The anti-trust bill was great — until Ted Cruz got ahold of it

The anti-trust bill was great — until Ted Cruz got ahold of it

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

Flickr / Gage Skidmore

The Senate antitrust bill, or the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, was introduced by Sen. Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. Grassley (R-IA) to limit the power of Big Tech. The bill would stop internet giants like Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon from giving themselves advantages over smaller companies.

Unfortunately, a poison pill has been inserted into the bill, turning this otherwise quality piece of legislation into a blueprint for more misinformation and hate speech. Republican Members of Congress (and Trump lackeys) Sens. Ted Cruz (TX) and Josh Hawley (MO) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (FL) are leading the charge to get the bill passed with their added provision.

“This provision could require platforms to host hate speech and other harmful content targeting Black and Brown people, the LGBTQIA+ community, women, immigrants, Indigenous people and other targeted populations,” explains Free Press Action’s Carmen Scurato.

Here are 5 signs the antitrust bill might actually be a Trojan Horse:

Ted Cruz Loves It

Ted cruz speaking at an event

Flickr / Gage Skidmore

Ted Cruz and friends are happy to support the bill and helped get it passed by a 16 to 6 vote in the Senate judiciary committee. Cruz even made a few suggestions on how to toughen the language.

Cruz is particularly fond of the provisions that prevent sites like Amazon from discriminating against smaller competitors. While it may seem strange that the Texas Republican — who typically champions the free market — would be excited here, there is an ulterior motive. The language that stops Google from pushing its own content to the top may also prevent sites from taking action against companies and content creators that break misinformation or hate speech rules.

Republicans of Cruz’s ilk often complain about being censored in online and media spaces. (Hawley complained about being “canceled” in the New York Post which has roughly 80 million monthly hits, on Fox News with over 1 million daily watchers, and on Twitter where he has roughly half a million followers.) They want to use the antitrust bill to further the reach of right-wing voices.

It Brings Back Hate Speech

Ex-Infowars editor admits 'We made it up'

Screenshot/YouTube

​​When people like Alex Jones spew “dehumanizing language” and glorify violence on social media platforms, activists have relied upon the site’s terms of service to put a stop to it. It was already an arduous process, but the provision in the antitrust bill will make things even more challenging. Language in the bill will allow GOP AGs to threaten platforms with lawsuits, likely resulting in the sites refusing to punish those using hate speech to avoid litigation.

It Encourages Trumpist Lawyers to File Frivolous Lawsuits

A member of Trump's insurrection screams in front of the US Capitol.

screenshot / MSNBC

Who would take up the cause of the purveyors of online hate and bigotry? The Cruz provision puts the lawsuits of state attorneys general, people like Texas AG Ken Paxton and Louisiana AG Jeff Landry, and other members of the Republican Attorneys General Association. Former RAGA chair Ken Paxton (TX) sued to overturn the 2020 presidential election and spoke at the January 6 rally.

Paxton has repeatedly attacked LGBTQ+ rights, through lawsuits, threatening letters to corporations, and attempts to block a deceased person’s same-sex partner from inheriting the estate. He also filed an anti-affirmative action amicus brief, arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court should overturn a 2003 ruling that allows colleges to consider race in admission and falsely claimed that a Texas school was allowing Muslims, but not Christians, to use a prayer room. Landry, in his words and actions, has expressed homophobia, Islamophobia, and racism.

Given their track records, there’s no doubt that Paxton and Landry, aided and abetted by Ted Cruz, will be champing at the bit to sue on behalf of people like anti-semite Rick Wiles and white nationalist Nick Fuentes.

It Puts Women in Danger

Women in yellow tape protesting sexual violence

Unsplash / Mika Baumeister

If the bill passes in its current state, Alex Jones won’t be the only one likely to make a reappearance. People like alt-right political commentator Milo Yiannopoulus, best known for targeting actress Leslie Jones on social media, likely will be part of lawsuits to rejoin platforms that have previously banned them.

The same could be true of admitted rapist Roosh V, whose books were pulled from Amazon after the company learned that the books included boasts about raping women.

It Turns On the Flow of Misinformation

A Qanon flag waving in the wind

Anthony Crider / CC BY 2.0

It isn’t just hate speech that will be making a reappearance. Those that like to push misinformation are also excited about the antitrust bill.

“It would provide protections to content providers, to businesses that are discriminated against because of the content of what they produce,” Cruz explains. “I think that is a meaningful step forward. That language is important.”

After January 6, 70,000 QAnon-related accounts were kicked off of Twitter for “spreading conspiracy theories.” Robert F. Kennedy Jr found his Instagram account closed after posting misinformation about COVID vaccines. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has been suspended from Twitter several times for spreading misinformation, including conspiracy theories about the Senate runoff elections in Georgia.

If Cruz gets his way, the antitrust bill will turn the tap of misinformation back on, giving additional space to theories like 5G causes COVID and Hillary Clinton runs a child sex ring housed in a pizza restaurant.

The Right Idea…

Klobuchar and Grassley have the right idea with the antitrust bill. Everyone can agree that Zuckerberg’s power needs to be limited — but should we really be making Ted Cruz happy in the process?

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