Big Tech Breakup? No, But 230 Questions Remain

In the dawn of a new administration trying to grapple with a pandemic and rebuilding an economy, it’s only a matter of time before Washington returns to the question of what its relationship to Silicon Valley. Namely, will and should Big Tech companies such as Google or Facebook be broken up?

From our perspective on whether that’s going to happen and the implications, the only way a Big Tech Breakup would likely happen is to have a case ultimately go in front of the Supreme Court. It’s doubtful that Congress can simply wish to break up Facebook. It’s less a legislation question than a legal one. As of now, judging by the behavior of the stocks of Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon, it’s highly unlikely.

So a tech breakup is probably not what to expect in the battle of Washington Vs. Silicon Valley. But there is another front forming.

The Section 230 Battle

When President Biden was running for office, one of the critical things he stated was that Section 230 should be abolished tomorrow. Section 230, for those unfamiliar, is the specific piece of legislation that provides immunity for website platforms from 3rd party content.

Essentially, when a platform such as Twitter or Facebook has millions, if not billions, of people talking about a variety of subjects on it, some more questionable than others, then that platform can’t be expected to be held liable for everything a user says. As we know, Facebook and Twitter have taken a more active role in moderating content recently, of which some people are outraged.

In contrast, if these platforms were not allowed to moderate content, the situation could spiral out of control and be much worse than it is now. So Washington is grappling with the question of how much to moderate, to what degree to moderate and what way to moderate.

The current solution has been to essentially allow platforms to do everything they want and hopefully, they’ll try to do their best to moderate the content. For a Facebook, Twitter or YouTube that has handled billions of posts per hour, that solution would appear to be close to impossible to manage unless the offender is a specific user with a ton of followers, such as a celebrity or politician.

So what’s the alternative? It’s a perfect solution

WeChat is a social media, messaging and payment app from China. It has over 1 billion active users per month. WeChat’s approach to monitoring inappropriate content is swift and decisive. If you’ve said something you shouldn’t have, your account gets canceled.

Andy Kelly for Upsplash

That’s it. End of story.

Now, perhaps that’s too extreme for some. Section 230 probably won’t be completely overhauled, but this much we can expect. Far more “conversations” between the Zuckerbergs and the Dorseys of the Big Tech space and Washington lawmakers are going to happen if Facebook, Twitter and more don’t take greater responsibility for the content published on their platforms. This is why you’re seeing more of that self-policing happening. If they can at least give a substantial good faith attempt to manage content on their platforms, perhaps Congress eases up on Big Tech breakup talk. Maybe. 


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Could Little Tech be the real victim here?

Any time you have increased regulations, there are increased associated costs. In this case, when you remove legal protections, you remove the barrier to additional problems. It may be intended to punish the biggest of the big players, but what if Section 230 is no more and suddenly, tech start-ups have to pay a lot of dollars in legal costs because their protections have been primarily removed?

Sure, Google and Facebook can deal with court battles and costs as a minor inconvenience. But how well can a small tech company operate if they face the same legal implications? That’s where any dramatic change to Section 230 comes with more questions than answers, more significant risks and more unintended consequences.

The Section 230 battle isn’t going away. Every platform, great and small, should keep an eye on it. We certainly will at Roy Talman & Associates. Because what starts as a dramatic legal battle in its own silo may or may not have an impact later on as a barrier or delay in growth for certain tech companies.

The changes in your tech company move a lot faster than anything that happens in Washington. You need to be poised to act quickly on coveted hires. That’s why you want to Talk To Talman First.

With our deep experience working with technology and high-frequency trading companies, Roy Talman & Associates will be your partner in identifying the most vital talent for your specific need. No matter how much the world and the tech industry change, it’s good to know we’re one resource that’s always reliable to help you weather the storm and come out of it looking better than ever with the top 1% of the top 1% of candidates.