Big Tech Delenda Est

By God, I actually agree with one of my state’s congressional representatives about something!

Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about Fauxcahontas herself, cultural appropriator par excellence and 2020 presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren.

Why, you may ask? Well, Warren recently unveiled a plan to break up the power of Big Tech–something you may have noticed I am very much in favor of, if you’ve been a reader for a while–and Facebook responds by . . . removing her ads about the plan from Facebook.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Don’t worry: They we’re quickly restored. It pays to be a left-winger, you see? But the fact remains: Warren is not wrong.

Let’s take a look at the key aspects of her plan, shall we?

First, the problem as Warren sees it:

America’s big tech companies have achieved their level of dominance in part based on two strategies:

  • Using Mergers to Limit Competition. Facebook has purchased potential competitors Instagram and WhatsApp. Amazon has used its immense market power to force smaller competitors like Diapers.com to sell at a discounted rate. Google has snapped up the mapping company Waze and the ad company DoubleClick. Rather than blocking these transactions for their negative long-term effects on competition and innovation, government regulators have waved them through.
  • Using Proprietary Marketplaces to Limit Competition. Many big tech companies own a marketplace — where buyers and sellers transact — while also participating on the marketplace. This can create a conflict of interest that undermines competition. Amazon crushes small companies by copying the goods they sell on the Amazon Marketplace and then selling its own branded version. Google allegedly snuffed out a competing small search engine by demoting its content on its search algorithm, and it has favored its own restaurant ratings over those of Yelp.

And here’s what Warren proposes to do about it:

First, by passing legislation that requires large tech platforms to be designated as “Platform Utilities” and broken apart from any participant on that platform.

Companies with an annual global revenue of $25 billion or more and that offer to the public an online marketplace, an exchange, or a platform for connecting third parties would be designated as “platform utilities.”

These companies would be prohibited from owning both the platform utility and any participants on that platform. Platform utilities would be required to meet a standard of fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory dealing with users. Platform utilities would not be allowed to transfer or share data with third parties.

For smaller companies (those with annual global revenue of between $90 million and $25 billion), their platform utilities would be required to meet the same standard of fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory dealing with users, but would not be required to structurally separate from any participant on the platform.

To enforce these new requirements, federal regulators, State Attorneys General, or injured private parties would have the right to sue a platform utility to enjoin any conduct that violates these requirements, to disgorge any ill-gotten gains, and to be paid for losses and damages. A company found to violate these requirements would also have to pay a fine of 5 percent of annual revenue.

Amazon Marketplace, Google’s ad exchange, and Google Search would be platform utilities under this law.

Therefore, Amazon Marketplace and Basics, and Google’s ad exchange and businesses on the exchange would be split apart. Google Search would have to be spun off as well.

Second, my administration would appoint regulators committed to reversing illegal and anti-competitive tech mergers.

Current antitrust laws empower federal regulators to break up mergers that reduce competition. I will appoint regulators who are committed to using existing tools to unwind anti-competitive mergers, including:

  • Amazon: Whole Foods; Zappos
  • Facebook: WhatsApp; Instagram
  • Google: Waze; Nest; DoubleClick
  • Unwinding these mergers will promote healthy competition in the market — which will put pressure on big tech companies to be more responsive to user concerns, including about privacy.
  • I can’t find much that’s objectionable here.

    Get over your knee-jerk “Muh private businesses!” conditioning and realize these tech giants do not care about the Constitution, fair play, freedom of speech, competition, or any classical definitions of what we call “capitalism.” The Masters of the Universe are unelected individuals with gigantic organizations that have as much power and influence as governments.

    “Build your own platform!” “Vote with your wallet!” “Use something else!”

    Loser talk! These attitudes are why we are where we are. You can’t just “build your own Google.” The way things are structured are anti-competitive.

    And Google, Facebook, et al. have more information about you than even the government. Why do you trust big tech with that?

    Oh, right: “Because all businessmen are heroes!”

    Put down the Ayn Rand for a second and realize no they are not. They may start as heroes, and small business owners and entrepreneurs–who represent the majority of Americans–are amazing people. But there comes a point in the cycle where corporations do amass too much power and influence and get to throw their near-limitless money around to bend the rules to favor them. Bye-bye competition!

    Some call this “crony capitalism.” Others “corporatism.” I call it “inevitable.” Whether the system is a democratically representative republic or a socialist autocracy, the end result is the same.

    Of course, Warren has to toss in concern about mythical Russian interference with the 2016 election (as if it actually had an influence, or that the US doesn’t do the exact same thing to foreign countries).

    And shockingly, her plan says nothing about political censorship and the tech giants playing it both ways by acting as publishers but being protected as mere platforms.

    Even more shockingly, the plan says nothing about the pernicious influence of big money in politics–how these giant, powerful megacorps buy and sell politicians. How can the so-called anti-Wall Street, anti-big business Elizabeth Warren not address this in her plan to break up big tech?

    Big tech got to where they are because they spread their money around to people on both sides of the aisle.

    To be fair, in response to my email to Warren on a related issue, she did mention sponsoring legislation to “curb undisclosed spending in elections,” and so on, in her response to me.

    So is this plan enough to make me vote for Warren for president? No. I’m not a one-issue voter. But if she manages to get something like this done as a Senator, I’d actually vote to send her back to Washington.

    I mean, it’s Massachusetts. The Republican ain’t winning anyway.

    And yeah, I know she’s a liar and a hypocrite and a communist and a fake Indian. But the Republicans I keep voting for are doing jack shit about this.

    And speaking of Republicans, how have any not made breaking up big tech a huge part of their platforms? How has Trump let himself preempted by this? I know he’s made a little noise on the issue, but so far nothing concrete.

    If the Right had any acumen, it would be all over this issue, as well as the student loan debt issue, but it won’t because the Republican Party is called the Stupid Party for a reason. Big business must be protected with the fervor of a religious zealot defending its god from blasphemy . . . even though that god is trying to kill them.

    A party that wasn’t sexually attracted to losing would reach across the aisle on this. But since breaking up big tech would actually benefit their constituents, they won’t.

    Put the fear of God into these corporations. If government can’t protect the people from (a) unfairly competitive practices, (b) our information being gathered, stored, and sold, (c) and unelected corporations squelching our constitutionally enshrined free speech rights in order to influence elections–because these platforms are the new public square–why have a government? Why have freedom of speech?

    Why anything?


    For a great, action-packed story about the dangers of big tech, you’ll love my debut novel A Traitor to Dreams. It goes places you won’t expect . . . and that’s a good thing!

    22 comments

      • Thanks Brian!

        Agreed. She’ll face pushback from both parties. I also have trouble trusting her.

        Like I said in the post, I don’t think I’d vote for her for president, but if she pulls this off as a senator? Sure, I’ll vote to send her back to Washington.

        Like

    1. It’s like what James Allsup would say; criticizing capitalism doesn’t make you a communist.

      My issue is that, when the government enacts regulations, the corporations lobby to make sure they do the least damage – or only hurt their smaller competitors. We need laws to keep Congress from selling out.

      On an unrelated note, I finally started reading A Traitor to Dreams.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have the same concerns as you, Hans: The breaking up of big tech will be very much blunted if there’s isn’t also some mechanism preventing businesses—or any ultra-rich individual—from buying Congress.

        And I hope you enjoy the book!

        Like

        • Alexander,

          Break them up and put a limitation. First only locals can buy the pieces of Big tech.Locals are defined aas some one who’s lived in a municipality for 10+ years
          Second, fractal localism for tech stuff. Partly as a bulwark against this kind of concentration and for antifragile purposes.
          Thrird, Big tech are utilities and must be regulated as such even if they’re broken up. Especially if they’re broken up.
          Stuff like Ios and Android, open source them completely. Yeah I know lots of authoritarian govts will poision them but at least you’ll have forks and variations like LINUX. So more resiliency.

          xavier

          Liked by 1 person

        • Very good points.

          Thing is, we’re warned about the horrors of a world without convenience. Listen: our ancestors built better things and thought better thoughts than we currently do . . . sans electricity and cheap consumer gadgets made in sweatshops.

          There’d be a difficult transition period, but we’ll be fine.

          Like

    2. Like I’ve said in the past, the true enemy isn’t the dorky socialists but the technocrats that live above us. The “build your own” nonsense is fucking stupid when I’m typing this using a android phone owned by Google, onto a site owned by Google, about google. We have allowed then to achieve unlimited power.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. The Republican Party’s all about Mammon worship. For example, Alabama GOPers celebrated Facebook and Google building data centers there, even though Silicon Valley interests hate them, their way of life, and even false-flagged the Russians to frame Roy Moore during the special election.

      As for Senator Warren: she’s on the right track but misguided. Historically, forced breakups of trusts or conglomerates enrich shareholders. See: Standard Oil.

      Facebook’s corporate charter needs to be revoked or the company bankrupted. There was a report recently that Facebook is negotiating with the Feds about how much to pay for breaking a consent decree arising from previous privacy violations. Why is there a negotiation? Based on the consent decree, Facebook could be liable for $100B+ in fines. Seems like enough to ruin them.

      Once the political realignment plays out, I think the Trumpian GOP will form a natural if temporary alliance with the Warren/Bernie types. You see something similar playing out in Italy and the UK where it’s nationalists vs. globalists. Reigning in globalist corporations will be a main party plank.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I can’t disagree with anything you say.

        And for the record, I do not trust Warren. I think she’d be a disastrous president. But if, as a senator, she can help reign in the globalist corporations, as you say? Screw it, I’ll vote to send her back. It’s not like any Republican has a chance in Massachusetts, OR the sack to stand up to big business anyway.

        Like

        • That’s the spirit. You’re also hammering on the fault line between geriatric cronies and academic losers (Warren, Sanders, Pelosi) and the various identity groups. Such self-perceived geniuses hate getting steamrolled by the identity groups, who don’t even bother to cover their power-grabs with the usual figleaves of expertly-faked academic research or theories.

          I’m laughing about the New Democrats even bothering to get a Fake Nobel Prize winner like Paul Krugman to publish b.s. as cover for their machinations. At least Al Gore puts on a song-and-dance to sell “muh global warming” — AOC just writes a garbage whitepaper in 20 minutes because f you and f America, that’s why.

          Also, NYT reported today that Facebook is under criminal investigation by a Fed grand jury.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Facebook has a lot to answer for, them and Google. I am a capitalist. I like private enterprise. But big businesses ARE NOT the government, ARE NOT elected, and SHOULD NOT have the ability to influence society, be it elections or national policy, to the detriment of the rest of us. These tech behemoths essentially cancel out many of the rest of us’s votes.

          That was a very awkward sentence, and I apologize.

          Regarding the New Democrats, they are just the inevitable result of identity politics. Look for it to continue. Look for white people, especially white and Jewish men, to be chased out of the Democrat party. Look for the Republican party to refuse to play the identity politics game. Look for the whole system to continue fracturing.

          It stinks. I hate this.

          Like

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