Whether or not she intended to, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has escalated the conservative war with Big Tech.
During the Thursday press briefing, Psaki said regarding COVID-19 messaging that “we’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation.”
There has been growing anger among conservatives against the efforts of social-media companies to suppress content they don’t like under the guise that it is a result of some sort of noble and consistent policy — i.e., to stop the spread of misinformation, or to avoid incitement of violence. In practice, there always ends up being double standards. Donald Trump, for instance, was banned from Twitter, which cited “the risk of further incitement of violence.” And yet the platform has allowed Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to use the platform to incite violence, including when he egged on Hamas to fire rockets in Israel during the most recent conflict in Gaza.
What has been holding conservatives back from fully embracing ideas such as blowing up Section 230 liability protections for social-media companies or suing Big Tech companies on antitrust grounds, is that they have been internally divided. The issue has pit MAGA-friendly conservatives, who are eager to wield government power to get the outcomes they want, and traditional small-government conservatives, who are reticent to target private companies for making decisions about how they run their businesses.
But Psaki’s comment adds a new layer to the debate. Even if it may not matter legally, if Facebook is colluding with the government to suppress speech, it becomes much harder rhetorically to hide behind the “we’re a private company” defense. My guess is that Psaki’s comments will nudge more conservatives closer to the MAGA position of going after Big Tech if they were not already there.