, X—the company’s research and development project—hasn’t perfected global mind control yet. Facebook hasn’t either. Amazon would be able to get me a new mind in less than two days on Prime, but they still don’t control it. I come to each platform because it is convenient and helpful for different aspects of my life.

To justify regulating Google like a utility, Carlson makes a number of interesting claims. “To an impressive extent,” he said, “Google controls reality.” If he means the part of reality where I’m trying to find directions or the lyrics to “Despacito,” then that’s probably accurate.

If he’s referring to my political perspectives, then I’m not convinced. Google isn’t forcing me into a certain ideology simply because its executives have different perspectives and policies from those I might prefer. I’m still as conservative as ever, and I google things all the time.

While Carlson attributes a lot more power to the company than reality suggests, his proposed solution is even more worrisome. If Google possesses enough power to alter our “understanding of the world,” do we really want to put that power in the hands of government bureaucrats? That certainly can’t be the correct response.

Google happens to be a wildly successful private company. In a free marketplace, we reward companies we like with our dollars. If we don’t like what they’re doing, we redirect those dollars to somebody else. It’s a simple yet powerful concept.

If I don’t enjoy Google’s search engine or appreciate its corporate culture, I’ll simply use Bing, Yahoo or some other company. I’m not going to call for the government to regulate them heavily, much less like a utility. That’s nuts.

Conservatives have already fought that battle in opposing the return of the Fairness Doctrine, which allowed the government to decide if broadcast political content was fair. Government viewpoint policing doesn’t have a positive history.

I appreciate my employer respecting my perspectives and ideas, but I don’t have some absolute right to express them at work. Silicon Valley could definitely be more hospitable to conservative perspectives, but we don’t need government to fix the problem.

“Google should be regulated like the public utility,” Carlson said, “to make sure it doesn’t further distort the free flow of information to the rest of us.”

The idea that we correct for private corporate political bias by imposing a public utility model is simply foolish. Google isn’t a monopoly and it isn’t offering a commodity good, like water or electricity. Treating it like a utility won’t remove political bias, but it will stifle innovation and create a powerful political tool, which can be up for grabs to the highest-paid lobbying firm. With the free market, consumers retain the ultimate decision whether to reward or penalize large tech companies.

I don’t want a federal regulator of political viewpoint bias for Google any more than I do for Fox News or MSNBC. Free enterprise and speech are worth protecting, even when we don’t like the outcomes. Tucker Carlson knows that, and Damore’s termination is no exception.


Image by Jeramey Lende

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