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Coronavirus Is No Cure for Techlash

Big Tech tales that the Coronavirus Crisis somehow will mitigate their Techlash problem, totally miss the mark.

They miss that the crisis is not good and not about tech. They miss that to whom much is given, much is expected.

They miss how many other industries and companies have contributed and sacrificed during this crisis without expecting something in return.

Spontaneously this past week, a tech op-ed chorus broke out singing a new tune and tale, that the Coronavirus Crisis could benefit Big Tech and save it from much of the Techlash.

Consider: Coronavirus gives Big Tech an opportunity to shine – Axios 3-18-20; Has the coronavirus killed the Techlash? Wired 3-20-20; Big Tech has the cash to expand after crisis, Regulatory threat also likely to recede for now, FT 3-20-20; and What Techlash? Virus Could Remake Industry Giants Image, The Information 3-23-20.  

Like some catchy new tunes lyrics, these don’t make sense.

Why is the Coronavirus Crisis no cure for the Techlash?

First, Americans strong bipartisan views undergird the Techlash in the U.S.

Consider a recent Gallup poll of Americans published 3-11-20.

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.  

Google-Android’s Deceptive Antitrust Defenses Presage a US v. Alphabet Suit

The likely probability of an eventual U.S. v. Alphabet Sherman monopolization case improved further now that we know how weak Alphabet-Google’s likely primary U.S. antitrust defense of Android is.

This means not only is a potential U.S. v. Alphabet antitrust case stronger than the seminal successful and upheld U.S. v. Microsoft precedent, but Google’s relative antitrust defense is much weaker too.

Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai’s public Android antitrust defense has fatal flaws.

First, Google-Android claims Apple iOS is a direct competitor when factually in an antitrust context it is not.

New U.S. Privacy & Data Protection Law Is Inevitable Like a Pendulum Swing

It is a matter of when, not if, Congress will pass national privacy and data protection law for the 21st century.

It’s inevitable, because the U.S. privacy policy to date is operating as predictably as a pendulum swinging. Consider the evident big picture, pendulum dynamic at work here.

Buying WhatsApp Tipped Facebook to Monopoly; Why Didn’t FTC Probe Purchase?

Anyone concerned with the anticompetitive state of digital advertising, and how to fix it, should focus like a laser on the circumstances surrounding the 2014 FTC’s pass on formally investigating if the Facebook-WhatsApp acquisition would “substantially lessen competition” under the Clayton Antitrust Act.

That obvious FTC mistake in hindsight, triggered a winner-take-all domino effect that not only tipped Facebook to a social advertising monopoly, but also tipped the overall digital advertising market to the anticompetitive digital advertising cartel that evidently predominates today.

Some brief context is helpful here. This big 2014 FTC mistake was the fourth of a pattern of big anticompetitive FTC mistakes concerning the digital advertising marketplace over the last decade.  

What Happened Since FTC Secretly Shut 2012 Google-Android Antitrust Probe?

If only the 2012 FTC appreciated “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” the Simons-FTC would not be left to treat and contain the now evident, out-of-control, Androidopoly epidemic.

Google’s 2012 search-syndication monopoly scale has rapidly metastasized Google’s market power in scope to: Android licensable OS, Google Play app store, Google Location Services, Chrome browser, Google Maps, and YouTube video.

Lax 2013-2017 FTC antitrust enforcement has consequences.

Congress Learns Sect 230 Is Linchpin of Internet Platform Unaccountability

U.S. Internet policy politics has shifted.

Congress has learned that any new legal accountability for, or regulation of, Internet platforms likely won’t survive court challenge, unless the new legislation also amends a 1996 law, Section 230, that selectively immunizes Internet platforms from most government legal accountability, and federal and state regulation.

Courts have interpreted Section 230 so broadly that Internet platforms like Facebook, Alphabet-Google, Amazon, Uber, and Airbnb, grew confident that they could operate their businesses largely above the rules and outside the law that applied to everyone else.

The proof of this "Jekyll and Hyde" legal double standard, is that this week Congress had to amend section 230 to narrowly override its sweeping Internet platform immunity powers to legally enable child victims of sex trafficking to seek redress for their harms in court.

Yesterday the Senate passed FOSTA, the “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act,” with 97% support (97-2). Three weeks ago, the House passed it with 94% support, (388-25). Both passed over the strong opposition of Alphabet-Google and some other members of the Internet Association. President Trump is expected to quickly sign it into law.

America Needs a Consumer-First Internet Policy, Not Tech-First

Internet users are the forgotten consumers.  

They have been forgotten for over twenty years because America’s Internet policy has been tech-first-consumer-last. 

Hiding in plain sight, U.S. Internet policy prioritizes what’s best for technologies and Internet companies over what’s best for people, because at core it assumed in 1996 and 1998 that whatever is good for Internet technologies and companies is good for Internet consumers.

For many years that appeared to be largely true. However, the cascading revelations this past year -- big societal, economic, and political problems caused by Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, etc. -- prove that core U.S. Internet policy assumption false.

Let’s contrast the Government’s protection of Internet companies with its protection of Internet consumers.

Ad Hoc Neutrality Isn’t Neutral, It Is Discriminatory and Unfair

 

For a neutrality or non-discrimination principle to have legitimacy, it must be applied neutrally and non-discriminatorily itself, because everyone knows true neutrality means not taking sides.

Non-neutral application of a net neutrality policy takes sides and thus is discriminatory and unfair, the exact opposite of net neutrality’s purported purpose and the definition of its signature word.

Arguably, most all the controversies and conflicts over net neutrality for the last fifteen years have resulted from a supposed neutrality principle applied non-neutrally, to favor Internet intermediary distribution networks like Google, Amazon and Facebook, and cloud computing networks, like Amazon, Microsoft and Google, over legacy communications and content networks.

Today the FCC, in voting 3-2 for the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, is legitimately implementing net neutrality in a neutral fashion, i.e. treating similar information services similarly with the same light touch, under the same market transparency enforcement oversight at the FTC, and not taking sides by non-neutrally, picking winners and losers from the start.

A Tale of Two Realities -- DOJ versus AT&T-Time Warner Merger

Sometimes it is easy to miss the forest for the trees.

That may be the case with the outlook for the DOJ v. AT&T-Time Warner case.

In this analysis, rather than recount the legal antitrust “trees” that have been well-argued in the DOJ’s complaint brief and AT&T-Time Warner’s defense brief, and the rule of law “tree” I analyzed initially, it is important to focus on how this case is highly-unusual in one characteristic, and that characteristic begs us to try and examine the forest not the trees.

What is highly-unusual about this precedent-driven case is the Judge, U.S. District Court Senior Judge Richard J. Leon.