Mega-podcaster Joe Rogan has more influence in today’s politics than any broader on any cable news network. So, it was good to see him use his platform on Friday to push a wise warning about the perils of using the government to “regulate” Big Tech.
Right-of-center Americans are understandably frustrated with the various social media platforms, given their ham-handed censorship and obvious political biases. But too many are falling for false solutions—hawked by so-called populist Republicans—that would give the government more control over the internet.
This is a terrible idea, for the reasons Rogan laid out on Friday.
“You trust the government to regulate the internet?” the host asked after his guest, Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner, who said he “absolutely” trusted the government to regulate what we say online. “You trust the people who got us into the Iraq War under false pretenses to regulate the internet?”
WATCH: Joe Rogan perfectly explains the problem with regulating Big Tech pic.twitter.com/RMSgmtWZIa
— Brad Polumbo 🇺🇸⚽️🏳️🌈 (@brad_polumbo) October 10, 2022
This first point is spot-on. Trusting the government to regulate so-called “misinformation” online naively presumes that politicians and bureaucrats have some divine insight into what’s true and what’s false. In reality, the government itself often pushes dis or misinformation, about everything from nutrition to health policy to the economy.
Furthermore, this naive approach also assumes that government actors will actor benevolently, in the public interest. But we shouldn’t make that assumption, Rogan explains.
“They’re going to regulate the internet in a way that suits their best interests,” he said. “The same way they do with the environment, with energy, with everything.”
Rogan pointed out that there’s “so much money involved.”
This is all right on the money. Americans often assume that businessmen are “greedy,” aka self-interested, and just want profit. They’re right! But then they make the false assumption that the government operates differently, in pursuit of the public interest rather than self interest. In reality, however, public choice economics teaches us that government actors, too, are guided by self-interest.
As a result, giving the government control over the internet won’t result in a benevolent, guiding hand steering social media back toward free speech. It will result in the imposition of the ideological preferences of federal bureaucrats onto online discourse, with categories like “hate speech” and “misinformation” conveniently wielded to shut down mostly right-of-center, government-critical arguments and information. So, too, it will mean decisions made not in the public interest, but in the interest of the most powerful lobbyists and biggest donors.
To be clear, the current state of affairs in Big Tech is far from ideal. But Joe Rogan is right: entrusting the government to step in and “fix” the internet is a recipe for disaster.