To Counter China Online, Regulate Big Tech

To Counter China Online, Regulate Big Tech
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 23, 2019 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

The heads of Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook fended off tough questions from lawmakers last month at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee. To help allay concerns about monopolistic business practices, each CEO sought to portray his company as representing American values and serving American interests. They all did so in part by pointing to a threat supposedly bigger than their own companies: China.

“If you look at where the top technology companies come from, a decade ago the vast majority were American. Today, almost half are Chinese,” Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said in his opening remarks. “There’s no guarantee our values will win out.” Limiting Facebook’s power, he implied, would only play into Beijing’s hands. Zuckerberg and the other Big Tech executives returned to the specter of Chinese technological dominance more than 30 times over the course of the afternoon, according to a New York Times tally.

This was not the first time that Zuckerberg has tried to use the China threat to Facebook’s advantage. In congressional hearings about Facebook’s digital currency project, Libra, Zuckerberg warned that regulating it would leave the field open to rival digital currencies from China. He was also an early advocate of banning TikTok—the Chinese-owned short-form video platform that has become a major competitor of Facebook—ostensibly due to concerns that its parent company’s ties with the Chinese government could lead to content being censored.

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