Senator Mike Lee Calls on Tech Companies to Be More Open About Their Political Biases

Watch the full interview on ASP.

In A Starting Point's second chat looking into monopolies, antitrust laws and the power of Big Tech, Chris Evans and Mark Kassen talked with GOP Senator Mike Lee of Utah about the fine line of government regulation on businesses.

During the chat, Lee echoed the sentiment of Senator Amy Klobuchar, his colleague on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights who spoke with ASP about monopolies earlier this week.

"Antitrust [laws] ensure that consumers benefit from vigorous competition between various market participants," Lee said. "When companies avoid competition, they will charge higher prices and provide lower quality goods and services and they become less innovative in the process. The market stagnates and consumers suffer."

In the tech space, Lee said companies that were once "innovative disrupters" have become "entrenched monopolists."

Consumers who once flocked to these companies' services because they were unique and innovative are now experiencing the negative impact of companies that have secured a significant amount of market power.

This includes reduced quality, privacy violations and speech censorship.

With companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter dominating the online advertising and social media space, Lee noted that antitrust laws are not in place simply to break up big companies because they are big.

"Big doesn't always mean bad," Lee said. "The question is not whether the company is big, but whether the company acted anti-competitive manner."

Lee said this type of behavior could manifest when a company disrespects its own customers. For example, if a company makes political statements that insult or differ from a large segment of its consumers.

One solution to this issue is specified government reform.

Lee has written the Promise Act, a law that would hold Big Tech accountable for its promises in its public policies to not operate their platforms or search engines with political bias in an open or transparent manner.

"This would hold tech companies accountable if they misrepresent their content moderation policies by stating that the violation of their own policies or comment from their CEOs would constitute an unfair or deceptive act in violation of Section Five of the Federal Trade Commission Act."

Lee focuses on the way companies target conservative viewpoints on social media apps.

"My concern with censorship by Big Tech is who makes the call of what would constitute misinformation or hate speech," he said. "As we've seen over the last few years, conservative speech, ads or anything to do with Republican candidates or organizations are most likely to draw the ire of Big Tech censors."

In the name of policing hate speech and misinformation, Lee said some companies are engaging in deceptive trade practices by drawing in users with the promise of being politically evenhanded and then doing the opposite.

"A private, for-profit corporation has the right to stand for whatever political position it wants," Lee said. "My point is if they are going to do that, they have to be honest about what they are."

It becomes the government's right to get involved when a company lies about the service it is providing.

"At that point, it's not about speech, it's about the misrepresentation of service they are offering, it becomes a deceptive trade practice at that point," Lee added.

Mike Lee Big Tech
Senator Mike Lee speaks speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on November 17, 2020. Lee joined ASP's second chat on monopolies and antitrust laws to discuss the role of government regulation in the practices of Big Tech companies. Hannah McKay-Pool/Getty Images