House Google Hearing Confirms Bipartisanship on Internet Platform Issues

Government scrutiny of Internet platform unaccountability is here to stay because it is a strong bipartisan concern and interest.   

Yesterday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on “Transparency & Accountability: Examining Google and its Data Collection, Use and Filtering Practices” featured Google CEO Sundar Pichai as the lone witness.

The hearing provided a ~30 congressperson data-set and proxy for where Google specifically, and Internet platforms generally, stand politically at this point in the techlash gauntlet.   

Antitrust Pollyannaism: Google Facebook Amazon = New Entrants Not Incumbents

Are Google, Facebook, and Amazon, pro-competitive Internet “new entrants” or anti-competitive enduring monopoly Internet platform incumbents?

Apparently, that critical distinction depends less on evidence, and more on one’s antitrust predilections and prosecutorial presumptions – i.e. does one view the Internet competition glass half-empty (pessimistic) or half-full (optimistic).  

Recent evidence from the Trump DOJ Antitrust Division suggests it’s in the Internet competition optimist camp almost to the point of Internet competition Pollyannaism, despite the evident Internet platform antitrust enforcement drumbeat around the world, in Congress, and the White House, to the contrary over the last 18 months.

Google Facebook Amazon’s Non-Neutral No-Privacy Paid-Prioritization Models

We all have been played.

One of Google, Facebook, and Amazon’s greatest innovations to date may have been deceiving the U.S. government and voters with the narrative that their core Internet business models and practices were only good, innovative, pro-consumer, and worthy of no regulation, when they knew it was untrue, while at the same time lobbying that if an ISP pursued their same Internet business models and practices, that it would be anti-innovation, anti-privacy, and worthy of maximal telephone utility regulation, including a permanent, user-subsidized, price-of-zero for Google, Facebook, and Amazon’s outsized, pure profit,  commercial downstream Internet traffic usage.

Can you say: “winner take all” industrial policy?

Can you say: “regulatory arbitrage” game?

Can you say: “unlevel playing field?”

After this year’s revelations of Google, Facebook, and Amazon’s many bad, unfair, and deceptive practices, it warrants revisiting if their past forceful policy positions that only ISPs are a risk to consumers, privacy, and competition, and only ISPs warrant utility-grade net neutrality, non-discrimination, and maximal privacy regulation, were self-serving, anticompetitive, and deceptive distractions from their own anti-privacy, discriminatory, paid-prioritization practices?

We have all been played like a fiddle.

The Bipartisan Case for Modernizing Net Neutrality & Online Privacy Policy

What is the simple key to passing bipartisan net neutrality and online privacy legislation?

Put consumer interests first with a new Federal consumer-centric law, not last like today, where technology interests come first, in technology-centric law which minimizes responsibility to safeguard consumers’ choices, privacy, and security.

The tell for whether someone supports bipartisan Internet legislation to protect consumers and level the playing field or not, is whether they are focused on what is best overall for the online consumer or focused on special treatment for one technology over another. It is that simple.

Only people vote, bleed, or care. Technologies do not.

The Bipartisan Case

The origin of the term “Internet” is “inter-networking” per Robert Khan, co-inventor of TCP/IP, the Internet protocol that essentially enables and thus defines which networks are interoperable parts of the Internet’s overall network of networks, which now effectively encompasses ISPs, Internet services, Intenet platforms, cloud providers, apps, and others.  

The Bipartisan Politics for More Google Facebook Amazon Accountability

In this post-mid-term election sea of partisanship, expect a political safe harbor for bipartisanship in the next Congress to protect consumers and level the playing field, by bringing more accountability and transparency to the Internet’s unchecked, winner-take-all, biased-brokers, of online supply and demand: Google, Facebook, and Amazon.

This is timely and relevant because conventional wisdom appears to dismiss bipartisanship in this area as a phase and not lasting to conclude that no Internet-related legislation passes next Congress.

This analysis considers the political reasons why a Republican-controlled Senate and Democrat-controlled House could cooperate and pass bipartisan legislation that brings much more accountability and transparency to the unaccountable Internet triad of Google, Facebook and Amazon.

The Reasons Efforts for More Google Facebook Amazon Accountability Will Remain Bipartisan 

First, there are evident high-level lasting concerns from both the right and left about the Internet triad’s unaccountable power.

Google Facebook & Amazon’s Efficient Vortex Traps

Summary

Why do Google, Facebook, and Amazon apparently so befuddle, overwhelm, and run circles around antitrust authorities to date?

Google, Facebook, and Amazon defy normal narrow, static antitrust market definition analysis and understanding, because what is new and most defines them in an antitrust context is their exceptional, wholistic, centripetal-force dynamic, which is vortex effects and efficiencies, i.e. an effective whirlpool dynamic that in encircles, swirls, and sucks everything near, deeper into an increasing vacuum power trap.

Simply what is different and under-appreciated with these companies is the extraordinary and unprecedented nature, purpose, and effect of the efficiencies their platforms generate and proliferate.

To date antitrust authorities myopic mistake has been to narrow their scope to a market segment and miss the big picture of the enterprise’s combinatorial nature, purpose, and effect -- as a whole, because the purposeful whole can be much different and more powerful than the random sum of its parts.

Google Facebook Amazon’s Civil Liability Immunity = A Culture of Un-Ethics?

Why is the techlash cloud following Google, Facebook, Amazon, and others around, like the cloud of dirt that followed Pigpen around in the iconic Peanuts comic strip?

One theory is advanced by Kara Swisher, a New York Times columnist and proven thought leader, who mused in her columnWho Will teach Ethics to Silicon Valley?” because Silicon Valley CEOs have evident ethics and maturity deficiencies.

Her lede was “I think we can all agree that Silicon Valley needs more adult supervision now” and asked: “Is the solution for its companies to hire a chief ethics officer?” 

Ms. Swisher is right in spotlighting that Silicon Valley, and predominantly its Internet platform leaders, need ethics teaching and more maturity.

Google+’s Market Exit Spotlights Google + Facebook Cartel Market Allocation

Google and Facebook’s cartel dominance of social media, consumer data, digital advertising, and content/news discovery represents a quintessential unlevel playing field in the information/content economy.

The Google+Facebook cartel now controls most mass online info-flows to consumers, without the competitive or public accountability controls other companies face.

However, recent news of Google+ deciding to permanently not compete with Facebook going forward raises an important question:

Is Google+ jumping out of the proverbial privacy frying pan into the Google+Facebook antitrust fire?

FTC-DOJ Signal Privacy Is a New Antitrust Risk for Google Facebook

SUMMARY:

U.S. antitrust enforcement is evidently undergoing a sea change in how it treats consumer privacy in its antitrust investigations. 

Since the early 2000s through apparently late 2017, DOJ and FTC antitrust enforcers did not consider privacy to be a “non-price factor” in antitrust enforcement.

However, since 2018 the evidence catalogued below indicates that privacy now can, and will increasingly be, a factor in antitrust enforcement involving Internet multi-sided business models going forward, in determining whether a commercial practice anticompetitively harms innovation, choice, or quality.

That’s because of increasingly evident consumer “revealed preferences” for privacy; personal data’s effects on competition for markets; and the inherent “flexibility” of the antitrust consumer welfare standard to adapt to new technological, market, economic, and consumer developments. 

A big reason many investors and the marketplace have concluded that Google and Facebook face no serious antitrust risk going forward was the backward-looking, core conventional-wisdom presumption that harms to consumers’ privacy and data security were largely irrelevant because of the consumer welfare standard focus on price reduction in Internet markets where the “price” is already zero, i.e. free.  

Google Facebook Amazon’s Non-Neutral, Neutrality Nonsense Harms Competition

What is non-neutral, neutrality nonsense?

When the world’s dominant biased-broker Internet platforms, Google, Facebook, and Amazon, are the biggest funders of network neutrality and utility common carrier regulation for competitive ISPs, and their dominant, increasingly utility-like, network-effect-driven, business models, regularly treat other businesses non-neutrally while misrepresenting to the public that they are neutral platforms.

Google, Facebook, and Amazon demand maximal ISP regulation for network neutrality, transparency, and accountability, when ISPs operate their networks neutrally, transparently and accountably without it, but Google, Facebook, and Amazon fiercely oppose operating their much larger, global, encrypted-networks, with network neutrality, transparency, or accountability.

The “techlash” has exposed Google, Facebook, and Amazon, as the most dominant companies in the U.S. warranting antitrust scrutiny, as inherently biased-broker non-neutral networks, and as privileged platforms who abuse Section 230 immunity from civil liability to operate non-neutral, non-transparent, unaccountable, and anticompetitive Internet platforms.  

This is the non-neutral, neutrality nonsense of Google, Facebook, and Amazon – i.e. their asymmetric regulatory recipe for a winner-take-all, unlevel playing field.

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths