Bipartisan consensus is emerging on reining in Big Tech

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When I see the likes of FBook / Twitter / etc. actively take down Nazi / TGOP disinformation I will believe it.

In the mean time, hit’em wear it hurts, delete delete delete social media / internet media from your life.


No. No it isn’t. Not even close. No one paying even an ounce of attention would think that.

Some handful of Democratic politicians want to tear down monopolies, but all Republicans want to threaten tech until it promises to serve them.

The Republicans are going to get what they want.


Roger That!


When you or I talk about regulating tech companies speculator-funded media platforms, that is the sort of thing you might want to regulate. You know, stuff of urgent importance to humans. But that’s not what the linked article is talking about regulating at all. It opens thus:

Now that’s an interesting list of victim companies.

  • Sonos doesn’t like the idea that Apple could compete with them by making their own “smart speaker” work better with Apple products than Sonos can. (Though to date Apple have failed to do as well as Sonos at this)

  • Tile is complaining to congress that Apple might in future start competing with them in the findable-keychain market which they didn’t invent but currently dominate.

  • Basecamp’s issue is that Google runs paying customers’ ads ahead of the advertising that it provides to Basecamp for free.

  • PopSockets has made millions selling decorative stick-on plastic nubs (and suing competing nubmakers), and they’re clutching their pearls at Amazon behaving like rent-seeking capitalists.

* The case against Amazon is actually legit, but I’m struggling to think of a less sympathetic business to make it. And Basecamp also have a strong point here; it’s just not the one they’re making

The common thread is that these businesses have succeeded enough that they no longer have the agility advantage over bigger companies, and would like to be protected from competition. I don’t think that’s anyone’s idea of what antitrust law is for, and I don’t think anyone would be cheering this if they hadn’t arbitrarily decided that “antitrust” is intrinsically the same thing as “regulating tech in the public interest”.

Personally, I don’t believe that – I think it’s a fairly narrow tool that isn’t relevant to most tech problems apart from Amazon – so when I read about this hearing, I just see another exercise in treating government as a shopping mall where companies go to buy laws. My guess is that’s why it has bipartisan interest.


My guess is that any “bipartisan” interest it has for the moment is purely because Republicans need to look like they are doing anything for the American people. Such bipartisan charades will end in November after the election. Because the GOP never saw a monopoly they didn’t love.

This is all noise, signifying nothing.

Instead of saying “Google” “Amazon” “Facebook” “AT&T” I’m going to start always saying “The Google monopoly” “The Amazon monopoly” “The Facebook monopoly” etc. It’s just patently obvious that’s what they’ve become and if I start calling them that whenever I talk about them maybe people (myself included) will start thinking about it more and how it’s creeped up to this and what should be done about it.


Just like Spotify are bitching about Apple having their own streaming service, and complaints that Apple have their own apps pre-installed in their own ecosystem, while failing to complain about any retail/supermarket chain you care to mention selling their own products in their own stores, while also allowing competing products the same shelf space! It’s Apple’s store, why the hell shouldn’t they have their own apps shown just as prominently as anyone else’s? Customers are perfectly free to choose whatever apps they want to use: I use Safari on my phone and pad, but I also use Firefox, DuckDuckGo and Brave*; I’ve used WeatherProHD pretty much since the beginning, I’ve used a number of different music player apps in preference to Apple’s Music app…
There is freedom of choice, Apple are not forcing me to use their apps to the exclusion of anyone else’s, so there can be no monopoly.
*And I don’t use Google as default search in any browser, DuckDuckGo is my default.

Yeah, that’s the other problem with fixating on the antitrust hammer until everything looks like a monopoly nail. It requires you to answer the question “but what does [problem company X] have a monopoly on?”, and that leads to some bonkers answers, like “Apple has a monopoly on [the UX of] Apple products”.

There’s no law that says all computers have to work the way certain folk remember MS-DOS PCs working back in the 1990s, and as long as customers are free to choose whether or not to sign up to Apple’s iOS model, they don’t need a court to decide on their behalf.

I think Apple might be on slightly shakier ground in demanding a cut of content sales on iOS (like Kindle eBooks), because the details arguably involve misleading customers. But that would be a consumer-rights thing, not a monopoly thing.

And on right to repair, e-waste or Chinese labor rights, there’s no question of Apple doing anything illegal; the issue is the non-existence of laws to compel them to do better.

I think the “monopoly” line is partly an attempt to simplify policy questions for the public. But it’s often such a poor fit that the resulting logic pretzels make everything more confusing. And that applies even when cases actually make it in front of a judge, like when the US DoJ spent years and millions of dollars to get a judge to say Microsoft should… uh… have separate installers for Windows and Internet Explorer. What a victory that was!

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