The other day a bunch of senators hauled in some Silicon Valley CEOs and crucified them, as usual, for doing something about voting or censorship, who the heck knows anymore. They took their time on the cross well, especially Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who actually came off as someone who is thinking about how to do the right thing but needs help from the government.
Senate Republicans think there is a bias against them and wanted to take the CEOs to task. Many people on both sides of the aisle want to rein in these companies and strip them of the protection they have, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which affords these companies protection that no regular publisher has to be able to pretty much run anything they want.
Look, I get that. So does Zuckerberg. After spending tens of millions of dollars trying to stop the racism, the lies about the Holocaust, the slandering of both parties by a series of inane posting -- many, I guess, from enemies of the state -- he needs some help from Congress to define what's off limits. Unfortunately, I think it might be like the standard for hardcore pornography that's out of hand and should be illegal: "I know it when I see it."
But after some of the big Internet companies reported Thursday night, I think, I actually think, that the committee owes these companies an apology.
That's because in a country where the jobless are in the teens, these companies are all hiring, not firing. They are the jewels of the economy and they are, if anything, treasures that are our ambassadors to the world.
Let's take Amazon (AMZN) . You know why that stock didn't rally despite one of those beats that make the analysts look pessimistic idiots? Because of expenses: The company is hiring hundreds of thousands of people and spending billions to combat Covid. The average company in the S&P is firing people and spending a small amount on their employees, maybe desultory testing, perhaps allowing the big shots to stay at home.
Facebook? It has become the de facto way to start a business. We have a Small Business Administration in this country, but it would be wise to cede the whole affair to Instagram Shops, perhaps the easiest way to start a business.
Alphabet (GOOGL) ? Sure, Google has beaten Microsoft (MSFT) , perhaps the most powerful company in the world, at search, but it is YouTube that has allowed a level of expression that has created millionaires and production companies that hire hundreds of thousands of people.
How about Apple (AAPL) ? The service stream is loved for its consistency. Me? I love it because it is based on the success of others, the literally millions of companies that develop apps or employ creators of talent that would not be successful otherwise in a host of fields, including the very journalism that the Senate Republicans seem to think is all right. It's ironic that if Sen. Ted Cruz, the most vociferous senator in terms of berating these executives, got his way, Facebook would morph into the protected New York Times, not the protected Fox News.
All these companies are ambassadors of America, companies that are so pro-freedom that, with the exception of Apple, they aren't even allowed in China. How many companies does the U.S. have that simply aren't allowed to sell there? Apple does, but Apple has hired so many people in China to make things that it would be a national negative if it were shut.
Now, I am not asking Congress to give them the Congressional Medal of Job Creation, but I do think that we should not be thinking of these companies -- the creators of jobs and wealth for Americans -- as villains because of their free speech protection or because they are too rich and too powerful.
Or, otherwise, I think, these are the good guys. There are plenty of villains worth pursuing, but the endless smears or calls for them to be broken up are a waste of time. Spend more time thinking of how to help the disenfranchised, how to stop Covid, how to protect the George Floyds of the country, and less time going after the biggest job creators who represent the best we have in a world where many countries, including China, are catching up or passing us, destroying the auto and steel and aluminum and copper and textile and furniture and consumer electronics industries that we used to dominate.