Powerful Coalition Pushes Back on Anti-Tech Fervor

The movement to reinterpret or change antimonopoly laws is running headlong into a legal community and interest groups just as invested in defending the status quo.

Comments: 15

  1. The support for this regulation is bipartisan because both our parties are now dominated by populism. If it’s big and good, and you’re not part of it, tear it down.

  2. I have never understood the argument that ceding power to gargantuan, profit-motivated corporations is somehow magically more protective of individual rights than government by our elected representatives. It makes no sense to say that Medicare for All threatens "freedom" but entrusting your health to insurance companies with a financial incentive to deny care does not. It is similarly absurd to say this about limiting the ability of a handful of tech companies (which really means a handful of reckless billionaires) to control the entirety of our exchange and storage of information. Senator Lee understood this when the question was about government surveillance, and he commendably supported bipartisan legislation to limit warrantless wiretapping. He should understand that tech companies who indiscriminately vacuum up data about every aspect of our lives pose at least as much of a threat to privacy, personal integrity, and true freedom as does the NSA - and far more of a threat than the sugar barons of early antitrust law ever did.

  3. This is really well-put. It goes to the heart of the obvious flaw in libertarian thought. Libertarians have an hysterical fear of government, but absolutely no complementary understanding of the ways that capitalist firms can become private tyrannies that are totally unresponsive to the public despite their control over our lives. Basically this is an ideology of the ruling class, the billionaire set masquerading as a legitimate democratic and economic philosophy. It’s for the rich, and it’s for mostly white men with the intellect of teenagers.

  4. There probably already is significant judicial precedent for considering factors other than lower prices and higher output as dispositive in antimonopoly cases in appropriate circumstances.

  5. The American method of considering the price consumers pay is incomplete when it comes to tech, because no one has put a price on what the tech companies are taking for free, namely consumer data. If (as seems to be the case) the data is actually very valuable - and getting more valuable as datamining becomes better - then the cost of these services is actually going up, and probably skyrocketing. It should be really simple. Look at the profits. If a company is making monopoly profits, then it's a monopoly. Facebook's profits are monopoly profits. Google's profits are monopoly profits. Apple's profits are monopoly profits. Ergo, Facebook, Google, and Apple are monopolies, and should be broken up.

  6. By definition, the internet naturally creates global markets / audiences that can be served by just a few players. Some services such as Facebook, LinkedIn, [email protected], google maps and street view and so forth simply cannot be broken up without creating a ridiculous user experience - for example “I didn’t get your email because I’m on gmail2.com”. The potential of free services like gmail, google maps, Facebook to be positive and beneficial is huge. Rather than following the naive Elizabeth Warren doctrine of ‘breaking things up’, we need to concentrate on constraining behaviours. For example: Facebook should be subject to formal advertising standards regulations and broadcasting standards for it is an advertiser and broadcaster. Furthermore, it should be exposed to legal jeopardy as a publisher for defamation. There should be strict rules around management of user data predicated on data being private unless its release/sharing is explicitly approved on a case by case basis. Central banks should be the only entities allowed to operate crypto currencies.

  7. Google, Facebook, and especially Amazon need to be broken up.

  8. “Apple apps are no longer available in the Apple store. Choose one of these government approved apps instead” “Your Facebook post is under government-standards review” “To track your amazon package, please call or fax this government bureaucracy” “Please enjoy this surcharge to compensate for the data we can no longer harvest/monetize” (why else would all the apps on your phone be free?) “Your search term is restricted by the search terms review board. consult bing or the public library” More unintended consequences coming soon

  9. I am not surprised that the big money is fighting increased regulation and protection for consumers, or that our "representatives" are eager to carry water for them. Since our democracy has been co-opted by the elites, it is time to cut to the chase and bring out the guillotines once more.

  10. The argument that current laws offer sufficient protection if only regulators diligently enforce them offers little reassurance. That point has been well illustrated. Congressional underfunding of regulators all on it's own ensures that enforcement will be spotty and insufficient. The argument that these problems should be addressed slowly and methodically holds little attraction. A slower approach simply offers more time for monopolists to continue their practices a bit longer, and deploy more refined tactics for avoiding appropriate regulation.

  11. The problem with the current monopoly position is that it is sustained by and sustains the increasing inequality of the US. The technology companies are providing value for their customers and power for the US. Still regulation and anti-trust actions have generally driven the innovation out into the open and allowed new companies to develop. We are now at the stage where almost all companies in the US are struggling as more activity shifts to the network hubs Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook. Its a return to the days when IBM controlled computing and technology trickled from its very innovative lab.

  12. The tech companies have made a major change to business technique that may invalidate the concepts of anti-trust that I grew up with. Consider the sentence from Mr. McCabe’s fine article. “Judges and regulators often ask whether a dominant company is harming consumers, and usually hang their analysis on whether prices have gone up or down.” For an example let’s consider Facebook: 1) Who is the customer? The choices include the users, advertiser agencies or the advertisers. 2) How is cost defined? Choices include (a) it free, (b) the total cost advertisers pay (c) the advertiser cost per contact. 3) If advertiser cost is the metric for anti-trust purposes how is it normalized for improved Facebook services? When Facebook makes more user data available to advertisers does that reduce advertiser cost or does it come with greater Facebook fees and are they price increases? It is not apparent to me just how anti-competitive pricing is defined in this situation and under current anti-trust legislation.

  13. I really don’t like how the NYT has called folks worried with good reason about concentrated power of tech firms “anti tech”. We are not anti tech at all but pro democracy pro human autonomy. Our law has not caught up yet with the ominous power of big tech firms controlling our personal data and opening us up to manipulation (see the Great Hack) and, as Tim Wu’s excellent book The Masterswitch shows, big companies often squish or absorb new innovators, concentratating power further which translates into political power. Especially, at this moment with our broken democracy, multiple reasons, including the traditional ones, exist for looking at how to address big tech’s monopoly & political power. Lots of techies care about these bigger issues and it is extremely misleading of the NYT to call this anti-tech in its headline.

  14. Google owns Nest. Nest smoke and CO2 alarms have an undisclosed microphone inside them that Google can activate at any time. The declared reason for the microphone is that it's for purposes of "testing the alarm". Raise your hand if you're OK with the largest data vampire and thief in the entire world, a company that will sell your data to ANYONE with the money to pay for it then lie about it, having a microphone planted in your bedroom or your child's bedroom smoke alarm that they can monitor at will. Google, Facebook et al have grown way too intrusive, way too powerful, and are totally out of control. The time has come to break them up or shut them down.

  15. If Lambert, Lee, and Koch are opposed to it, it is probably a pretty good idea.