Just give Trump his Twitter back
You haven’t heard anything from one Jack for months, from the other Jack you hear too much. Jack Ma, the talkative founder of online retailer Alibaba, has been silent for more than two months. Has the billionaire in Chinese state capitalism been disgraced by critical remarks? Will he face trial and possibly years in prison?
The other Jack is Jack Dorsey, founder and major shareholder of Twitter. A Billionaire in Big Tech Capitalism in California. Last week, he banned President Donald Trump for life.
What is the difference between China and the US, a (right-wing) American commentator wondered last weekend. His conclusion: in China, the state-run media out of office in the debate, in the US that is the media-run state. Loosely translated: in China the party decides what you can hear and see in the media, in the US commercial media companies decide which political opinion you can read.
In China, the . rule state-run media the debate, in the US is that the media-run state
Those who thought that life imprisonment was a sentence that only a judge can pronounce, found out last week that Twitter can do that too. That raises a range of questions. Precisely because other tech companies have also temporarily banned Trump (Facebook) or have taken measures (Amazon, Apple) against Parler, the social media channel that presents itself as the free-spirited medium where Trump’s views are welcome. As a result, Parler was forced off the air on Monday morning.
Big Tech’s vigilantism shines a spotlight on its position of power; with its monopoly infrastructure, it can regulate the marketplace of public debate. That creates friction. Regulation is reserved for parties in the public domain. These are the elected representatives of the people who make laws, the controllers of compliance and independent judges in a dispute.
Now Big Tech partly assumes that public role, but without guarantees for the victim, such as a hearing or appeal. Anyone who, like Twitter and the like, asserts his power so publicly, demands countervailing power. So for government intervention.
Entrepreneurs hate that, right? Or does Big Tech hope that, thanks to the generous gifts to (Democratic) politicians and organizations, it will not be too bad now that the Democrats are the dominant party in Congress?
Another question: is it commercially smart to shut down Trump and warn political pretenders to the throne? The value of marketplaces such as Twitter and Facebook lies in their indispensability. Everyone is there. Mass is cash register. Twitter without Trump (88.7 million followers) is worth less than Twitter with @realDonaldTrump. Commercially smart: give him his Twitter back.
But hey, this is Big Tech. Two “laws” of American capitalism do not apply. Investors who complain about the value of their marketplace are silent. The founders, such as Dorsey, Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Bezos (Amazon), own large share packages themselves. Their will is law. Sometimes the influence of other investors is also curtailed.
The second ‘law’ that does not hold is that of employees in a subordinate position. For many of the highly-skilled, generously rewarded “main workers” at Big Tech, Trump is the bogeyman. Top executives in Silicon Valley are terrified that their employees will walk away with their knowledge. That gives the workers power. They do not constitute the workers’ self-government that Marx and Lenin envisioned, but they have enough influence to stun Trump.