By Joseph Casieri
There has been a lot of discussion about the use of antitrust laws in recent months. Conservative leaders and organizations, like El American, have experienced the censorship of Big Tech companies. For years, they have been complaining that they are being disproportionally targeted and silenced on sites like Facebook, Amazon, and of course Twitter. There is a consensus on the right that these companies have taken too much power and, therefore, we must enforce America’s antitrust laws to break up these tech giants.
Origins of Anti-Trust and Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Co.
So, what are these antitrust laws, and how can they be applied today? In 1890, America saw the first moment in our history when the federal government interfered in the growth of corporations. John Sherman, a Senator from Ohio and William Tecumseh (Sherman’s brother) wrote the now famous law, the Sherman Antitrust Act. This law was used to directly curb the monopolization of Mr. Rockefeller’s energy company, Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey. It was found that the company was artificially raising the price of oil in the country by deliberately faulting the influx of the product. In other words, they were lowering the abundance of oil to force a price increase. Rockefeller’s monopoly on this crucial crude led to generational wealth for his family, and to a volatile market and energy depravity for poorer Americans. The Sherman Antitrust Act proceeded to break up Standard Oil’s business and allow competition to reemerge in the energy industry.
The Sherman Antitrust Act’s legality rested on Article 1, section 8, of the Constitution. Congress has the power, “To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;”. This means, that since Rockefeller’s oil trains ran through state borders the government had a say in the manner of that transportation. Therefore, Rockefeller could no longer control the price of oil by limiting the supply.
The Sherman Act and the Robinson-Patman Amendment
The Sherman law makes it clear that not just one company can be considered a monopoly. The law states: “This prohibition applies not only to formal cartels but also to any agreement to fix prices, limit industrial output, share markets, or exclude competition. A second key provision makes illegal all attempts to monopolize any part of trade or commerce in the United States.” Sherman understood that companies could create chaos for consumers by simply agreeing, behind closed doors, to fix the price of goods or services. This law made it illegal for companies to conspire to control prices.
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The Sherman Antitrust Law has been amended over the years, most notable in 1936 with the Robinson-Patman Act. This amendment made it illegal to discriminate against customers by changing prices to benefit or disadvantage particular consumers. There have been many instances throughout history of the federal government using these laws to ensure fair trade between suppliers and consumers. America has long been the safe haven for the free market and the rights of private business, but the free market cannot exist under the weight of a monopoly. The business practices of these monopolies showed a need for government interference.
We are not facing a new threat in the form of Big Tech. Conservatives have been targeted by platforms like Facebook and Twitter due to their political, or philosophical, beliefs. For years, we have seen conservative leaders like Tucker Carlson, Charlie Kirk and, who can forget the President of the United States, Donald Trump be banned from Twitter for sharing their views. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) spoke about his support for breaking up monopolizing business practices of Major League Baseball saying, “Monopoly and liberty do not go together.”
Discrimination Against Conservatives
All the outrage from the right-leaning leaders has been based on circumstantial evidence. But now that Elon Musk is bulldozing Twitter it may soon be revealed how exactly their algorithms were constructed and how Twitter employees were trained to censor. The proof is on the way.
Furthermore, beyond the speculation of what may come to light if Musk actually takes control of the site. We are finally seeing a bipartisan interest in the idea of curbing the power that these social media companies have over the 1st Amendment. The White House stated just the other day that, “what I can tell you as a general matter, no matter who owns or runs Twitter, the president has long been concerned about the power of large social media platforms, the power they have over our everyday lives, he has long argued that tech platforms must be held accountable for the harms they cause. He’s been a strong supporter of fundamental reforms to achieve that goal including reforms to section 230, enacting anti-trust reforms”.
The liberal leaders have been unwilling to take seriously the need for antitrust laws to be enforced. However, In the wake of Mr. Musk’s war on Twitter, there is beginning to be newfound support for breaking up these powerful companies.
Musk has single-handedly forced liberal lawmakers to look at the possibility of taking the power away from these Silicon Valley CEOs. There has long been a need to undo the corruption that has led to the oppression of people’s free speech. What has been missing, until now, is the bipartisan support for the effort. Now is the time for our representatives to take back the power for the citizens. Conservatives have a chance to actually get democratic support to enforce these antitrust laws.
Joseph Casieri is a representative with The Campus Leadership Project. He also worked as a Field Organizer for the Georgia Republican Party. Previously. While studying for a degree in Political Science, he interned as a researcher for the National Security and Foreign Policy Department of The Heritage Foundation.