Or Big Oil.  Or Big Government. There is no difference.

One conservative impulse is to bristle at intervention of seemingly free markets like tobacco, oil, and now even social media.  Another should be to treat them like trusts and bust them, particularly Big Social Media.

Google may have been the straw to break the camel’s back when it fired James Damore over a memo that ran counter to common wisdom of social justice warriors’ on women in tech.  A conservative might step back and hold Google harmless, because it should employ at will and is entitled to its own corporate culture.

But has the corporate culture of Google and other social media crept into, and harmed social fabric overall?  After all, a precept of conservatism is a civil society.  Is social media now a pariah like Big Tobacco is perceived to be? Both are serviced by a growing corporate juggernaut that more resembles a trust than a free market.  Is social media wreaking both physical and cultural harm on society overall?

Well, of course it is.

Legal attacks on Big Tobacco are storied. Countless state Attorneys General have successfully sued the industry to recoup the public cost of tobacco consumption. Those would include public assistance and medical programs whose costs skyrocket over tobacco use.  The old school conservative would argue smoking and chewing tobacco is a choice.  But the only thing being conserved by Big Tobacco is a lobbyist laden, government intertwined scheme to prey on vulnerable members of society.  The result is the tobacco industry has been broken up and diversified.  There’s nothing conservative about gaming government to protect well-connected corporate interests like Big Tobacco – or social media.

Think there’s no public cost to the sociopathy spawned by social media?  Think again. Examples:

6 Ways Social Media Affects Our Mental Health – Forbes

Social Media Effects on Teens | Impact of Social Media on Self-Esteem …

Instagram is the most harmful social network for your mental health

So help us understand how social media is any different from smoking, right now? Murders and torture are being committed live of Facebook you could argue might never happen except for the buzz the perpetrator gets from streaming live. Bullying. Lost interaction with real people in the real world.  Social media now exhibits both addiction and a public cost, as well as increasingly powerful corporate backers who tend toward monopolization. Is there a compelling interest for conservatives to look the other way here?  And, oh, by the way, conservatives, social media is targeting YOU. Here’s a quick look at today’s Drudge Report headlines alone:



Censoring Anti-Corporate Voices On Both Right And Left…

Got FORBES to Unpublish Critical Story…

New emails show how tech giant wields power in Washington…

Why should conservatives buy into this as some sort of faux laissez faire?  These are no longer free market participants.  They are monopolistic, corporate driven forces which are exploiting their freedoms to grow massive and squelch the freedoms of others. You don’t have to light up, but you also don’t have much of a choice when it comes to social media for your personal or professional advancement, or just an occasional and flagrant act of free speech.

Web hosting sites recently removed some so-called neo-Nazi and alt right sites, effectively shutting them down.  You can be flip and dismiss this as sociopaths and misanthropes who got what was coming to them.  But who’s next?  The voices being threatened in the links above are not right wing hate sites, except perhaps in the eyes of monopolistic social media.  Is it now too big and too much of a threat to the nation’s free speech traditions?  That’s not a question conservatives should feel ambivalent about asking.

Facebook is de-platforming thousands of pages regularly.  Google AdSense is threatening content providers. YouTube is de-monetizing much of its right of center streaming content.  A conservative might say, well, they can take their bat and ball and go home. But are they now too powerful like Big Tobacco once was?  After all, like Tobacco, social media is parterning with progressive politicians and left leaning corporate interests.  It’s not just social media.  It’s social media plus powerful political forces targeting you.

Conservatives would do well not to fetishize a strain of freedom which exists now solely to de-platform conservatism.