Big Tech radicalizes the country


photo illustration by Natalie Phan

Natalie Phan, social media manager & web editor

On Jan. 6, for the first time ever, my dad considered going back to Vietnam. My parents are South Vietnamese immigrants who came here with a hopeful glint in their eyes. My mom started a small business at the age of 19, and my dad took a job at Beechcraft. The American Dream was a shining beacon of hope to them. Now? My dad is telling me he wants to regain his Vietnamese citizenship as his coworkers battle with misinformation as a weapon. He tells me almost every night, “I lived in a third-world country. Politics here is worse.”

“Trumpie,” “liberal tears”—the back-and-forth never ends. Even our classrooms aren’t safe anymore as classes grow political and comments like “owning the libs” run rampant. Doubt in the 2020 elections and misleading statistics run out of our mouths like wildfire, and surprise: it’s all fueled by social media.

Technology companies have gone mostly unregulated for decades. In the ‘90s, Congress welcomed Silicon Valley with open arms; however, in 2021, Big Tech has become the new public enemy, according to politicians. U.S Sen. Josh Hawley tweeted Jan. 26, “Democrats in DC say they want unity. They don’t want unity. They want total control. Control of what we say, what we think, and who we support. And they are working in lockstep with Big Tech and Big corporations to silence us.” Even Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign championed the idea of breaking up Big Tech.

Take a look at U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Before being elected to Georgia’s 14th Congressional district, Greene voiced QAnon conspiracy theories on her Facebook page. Since then, she has said that she “chose a different path” on Fox News, yet her Twitter page shows no change as she refuses to apologize for her controversies and instead, bashes Democrats. Now, House Republicans are associated with a representative who believes Obama is a secret Muslim and 9/11 was a hoax.

Bipartisanship had been a fading dream years before the Trump era, but social media completely crushed that dream into the dirt. People flock to their respective political camps on the Internet; their beliefs are only reaffirmed in a never ending echo chamber. Misinformation runs amok as people try to find reasons for what they can’t comprehend or believe in. And the result? A Capitol riot.

The country’s mind is now warped. A profile picture with a real name attached to it no longer becomes a real, breathing person but an enemy whose name is written in red. A politician’s Instagram account is now filled with both blind praise and baseless condemnations. While Breitbart and InfoWars generate millions of monthly website visits, mainstream media is now condemned as “leftist propaganda.”

The whole world is looking at us. Western democratic countries are fearful that their democracies are next to go. Countries such as China and Russia are looking to thrive on our failures. In fact, Russian manipulation on Twitter is a prevalent issue; Twitter bots and trolls go unnoticed on the social media platform.

This is a new age of yellow journalism. The Capitol riot demonstrated that unregulated technology companies and a thriving democracy cannot coexist. If we don’t break up Big Tech now, democracy will not survive. Our country will shatter apart, the American dream will die, but even more terrifying, immigrants like my parents and the ones who built this country will no longer flock here.