The 2010s, now in the rearview of American history, certainly had their perks: the resurgence of American conservativism, the considerable growth of the U.S. economy, and the breakneck pace of technological advancement being chief among them. But while it’s tempting to view history with rose-tinted glasses, not everything in the previous decade worked out for the better. In fact, over the last ten years, the United States witnessed the inception of one of the most dangerous threats to liberty our country has yet to encounter: the rise of a monster called Big Tech.
The tech industry has no doubt made our lives easier. From bettering communication to increasing access to information, tech companies have revolutionized the way the world views data. But in the 2010s, Big Tech recognized America’s data dependence and sought to take advantage of it.
As the technology industry flourished in the early 2010s, a few well-situated tech companies gradually accumulated immense control over the collection and dissemination of information. Companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter utilized their platforms to rocket to the forefront of American culture, becoming the hub of our nation’s social and political discourse. But these businesses failed to shoulder that tremendous responsibility that their influence demanded. Instead, they became mired in countless scandals, undermining our nation’s fundamental freedoms and shaking our confidence in America’s most basic institutions.
In 2013, Americans’ trust in their government was shattered after Edward Snowden revealed to the world that the National Security Agency was using Google and Yahoo to spy on U.S. citizens. Secretly, the NSA had been collecting and storing user data and other personal information, using the servers of Big Tech platforms to conduct its searches. The revelation rocked the nation and broke the illusion that both the government and Big Tech had the best interests of Americans in mind.
The companies American entrusted to protect our most private, personal information blatantly failed to do so. Whether complicit in the scheme or not, Big Tech demonstrated its total incompetence in guarding sensitive data, a dangerous reality given their elevated status in society. Big Tech had failed to protect America’s constitutionally enshrined rights—and that failure wouldn’t be the last, either.
A litany of Big Tech security breaches followed the Snowden revelation, including a devastating Facebook data breach that exposed the private data of some 50 million users. But while the companies’ apparent disregard for consumer privacy was undoubtedly troubling, their assault on liberty was just getting started. Later, Big Tech, flush with power, began eroding the most fundamental portion of the U.S. Bill of Rights: freedom of speech.
Steadily, Big Tech companies began abusing their position as hubs of social discourse to control the political narrative. Around 2016, YouTube started using its “ad-friendly” policy to demonetize conservative videos, effectively rendering their profit-earning potential null and void. In 2018, Facebook purged over 800 accounts, censoring the political voices therein. Meanwhile, Twitter banned disproportionate numbers of conservative users for supposedly violating the company’s terms of service. Gradually, these companies have worked in tandem to deliberately erode America’s fundamental right to freedom of speech.
And now, in the present day, it seems that the Big Tech companies have redoubled their corrosive efforts. They are attempting to assume even more control over the U.S. way of life by accumulating even more power at the expense of fundamental American principles.
Case in point: soon, the United States Supreme Court will hear the case Google v. Oracle, a lawsuit that places yet another American principle on the chopping block—the right to private property. A case in which Google attempted to steal private property secured by digital copyright protections, Google v. Oracle questions the right of software developers to have proprietary control over their creation. If successful in its lawsuit, Google would be granted the right to copy portions of digital information previously guarded by law. But more than that, it would further erode the value of private property rights, representing yet another abuse of power for which Big Tech is not held responsible. A ruling favorable for Google would only further justify Big Tech’s abusive behavior, and for the sake of American liberty, that shouldn’t be allowed to happen.
History has shown that Big Tech cannot be trusted with the power they’ve gained. In the face of repeated opportunities to adjust their behavior, these tech giants have failed to change their ways. If anything, over the course of the decade, they’ve only become more aggressive in their abuse of basic rights and liberties. The 2010s were indeed a decade of Big Tech abuses, but if America doesn’t act to reign these companies in, the 2020s will be even worse.