Rep. Ken Buck pens new book saying Big Tech is "crushing" competition and speech
A Colorado congressman is taking on the four most powerful tech companies in the world.
Ken Buck says Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are monopolies: "These companies crush their competition and then they crush speech."
"Crushed: Big Tech's War on Free Speech" is fittingly the name of a new book by Buck, who is leading the charge to -- as he puts it, -- "level the playing field for all innovators."
"It's unbelievable that these companies get away with what they do," he said.
In his book, Buck tells how Apple copied a tracking device by the company Tile then changed the iPhone operating system so it wouldn't sync with Tile, buried permissions to enable the Tile app, and even ran ads that looked like Tile promotions but took customers to Apple's knock-off. And he says there are countless similar stories of the tech giants using their vast market power as a weapon
"There's a company called ProtonMail. It's an encrypted email service. And when Proton mail users sent mail to Gmail users, Gmail automatically put that in the spam folder. So, they would punish people for not using Gmail," Buck said.
Big Tech's unbridled power is not only a threat to the free market, Buck says, but free speech: "The business marketplace and marketplace of ideas are intertwined and you can't have a business marketplace without free speech and they know exactly how to manipulate that speech to maximize profits."
He writes in his book, "the marketplace of ideas is now a gated community within the digital sphere."
Buck says they not only use algorithms to bury speech they don't like, but even silence dissenting voices entirely.
"We know Facebook and Twitter took down the Hunter Biden story and they took that story down because it would hurt Joe Biden two weeks later in the general election," he said. "I know some people listening will say, 'good, I'm glad they censored the right,' but I guarantee, if Republicans get in power and these companies need something from Republicans, they'll censor on the left."
Big Tech also controls the marketplace of data - our data - Buck says: "What we type into a search engine, the sites we visit, the posts we leave on social media, the ads we click on, and the purchases we make."
And he says it's up to us to take control: "Stop using these products as much as possible."
At the end of his book, Buck even has suggestions for those ready to take action: search engines you can use instead of Google, places to shop other than Amazon, alternative music streaming apps and social media options.
He also recommends changing your settings to disable tracking and delete web activity. He admits it's difficult to abstain altogether. While he boycotts the big four as much as possible, he is on Twitter and the phone he was issued as a member of Congress is an iPhone.
He has received pushback from colleagues on the left and right. He admits he was once skeptical himself. He recalled attending a hearing of the Anti-Trust Subcommittee in Boulder two years ago: "I'm the only Republican there. It's 19 degrees outside. I am not a happy camper."
What's more, he says, he knew the hearing - about competition in the digital economy - would be a waste of time, "because I know the answer is the free market."
But as he sat in Boulder that day, listening to one company after another tell stories of threats, extortion and retaliation by the nation's biggest tech companies, Buck - a free-market-loving conservative - had an epiphany: "I realized there isn't a free market."
And he knew, if Congress didn't act, there never would be. He says the tech titans are modern-day robber barons.
Buck has spent the two years since the hearing in Boulder pushing anti-trust legislation with help from another Coloradan - Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse.
While Big Tech has managed to kill much of their legislation, they passed a set of bills last year that could lead to more anti-trust prosecutions, and Buck says they're not giving up. Our democracy, he says, is at stake.
"I absolutely have hope," Buck said. "I wouldn't do this job if I didn't have hope. And I believe the American people will stand up and demand some action in this area."
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