I’ve spent the last six months meeting with regulators, civil society organizations, politicians, customers, and advocacy groups to talk about what the right framework is for when a company should censor content on its platform. I think it’s tempting, sitting here in San Francisco, to lean heavily on the idea of freedom of expression. I am the son of a journalist and grew up in the United States. I grew up with lively debates about the importance of the First Amendment around the dinner table. But, when you meet with German regulators, and you talk about freedom of expression as being sacrosanct they look at you with a sort of naive pity. One said to me: “I understand that’s your tradition born out of your history, but I hope you understand that we have had a very different history.” And that’s undeniable.
You object already. “Wait! Why is America limited to either one of those?!” Well, the reason is very simple. The myth that America will go back to “normal” is predicated on a delusion that never existed. From the 1980s or thereabouts, Americans have lived shorter, meaner, harder, lives that Europeans. Across the core of Europe, middle classes saw improving incomes, savings, work/life balances, life expectancies, and quality of life, from the 1970s — but the American middle class didn’t.
It’s also a show of the decline of American innovation in technology. Even Bloomberg has ranked the U.S. outside of the top 10 most innovative countries for the first time. You can make fancy new campuses, but when your flagship product is in decline, you can’t go around promising new jobs (like Apple has).