Big Tech is Luring Congress into a Regulation Trap | Opinion

In recent years, Big Tech executives have all said the same thing about the prospect of sweeping federal reform of legacy social media platforms: bring it on. By openly calling for regulation, Big Tech is luring Congress into stifling free market competition—and lawmakers are taking the bait.

At a recent hearing, the top executive of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, told the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security that the company supports federal oversight of the social media sector. He proposed implementing an industry panel that would regulate safety standards for social networking apps.

Mosseri explained that the panel would answer to policymakers but should have authority to punish tech companies that don't follow its directives. In other words, he called for a bureaucratic committee to regulate the behavior of his and other social media platforms.

The Instagram executive wasn't alone. Facebook—now Meta—has published white papers exploring various possibilities for federal regulation. The company's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has publicly called for greater government involvement in the tech sector in areas such as elections, harmful content, privacy and data portability.

"I believe clearer rules would be better for everyone," Zuckerberg wrote last year. "The internet is a powerful force for social and economic empowerment. Regulation that protects people and supports innovation can ensure it stays that way."

As far back as 2019, Twitter's then-CEO Jack Dorsey expressed similar sentiments, declaring that "Generally, I think regulation is a good thing" and that government intervention would be a "net positive" for the tech sector.

There is a very good reason why all these legacy social media giants are so supportive of government action: federal regulations will make it even harder for new platforms to compete with established tech giants.

While mainstream social media networks have the resources to easily absorb the costs of regulatory action, smaller platforms will have to bear the brunt of new policies.

Mark Zuckerberg Senate testimony
Sen. John Thune (R-SD) questions Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg(on screen) during a hearing to discuss reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act with big tech companies on October 28, 2020 in Washington, DC. - US senators and tech CEOs girded for a clash Wednesday over a law making online services immune from liability for third-party content at a hearing set to debate Silicon Valley's handling of social media. Greg Nash / POOL / AFP/Getty Images

Comprehensive federal regulations are also an easy way for Big Tech to pass off its burden of responsibility to lawmakers. With the federal government in the lead, it would be impossible to demand accountability from Big Tech on issues such as data privacy, mental health and free speech. The duty to implement effective regulations will fall to the bureaucrats, not Big Tech executives—which is exactly why this scenario is appealing to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Big Tech's stance on government regulation raises an obvious question—if tech giants really wanted to bring about change, why are they waiting for the federal government? Nothing prevents legacy social media platforms from fixing their mistakes and improving user experiences right now. Instead, they are busy performing public relations stunts and funding marketing campaigns to clean up their tarnished reputations.

Presumably, this is not what most of the American people envision when they ask for accountability from Big Tech. And yet, it is exactly what we will get if Big Tech companies finally get their long-awaited big government oversight.

It must be said that total government inaction is not a solution, either. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, for instance, needs to be properly implemented and enforced to ensure that social media platforms lose their special legal privileges if they participate in political censorship. Even so, Congress needs to be careful about how it reforms Section 230 so as to avoid unintentionally harming smaller social media platforms.

To argue that sweeping government regulation is the only way to reform Big Tech is to pretend that the free market system is incapable of creating alternatives to legacy social media. The tech sector, after all, is not immune to the law of demand, which has driven millions of people to alternative platforms this year alone.

Big Tech's ongoing push for federal regulations is not about taking accountability for the industry's actions—it's about luring lawmakers into a regulatory trap that will stifle new social media ventures. Competition, not sweeping government action, is the key to reforming the world of social media.

Jeff Brain is the founder and CEO of a rising social media platform, CloutHub, which champions free speech, safeguards user privacy, and protects mental health. To learn more about CloutHub, visit

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.