Share prices slide as DOJ announces sweeping antitrust investigations of Big Tech

Without naming any companies, the DOJ has announced that it will investigate Big Tech platforms that dominate "search, social media and retail services." Read the rest

Podcast: Steering with the Windshield Wipers

In my latest podcast (MP3), I read my May Locus column: Steering with the Windshield Wipers. It makes the argument that much of the dysfunction of tech regulation -- from botched anti-sex-trafficking laws to the EU's plan to impose mass surveillance and censorship to root out copyright infringement -- are the result of trying to jury-rig tools to fix the problems of monopolies, without using anti-monopoly laws, because they have been systematically gutted for 40 years.

A lack of competition rewards bullies, and bullies have insatiable appetites. If your kid is starving because they keep getting beaten up for their lunch money, you can’t solve the problem by giving them more lunch money – the bullies will take that money too. Likewise: in the wildly unequal Borkean inferno we all inhabit, giving artists more copyright will just enrich the companies that control the markets we sell our works into – the media companies, who will demand that we sign over those rights as a condition of their patronage. Of course, these companies will be subsequently menaced and expropriated by the internet distribution companies. And while the media companies are reluctant to share their bounties with us artists, they reliably expect us to share their pain – a bad quarter often means canceled projects, late payments, and lower advances.

And yet, when a lack of competition creates inequities, we do not, by and large, reach for pro-competitive answers. We are the fallen descendants of a lost civilization, destroyed by Robert Bork in the 1970s, and we have forgotten that once we had a mighty tool for correcting our problems in the form of pro-competitive, antitrust enforcement: the power to block mergers, to break up conglomerates, to regulate anticompetitive conduct in the marketplace.

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Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google to testify at Capitol Hill antitrust hearing July 16

Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google (Alphabet) will testify next week before a House congressional committee at a hearing on the power held by online platforms, and whether government should be regulating it. Read the rest

Tim Wu rebuts Zuck's reasons for exempting Facebook from antitrust enforcement

Competition scholar and cyberlawyer Tim "Net Neutrality" Wu's (previously) latest book is The Curse of Bigness: a tight, beautifully argued case for restoring pre-Reagan antitrust approaches. Read the rest

Podcast: Fake News is an Oracle

In my latest podcast, I read my new Locus column: Fake News is an Oracle. For many years, I've been arguing that while science fiction can't predict the future, it can reveal important truths about the present: the stories writers tell reveal their hopes and fears about technology, while the stories that gain currency in our discourse and our media markets tell us about our latent societal aspirations and anxieties.

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Felony Contempt of Business Model: Lexmark's anti-competitive legacy

In 2002, Lexmark was one of the leading printer companies in the world. A division of IBM—the original tech giant—Lexmark was also a pioneer in the now-familiar practice of locking customers in to expensive "consumables," like the carbon powder that laser-printers fuse to paper to produce printouts. Read the rest

Robert Reich backs Elizabeth Warren's plan to break up Big Tech

Robert Reich (previously) served in the presidential administrations of Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton, was Clinton's labor czar, and sat on Obama's economic transition advisory board; though he is generally on the Democratic Party's left flank, his own history shows that he has credibility with the establishment wing of the party as well. Read the rest

Podcast number 300: "Adversarial Interoperability: Reviving an Elegant Weapon From a More Civilized Age to Slay Today's Monopolies"

I just published the 300th installment of my podcast, which has been going since 2006 (!); I present a reading of my EFF Deeplinks essay Adversarial Interoperability: Reviving an Elegant Weapon From a More Civilized Age to Slay Today's Monopolies, where I introduce the idea of "Adversarial Interoperability," which allows users and toolsmiths to push back against monopolists. Read the rest

Lessons from Microsoft's antitrust adventure for today's Big Tech giants

With trustbusting in the air and Big Tech in the crosshairs, Bloomberg's Dina Bass reflects on the antitrust case against Microsoft in the 1990s, which the company bungled badly (but still survived, thanks to a judiciary in thrall to a bizarre theory of antitrust that has no problem with monopolies). Read the rest

Federal judge rules Uber calling its drivers independent contractors may violate antitrust and harm competition

A federal judge has ruled that alleged misclassification of drivers as independent contractors by the ride-hailing service app Uber could harm competition and violate the spirit of America's antitrust laws. Read the rest

Independent audit finds Facebook activity has fallen by 20% since Cambridge Analytica

The "business analytics" firm Mixpanel has released its figures estimating the total usage of Facebook (liking, sharing and posting) since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke; they showed usage falling off 10% in the first month following from the news of the scandal, and continuing to fall, with overall usage down by 20% since April 2018. Read the rest

To help the news business, subject Big Tech to antitrust -- but don't forget Big News's antitrust problem

The University of Chicago Business School's Promarket blog has run a transcript of former antitrust enforcer Sally Hubbard's June 11 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on June 11, 2019, where Hubbard discusses the ways that the monopolized and concentrated tech sector have eroded the margins of the news business, creating a "decline of American journalism." Read the rest

Structural Separation: antitrust's tried-and-true weapon for monopolists who bottleneck markets

Back in 2017, a law student named Lena Khan made waves in policy circles with the publication of her massive, brilliant, game-changing 24,000-word article in the Yale Law Journal, Amazon's Antitrust Paradox, which revisited the entirety of post-Ronald-Reagan antitrust orthodoxy to show how it had allowed Amazon to become a brutal, harmful monopoly without any consequences from the regulators charged with ensuring competition in our markets. Read the rest

Chrome-derived browsers threaten to fork from Google, refuse to eliminate ad-blocker features

Google's decision to restrict access to the Chrome API needed for full ad-blocking to paid enterprise customers was especially worrisome because Chrome's free/open derivative, Chromium, is the basis for many other browsers, including Microsoft's Edge, as well as Opera and the privacy-focused Brave. Read the rest

Rumor: DoJ is going to investigate Google for antitrust violations

According to a widely reported rumor -- first published by the WSJ -- the DoJ is preparing to launch an antitrust probe of Google, though it's not clear on what basis such a probe would proceed. Read the rest

AT&T's dystopian advertising vision perfectly illustrates the relationship between surveillance and monopoly

AT&T has come a long way from the supernormative, feel-good messages of its You Will ads; now CEO Randall Stephenson predicts a future where his company will dynamically alter your TV ads based on what it thinks you will buy; and chase you with that ad from your TV to your computer to your phone, and then spy on your location to see whether you go to a retailer to buy the thing you've had advertised to you; and use that intelligence to command high advertising rates from advertisers. Read the rest

Los Angeles! Come see me at Exposition Park library tonight talking about Big Tech, monopolies, mind control and the right of technological self-determination

From 6PM-730PM tonight (Thursday, May 23), I'm presenting at the Exposition Park Library (Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Regional Library, 3900 S Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90062) on the problems of Big Tech and how the problems of monopolization (in tech and every other industry) is supercharged by the commercial surveillance industry -- and what we can do about it. It's part of the LA Public Library's "Book to Action" program and it's free to attend -- I hope to see you there! Read the rest

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