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Humanize Big Tech Now the ‘Fourth Branch of Government?’

Originally published at National Review

Axios’s Felix Salmon has called Big Tech “the fourth branch of government” because of its recent concerted and successful shutdown of President Trump’s ability to communicate on social media. He seems pleased. From, “How CEOs Became the 4th Branch of Government”:

CEOs managed to act as a faster and more effective check on the power of the president than Congress could. They have money, they have power, and they have more of the public’s trust than politicians do. And they’re using all of it to try to preserve America’s system of governance . . .

All of this has happened before the House can even schedule an impeachment vote.

I see it differently. Rather than “preserving” our system of government, we are threatened with the establishment of an all-powerful corporatocracy, in which the most powerful enterprises in history establish their own public policies and impose them on society without meaningful checks and balances. Moreover, there would be no way to “throw the rascals out” if the population disagrees because the CEOs with whom Allen is so enamored are not elected.

Consider the obliteration of Parler, undertaken concomitantly with the social-media silencing of Trump. Within three days, a growing and thriving rival to Twitter was wiped out by a cabal of Google and Apple disabling the Parler app, and Amazon removing the company from the Internet altogether. Parler’s CEO now reports that its vendors have pulled their contracts, and there are reports that Parler may have even lost its law firm.

Some may think Parler deserved it because of inadequate moderation of threatening content. But if Parler can literally be destroyed so easily even though it operated in a legal manner, why can’t other industries or nonprofit organizations that the Fourth Branch finds objectionable be similarly obliterated?

I can think of several sectors that the woke leftists of Silicon Valley find objectionable. Pro-life groups could be silenced because the CEOs and their minions believe they discriminate against “people with uteruses.” The firearms industry could similarly be wiped out — and the beautiful part is that the Second Amendment would not be violated.

Don’t think the CEO leaders of the Fourth Branch aren’t already thinking about that. Allen predicts:

After dipping toes in for the past year and a half, CEOs are now all-in. They’re in a whole new league of activism — with no going back.

He’s right. Now that Big Tech has flexed its considerable muscles so easily — and with general support — expect it to increasingly socially excommunicate those whose advocacy or enterprises offend its CEOs’ views about what constitutes a proper society.

This is a crisis of liberty even if the government isn’t posing the threat.

Wesley J. Smith

Chair and Senior Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Wesley J. Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.
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