President Trump, though he lost his bid for reelection, brought the America First agenda to the forefront of U.S. politics. Renegotiated trade deals, stronger borders, and tough love for allies defined the early years of his administration. Trump had a point. The multi-decade trend toward globalism left many in the United States behind, without jobs or prospects for the future.
That’s why his America First agenda is popular among Republicans, independents, and even some Democrats. Despite his election defeat, Trump accumulated more votes than any other previous candidate. It should be no surprise that a program of protecting U.S. jobs and businesses was well-received among Americans.
But many of the agenda’s proponents have picked an odd target for much of their ire: America’s hugely successful technology companies. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), a subscriber to Trump’s brand of politics, has been particularly vocal on this issue. His denunciations of American tech companies led to a proposed bill to destroy legal protections for those organizations.
In attacking America’s most successful enterprises, Hawley and his allies have made common cause with Chinese and European regulators who target U.S. companies for their own ends.
European leaders and E.U. regulators constantly harass companies like Facebook and Google. Because the continent’s political structures stifle innovation, Europe cannot develop its own alternatives to American tech ingenuity. Instead, it seeks to tear American companies down.
The situation is even worse in China, where Communist Party officials have banned Twitter and Facebook for being insufficiently loyal to the regime. In their place, China has developed its own social media knock-offs, which censor and monitor its citizens. As a result, China’s tech companies are at the mercy of Beijing’s whims. For example, when Chinese tech magnate Jack Ma criticized the government’s financial practices, party officials launched a sweeping attack on Ma’s companies.
Politicians who threaten American tech companies with executive and legislative action join hands with Chinese Communist officials and resentful European regulators. Their recriminations target companies that have done immense good in recent years.
During the pandemic, tech companies have fulfilled essential roles in our lives. Social media sites like Facebook kept Americans connected during lockdowns, with daily updates on friends’ lives helping people cope with the associated loneliness. In another critical sector, Amazon’s distribution efforts brought much-needed supplies to consumers, who were unable to go out and obtain goods for themselves. The company even volunteered to assist the newly-inaugurated Biden administration with vaccine distribution.
While much of the economy was shedding jobs, Amazon hired over 400,000 people in 2020. U.S. tech companies employed hundreds of thousands in good-paying jobs even before COVID-19 hit. Yet, politicians continue to attack this uniquely American industry.
The latest dust-up between anti-tech politicians and companies involves the termination of social media accounts that advocate the overthrow of the U.S. government and the 2020 election. The anti-techies whine that social media companies targeted their viewpoints for purges and demand the restoration of Twitter accounts and unmoderated sites like Parler.
But it’s actually tech companies that are living up to the idea of America First in restricting accounts that plan and execute violence on this country’s institutions. After the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, it became clear that discussions on social media could explode into real-world violence.
First, Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites took action to remove accounts advocating and planning attacks, including that of the president (who instigated the Capitol riots). Then, when Parler refused to enact community standards, Amazon Web Services cut off the site’s access to its servers. In a response to a lawsuit from Parler, Amazon detailed hundreds of disturbing violence-planning posts and warned that future attacks were being planned on the site.
These terminations are not new, nor are they ideologically exclusive to supporters of President Trump. When Antifa burned cities in the summer riots of 2020, Facebook took action to limit these groups’ capabilities. The social site banned Antifa-affiliated groups and discussions after a summer of civil unrest, which included rioters breaching and burning part of the White House complex.
Tech companies have not allowed these insurrections, left or right, to fester on their sites and servers. They are putting America first when they ban violent users and protecting U.S. stability from people who would use their platforms for illegal means.
Between their support of the American economy in this difficult time and their defense of U.S. institutions, America First advocates should be proud of U.S. tech companies.