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The bad new politics of big tech (buzzfeed.com)
169 points by bhouston 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 119 comments

There have traditionally been two types of monopoly, exemplified by Standard Oil and AT&T. Standard Oil came about through mergers. This is the one where antitrust fits -- you break them up, problem solved. AT&T is a natural monopoly. Breaking them up doesn't fix it; the last mile has to be treated as a public utility because a local monopoly is still a monopoly and it's not practical to build fifteen independent last mile networks everywhere.

But Facebook, despite being a monopoly or nearly so, isn't either of these. It makes no sense to speak of breaking Facebook up -- what does that even look like? Each if the Baby Books gets 1/20th of the users?

But it's also not a natural monopoly because what makes Facebook a monopoly is a lack of interoperability. If "Facebook" was a federated system where anyone can set up their own social networking server and still communicate with anyone else on any provider, there would be no monopoly. Some people would use Google and some people would use Microsoft and some people would have their own server in their basement and they could all still talk to each other. Social networking is not a natural monopoly any more than email is -- unless you allow the largest player to refuse interoperability with competitors.

I agree Facebook isn't a great example of a monopoly. But consider Google. As it stands google is very much a monopoly in the sense that Microsoft was. The power google has to do good/bad is tremendous.

Consider your reliance on google: - search - email - maps/navigation - youtube, news, your browser - possibly your phone OS, contacts, calendar

Google hasn't really done anything too overtly Orwellian (e.g. only promoting news that shows it in a good light). It even hasn't been too restrictive on interoperability (but neither was Microsoft, it just came pre-installed with IE).

So I suppose the question becomes "Should power be broken up preemptively?"

Or, perhaps politicians are rightly scared as they understand that they are losing political control to a technological system (they don't control) that increasingly has the power to shift public opinion (now that TV is dead).

> Consider your reliance on google: - search - email - maps/navigation - youtube, news, your browser - possibly your phone OS, contacts, calendar

Owning lots of different properties that each have serious competitors is not a monopoly.

The only market you can reasonably claim Google has a monopoly in is search. There are fair arguments that search is a natural monopoly, but trying to regulate search as a utility is a very bad idea, because it's bare naked government regulation of speech.

If you want more search competitors, a better approach might be government grants to improve public domain search algorithms so that it becomes more practical to create viable search competitors.

The problem is they use search and advertising to promote their other properties. So, simply removing that connection by splitting the company into 2-3 parts would do a lot to minimize the harm.

I would suggest: Search, Addwords, Everything else.

PS: Picture how much a 24/7 worldwide ad on googles home page is worth. Except the only customers for that are Google Properties.

It's not searh itself that lends itself naturally to monopoly - it's indexing. Indexing the billions of web pages that make up the open web is extremely expensive (and sometimes not allowed for anyone but google...). Moreover, it is silly to have 15 different companies performing indexing when just one could do it.

Fortunately enough, regulating indexing wouldn't entail an encroachment on freedom of speech, since an index should be raw and unfiltered. It also wouldn't require the government to take full control of google - they could merely require that google license their index to other searh engines at a reasonable cost.

Search not so much.

Ads. This is a problem area for Google. If I worked at Google figuring out an alternate revenue stream would be high on the list of things I'd be proposing for discussion at the very least.

>but trying to regulate search as a utility is a very bad idea, because it's bare naked government regulation of speech.

The hard and expensive part is building the index. Treating that as a utility that lots of search engines can hang off (in much the same way DDG hangs off bing) has none of the implications for freedom of speech.

Microsoft did a lot to restrict you from switching. I used to work at Microsoft. The reason the govt had somewhat of a case against them was the tactics microsoft did. Some examples:

1. Fixing their os in certain ways to hurt end user applications. we said "dos isn't done till lotus doesn't run". This was so customers would be unhappy with lotus, and use excel. People still said this after ms moved on to win 95.

2. Bundling os charging - if a company pays a flat fee per computer shipped, regardless of os, msft would charge them much less per copy. This discouraged companies from shipping other os', because they already 'paid' for windows, it cost them less to ship it.

With IE, they did mange for many years to make web development dependent on ie 5 to properly render. eventually this was broken away, but it was a huge long slog. It discouraged people from using other browsers for sure, but massively discouraged people from using other os' that didn't have a windows browser. like linux, phones, mac

Google doesn't have a monopoly on any of those things though. I don't use any Google products and I don't notice any issues living a modern life. There are lots of good competitors out there. The one exception is YouTube, there is a lot of quality content that is hosted there and no where else. Plus it's the closest thing Google has to a successful social media property.

I tend to lean towards your latter explanation. I think these are warning shots from a political elite that's suddenly paying close attention to the fact that powers moved about a bit without them noticing.

Personally I think if Facebook and google were one company then that would certainly be a company that needed to be broken up, but they're not, Google owns search, it doesn't own Social, Facebook owns Social but it doesn't own search, while neither owns the other there is no monopoly on the dissemination of information.

> Google hasn't really done anything too overtly Orwellian (e.g. only promoting news that shows it in a good light).

Well, they already are...


Wow, this is a horrible graph: https://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/media-pg.... Forbes and CNBC are apparently liberal media and WSJ is conservative? Also from the article:

> There's no way to know whether a drop in search traffic is a result of changes in user behavior (i.e. fewer searches for a particular topic) or even the result of changes to the back or front end of a website (Google is reportedly cracking down on interstitial ads). Goldstein concedes at the end of his paper that the "PGSTN of individual domains is not sufficient for conclusions."

The plot in the linked article gives so little information that it is absolutely useless at concluding any sort of bias. It does establish that there is a trend, with higher referrer traffic to sites identified as left/liberal. In order to establish bias, this would need to be identified as something intentional and inaccurate on the part of google.

What differences exist in user patterns? Do users of conservative news typically browse certain websites, while users of left-leaning media search for articles?

No attempt was made to look at the relationship between website size and google referral traffic. Glancing at the websites listed, most of the conservative sites are much smaller, and so I would expect them to have lower search rankings and referral traffic as a result.

If you call that Orwellian then I think you need to use your imagination a little. This company has most of my passwords, my emails, my 2-factor, the accounts to which I reset my bank/investments, my credit card and other PII, my voice (google now), my physical fingerprint (unlocking my phone), knowledge of all of my close associates, and sits between me and all my online activity (chrome) or cellular activity (phone).

Would you consider it Orwellian if said company shut off access to your email, de-monetized your YouTube Videos and for all intents and purposes killed the account with all of the info you described above? Because Google has begun doing just that to those who hold a differing opinion from Google HQ. Jordan Peterson is a fairly good example of such an instance http://www.torontosun.com/2017/08/01/free-speech-advocate-jo...

Hey, I think you're really on to something here. An interoperability mandate would fix the problem. Imagine what would happen if there were an interop mandate for search crawlers, ad networks, social login, article comments, messaging, mobile apps, ecommerce purchases, ...? Probably a rebirth of the entire software industry.

It would be cool if this could be presented as an option to actual legislators.

> But Facebook, despite being a monopoly or nearly so, isn't either of these. It makes no sense to speak of breaking Facebook up -- what does that even look like? Each if the Baby Books gets 1/20th of the users?

I think you answered your own question: one way is you divide it into N successors with 1/N of the users, and mandate that they integrate with each other (and new players) over an open and interoperable standard. Whatever's done, the key part is the interoperability mandate.

I feel like dividing the company wouldn't even be necessary with an interop mandate. Software doesn't require any capital to build except time. Competitors would naturally start appearing, probably in a matter of months.

Like I said in another comment, I think a company breakup would help make the interop mandate work. If Facebook is left as dominant as it is now, it would have lots of opportunity to kneecap the mandate. I think you need the right social conditions to make interoperability work in practice.

The antitrust case involving Microsoft ultimately ended up with sort of an interop mandate, where Windows was required to "interop" with other browsers. Couldn't the same sort of ruling be made in these other areas?

I agree with your sentiments, but I think you may be arguing against a straw man for Facebook. The smart move would be to break them up along business interests. The social network would be the same, but split their hosting off, and require messenger level access to internal APIs. I would imagine there would also be focus on ensuring that there is a way for competition to form around features like marketplace. Again, probably API centric.

Does this make sense? I'm not sure. But I think it would be easy for a set of programmers to redefine Facebook as more free market than it currently is.

Facebook really is exactly the same kind of monopoly as AT&T. You could see the network and even data related to it as the last mile. Technologies like blockchain could make this possible and give the user back control over their own data and network instead of giving it into the hand of one company.

> Facebook really is exactly the same kind of monopoly as AT&T.

Ma Bell was really two monopolies -- long distance and last mile. Facebook is equivalent to the long distance monopoly, but that's the easy one. Federation and interoperability dissolves it.

The last mile is sticky because building a last mile network is very capital intensive and the cost is predominantly per mile rather than per user, so having two networks that each serve half as many users doubles the cost per user, which is very inefficient and creates a natural monopoly. There is no equivalent to that with Facebook.

> Ma Bell was really two monopolies -- long distance and last mile.

...and end-user hardware.

Ma Bell was the Spanish Inquisition sketch of monopolies.

The problem is with social networks that the network itself is the valuable basis. It doesn't really matter if we compare it to last mile or long distance. It's all about how much coverage you have. If you don't have enough you can't play the game. Even if you get momentum you will be crushed by a full coverage network like Facebook if they can't buy you (see Snap). So giving everyone coverage would solve this problem hence the comparison to AT&T.

Facebook does not benefit from liberating data. Blockchain users do, the public ledger is what gives blockchain value. There is no good reason to run social on blockchain, it reduces surface area to profit and there's nothing forcing it to stay.

Monopoly or not, Google and FB have way too much power--unless you want to be secretly governed by a group of unaccountable tech overlords...

> If "Facebook" was a federated system where anyone can set up their own social networking server and still communicate with anyone else on any provider ...

wait. wouldn't that be a workable approach to breaking Facebook up?

It would be an alternative to it. If you did that, you wouldn't need to break them up.

But breaking them up would provide the motivation to make the federation actually work. If there's a federated system, but with one player with 99% of the users, that player can still use its network effects to kneecap the federated protocol.

> Standard Oil came about through mergers. This is the one where antitrust fits -- you break them up, problem solved.

Problem solved if they're actually broken up. Exxon (Standard Oil of New Jersey) and Mobil (Standard Oil of New York) merged in 1999. Chevron (Standard Oil of California) did not merge into this behemoth, it's been busy over the past 20 years sucking in companies like Unocal and Texaco, in addition to the other oil companies it sucked up over the past century.

I think network effect companies are indeed natural monopolies. Not all network effects are possible to federate. You can't force facebook to federate. And if social was federated, facebook would buy up the competitors and/or embrace-extend-extinguish.

breaking up a monopoly isn't the only solution.

They can be regulated / and forced to fund public research.

when Facebook decides who gets silenced, who's news is treated as true, etc. google shuts people's accounts down for no given reason, changes search traffic and penalizes sites. They should be held accountable for their actions, and justify them. currently there is nothing in place for that.

recognizing them as monopolies and regulating them as such could rectify that.

you are also incorrect about facebook. You can easily break them up, Facebook / WhatsApp / Instagram for example.

Eric Schmidt demanding the firing of antitrust researchers at the New America Foundation may go down in history as one of the worst decisions ever by a corporate officer. Nobody was paying much attention to antitrust papers from there. Now both Bernie Sanders and Steve Bannon want Schmidt's head, and antitrust is coming back.

The last time there was an unregulated industry with network effects this strong was when railroads had enormous power and used it to force high rates and favor companies they owned. This generated strong political opposition from businesses that needed to ship goods by rail, which was most businesses. Railroads were forced to become common carriers. Something like that might happen in network infrastructure.

Remember Eric Schmidt was in the tank for Clinton, had she been elected he probably would have even more leeway with the white house than during the Obama admin.


I mean Googlers tend to be highly socially conscious, independent-thinking, and financially secure employees, right?

Seems like a perfect company to test some new tech collective bargaining attempts. What happens if 80% of googlers organize through an app, stand up and say we are all walking out the door if we don't start acting more socially responsible through A, B, and C initiatives.

So many of them were ready to quit over a coworker with differing opinions, I would think many more would be willing to quit over a company having evil actions. After all, actions > opinions.

I don't know if employees care enough to risk leaving a high-paying job with great benefits, even if they agree in principle. I empathize with the employees it's not like they have any control over Google's lobbying strategies any more than other large companies.

What are A, B and C initiatives? That they stop recruiting women and minorities? That they allow more hate speech on youtube? The civil rights issues of our goddamn times.

Yes, the Streisand effect is alive and well.

Why is anyone surprised these big tech companies become monopolies? They are explicitly granted that power through patents. Amazon and Google have been granted long monopolies by key patents they hold for things like one click buying and bidding on search results respectively. 17 years is too long for a patent in tech IMO. Something more like 6/7 years seems more appropriate. The patent office (run until recently by a Google alum) basically stopped issuing new meaningful software patents. The judicial system makes it very expensive to enforce patents and the media has labeled rights holders trolls (in fairness some are bad actors). The aggregate of these forces... making patents last too long, making them expensive/difficult to enforce and rarely issuing defensible/valuable new IP is DRAMATICALLY favoring the interests of big tech giants. Therefore, a key step in limiting monopoly power is thoughtful patent reform. Let small startups secure IP faster/easier and defend it without labeling them trolls. Make patents expire faster so companies can have a head start but not own a market for nearly a generation. Those changes would provide a steady stream of new challengers the opportunity regularly try to come "kill the kings". That's how to limit the otherwise inevitable aggregation of money/power that comes with entrenched/unchallenged success.

To me it's not the length of the patents, but the granting of patents that shouldn't have been done in the first place. Like the countless patents that follow the "take Patent A and add 'with computer' on it to create Patent B" formula.

Pull down to refresh. Granted to Twitter.

Slide to unlock. Granted to Apple, then invalidated.

Rounded rectangles. Granted to Apple. (Freeway signs had this for decades.)

Jiggle mode to move or delete apps. Granted to Apple.

These are just a few of the crazy software UI patents that were granted.

Can anyone think of any more?

It's not binary. There are some questionable patents out there for sure, but that doesn't mean that innovators shouldn't be able to get reasonable patents to incentivize risk taking. It's a complicated problem.

I see a difference between reasonable and obvious.

Article brings up an interesting angle on Mark Zuckerberg's baby kissing tour. I just had it down, like most people I think, as a sort of warm up for a political career. But it does make a lot of sense as a defensive move, an image repair exercise. To some degree it doesn't matter what it was; the establishment will see it as that and act all the more aggressively as a result.

I thought this tweet was interesting: https://twitter.com/libbycwatson/status/857943302599053314 It sure looks like a political campaign, but maybe the more connected things get, the more political everything becomes, and the more everything turns into campaigning.

If Zuckerberg ran for office he would have to let people know what his politics are and run as GOP, Democrat, Libertarian, etc. That would immediately alienate huge swaths of the population, not just of the U.S., but the world. It wouldn't matter what party he chose. I doubt he would open Facebook up to that kind of scrutiny.

I think the two views of his tour are inextricably linked. Protecting Facebook's image protects Zuckerberg's image, because, as the author says, "Zuckerberg is Facebook, and his image is his company’s." Regardless of whether he runs, Facebook needs good PR to stay popular and profitable. But if he does run, Zuckerberg will need Facebook to be popular, and him by extension, to have a chance. To most of the population, Zuckerberg is still just a kid in a hoodie and his only relevance is that he heads up the dominant social media platform of the moment, so his political hopes hinge on keeping that platform dominant. No one is talking about Tom Anderson running for president.

I do not like the idea of "public utilities." However, I also don't like the size of the current players.

The market works best when anti-trust has power. I love the products that some of these companies make. However, I believe that people should always have a realistic choice. The power should be with the individual.

Because of the value of data & information today, I think that anti-trust should be applied horizontally in addition to its traditional vertical use cases. I get that horizontal integration reduces a lot of friction but at this point it feels like I have to pick a team.

How about acknowledging that public-utilities are, in principle, a fine idea? In practice, public utilities and the messiness of democracy (especially at large scale) can lead to all sorts of potential corruption and inefficiencies (though not strictly necessarily).

Choice is far from a value to prioritize in and of itself. It's a check on power that monopolies and oligopolies have. Choice may be important, but not for its own inherent value necessarily.

When you say, "the power should be with the individual", taken to the extreme, that's an anti-organization view; anti-corporate, anti-government, anti-union, etc. and while there's solid philosophy around it, the fact is that coordination of individuals in the form of organized groups are so much more powerful than individuals. The individual right of association automatically leads to situations of power in the associated groups themselves. In other words, individual power is fundamentally unstable in social contexts. Tyranny of structurelessness etc.

What we're really dealing with in our market today is a supply-side power imbalance. The supply side is all organized into companies and trade groups, and they have tons of power. The demand side is divided into individuals in many cases, and that in itself makes them dramatically less powerful.

What we need is more demand side power in the balance. If there's any way to get that without totally overwhelming the important individual freedoms, it's worth doing.

There's no way to get what the supply side offers at all if we broke the supply side all the way down to individuals and blocked them from even forming companies at all. And the only way to actually balance company power on the demand side is to have some associations / teams etc. so that the demand side is similarly organized. Sure, that brings up potential risks to individual autonomy, but we just have to constantly adapt to keep a balance.

I didn't like the idea of public utilities either in my idealistically naive youth. Then later I realized that natural monopoly public utilities work amazingly well, so well in fact you almost don't even realize they're there anymore and take them completely for granted - sewer, water, electricity, garbage. All the complexity and effort of making them work is hidden from the end user, it's the ultimate UI/UX accomplishment.

Then you look at what happens when the private sector gets a hold of them, be it Enron in energy or for-profit banks in the money management business (which is already a partial utility thanks to central banking), and it calls into question the libertarian dogma that everything should be privatized.

My garbage is privatized and my ISP is as well (an advocate for net neutrality) and both of those work just as well as my utilities do. I don't think providing two examples is a sufficient counterpoint to rebuke free-market principles.

Either way, are we calling Google, Facebook, & Amazon natural monopolies now?

I suspect that natural monopolies subject to securitization, market manipulation and bubble-nomics are the ones that should remain public, as there's strong incentive for private entities to mismanage them for short term profits. I'm not sure anyone's figured out how to do that with garbage and internet access yet, hopefully never.

Fwiw I'm uncomfortable with the recent push for anti-trust enforcement against the Big 5. I was around for the OS and Browser wars and thus far none of them have been as deliberately abusive as Microsoft was, who in my opinion at the time soundly deserved the threat of being split up.

Interestingly though, it led to a strong open source ecosystem of alternatives, and now Linux dominates most of the server world, which is probably a far better outcome than anything the anti-trust suit could have achieved. Similar outcomes may happen to the Big 5, like the emerging decentralized/federated social networks (Mastadon) and secure email like ProtonMail and Tutanota, and privacy-respecting search like DuckDuckGo. I think it's best to hold off on any kind of legal action a while longer until we can see what happens in that respect.

The real villians are the ISPs: Comcast and At&t. This is what we should be going after. They spend billions to corrupt politicians and prevent competition. And use government to set up legislation that prevents competition.

The ISPs are more traditional monopolies. However, our frameworks for evaluating what is too big need to evolve to handle things that traditionally were viewed as acceptable.


"Villain" as a word evokes the image of a silent film tycoon malevolently twirling their moustache over bags of money.

Rational might be the word you're after. AT&T and Comcast are acting as corporations to maximize shareholder returns.

But it is true that money often corrupts. A completely unregulated market leads to negative externalities that the taxpayer is ultimately responsible for. A completely regulated market stifles innovation and kills growth.

I'm not sure if regulation is a viable option at this point, mainly due to the sheer incompetence of regulatory bodies and government bureaucrats.

It's true, they're just fulfilling their duties to shareholders. But, when corporations start using the government to stifle competition: this is a line that should not be crossed and deserves precisely the reaction that this article has mentioned. Google and Facebook have not crossed this line, at least not yet.

They're actions are rational, only if they succeed. If there's enough political reaction that results in the breaking up of these monopolies, it may not be so rational afterall.

Like in my neighborhood where Spectrum and AT&T are the only choices, w/ Spectrum being majority. I called to see if they had any packages cheaper than what I was grandfathered in under after the Time Warner merger. They said no, Spectrum has set the floor at $60/mo for 100 Mps and did away with Time Warner's cheaper tiers.

For those interested in this topic I might recommend Tim Wu's books "The Master Switch" or "The Attention Merchants". "The Master Switch" in particular is about the history of communications industries in the US and how the organization of those industries affected free speech. (Of particular interest: Bell had a government-supported monopoly for about 70 years, in part because people thought of monopoly differently in 1900 than in 1970.)

I read that Tim is also responsible for coining the term "net neutrality".

He also wrote this article which helped me put a finger on the difference between "monopoly" and "concentration."


'Steve Bannon and Bernie Sanders both want big tech treated as, in Bannon’s words in Hong Kong this week, “public utilities.”'

This is bizarre to me. Especially considering that ISP are not considered "public utilities" and net neutrality might be revoked.

That's about the stage this kind of stuff is at. Nothing's firm enough for any action to actually happen... yet. But it's interesting that there are significant forces on both the Left and Right starting to call for this. Don't expect any concrete, coherent policy proposals yet, this is just a sign that this is more likely to happen in the future. Do expect wild proclamations and contradictory, nonsensical policies proposed. That's the seeds from which new political movements are born and their platforms are built from.

> Especially considering that ISP are not considered "public utilities"

Depends on who you ask. The people who think parts of big tech should be treated as public utilities typically also believe ISPs should already be considered utility companies, and typically support net neutrality (or whatever they believe net neutrality to be, anyway).

I think part of this is because the ISPs actions are seen as purely done for businesses reasons not ideologies/censorship reasons. I think the net neutrality fight with regard to ISPs so far is mainly viewed as big companies fighting each other with regard to who pays whom what. The action of some of these other companies is seen as censorship.

ISP's are heavily (though not always effectively) regulated.

As I see it, the Yelp comment in the video is not wrong, Google needs to find ways to increase the monetization to compensate for falling CPCs. They do that by putting more and more sponsored content on the first page and pushing people to their own sites as much as they can.

One of the things I find interesting are the 'one boxes'. These are insets in the search page which has extracted what Google thinks is the answer you are looking for, from some other web page. If they guess right, they get a non-obvious benefit, you don't click over to a non-google page that has ads on it. If those ads are from some other supplier, its a big win for Google, if they are from Google they now have to share revenue with the site owner. We know that 'facts' are not copyrightable and "fair use" doctrine allows for some limited copying to identify context, which means it is unclear if you can even stop them from doing this to your pages.

Some subtle, some not so subtle, but when the choice is to start using your monopoly power to shore up the bottom line, or not. I have never seen a company that hasn't started taking "just a few" shots from that trough. The challenge, and I don't know if it will damage Google or not, is that path can lead to some really egregious behaviors. And big companies, IBM, Microsoft, Intel, Proctor and Gamble, who have gone before have always paid a higher price for taking that road than the benefit they received.

Well if I search "height eiffel tower" on Google I see the 'one box' but I don't see any ads. At least in this case Google seems to be placing user experience over (short term) bottom line.

Good example. You won't click the top organic link (Wikipedia) because the answer is right there, and you'll miss the pop down banner ad from Wikipedia where they are asking for donations. Just below it, you see a bunch of questions related to the Eiffel tower that generally jump to ad filled pages, but only pages where the ads come from Google. And on the right you'll see a link to Google maps for the Eiffel tower where, if you click on the map link, you can find places that advertise on Google where you can eat or visit and some reviews of them, if you click on the Eiffel tower link you'll go to a web site that sets up tours. (and pays Google to be there)

What you won't see are any Yelp recommendations or links for the Eiffel tour (you would if you searched 'height eiffel tower yelp' and got https://www.yelp.com/biz/la-tour-eiffel-paris-4 as the first link).

Google has effectively wrapped your 'factoid' type search with pretty much any sort of commercial intent query you might have, around their content, so that if you were a restaurant you would much rather have a lot of Google reviews because you would rank higher in that map link, and if you were a tour operator you would want to bid on the link under the 'keyword'. And if you were a content site you would want to have your links up at the top of the page under likely queries you may not have thought of yet, but once you read them you go "There are two? Really? Lets check that out."

Having operated a web search engine and seeing all the ways the product guys and gals could, and did, "tweak" things I look at that sort of page much more critically than the typical user.

Because you're not signalling an intention to buy so the effort would be wasted.

If your search indicates an intent to buy you get flooded with ads.

Those boxes also seem to map to the answers given from google assistant

The smart ones will start building significant large offices and headquarters outside of SV & Seattle. Amazon is already starting to location-shop for a second headquarters.

They'll need to get more senators on their side than just the 4 from CA and WA.

I think the intractable problem is that it does very much make sense to have a unified marketplace for everything, but that it is also very much not ideal for it to be run by either a private for-profit monopoly or the government for different reasons. I think the same is true of a basket full of internet-based services.

For example, I'm completely convinced that if Facebook is declared a Monopoly and taken apart it would only pave the way for a successor to become the new "Facebook Replacement"/"Monopoly." I think the same thing is roughly true for parts of Amazon. And of Google.

Peer to peer commerce could take over???

Something like Openbazaar or another P2P market might be the solution, if it gets large enough to eclipse other marketplaces. Whether Openbazaar itself has that potential I couldn't say, as I haven't yet used it.

This is where the blockchain - a decentralized trustless database - comes in. The new Facebook will be an open protocol no one controls and everyone benefits from.

> This isn’t to say that the end is near for these new giants — or even for Uber, whose business is, it says, still growing. Just that the golden age is over. The new era for them will be normal politics, normal regulation, with California senators deep in their pockets who fight for them as hard as Texans fight for oil, but with a deep bipartisan current flowing against them.

What might happen if there's a strong bipartisan movement to regulate the new tech world?

What have happened to other highly technical industries.

A short list of regulations that might happen:

Mandatory compliance with technical interoperability standards ie no proprietary facebook messenger or whatsapp protocols.

Mandatory public 3rd party post incident reviews for security incidents or major bugs/outages on the template of the NTSB.

Strictly enforced free-market regulation prohibiting exclusivity deals between tech companies and retail/content/service providers.

A complete ban on default-on cross site tracking.(likely coming to Europe as a part of the cookie directory review the industry asked for)

Heavy restrictions on what you can do in terms of using/selling the results of analysing user data.(partially already in effect across Europe)

It will be regulated in that case... congress has very broad powers in this arena when they choose to exercise them.

I don't buy the idea that they can't starve this of with money - what are the politicians going to do when images of their extra marital affairs ends up on every billboard in their districts? Images that were taken by private detectives and paid for by google and the other tech companies?

Sure they might play the game like everybody else do, and just bribe the congress people. That would be stupid, but they can outspend most companies because they make so much money.

If you think publicly threatening officials with information you are purloining off their accounts is going to end well for you...

I dunno, this makes for an interesting article, and clicks for Buzzfeed, but the reality is that unless the money is gotten out of politics at a large scale, money and lobbyists will continue to largely direct what happens in Washington. This is the same for the tech industry as any other large sectors of the economy. Additionally, with the current administration, they are looking to deregulate much more so than go the other direction.

The only thing that could get the wind blowing the other way would be some kind of large scale scandal at Google/Facebook etc. that would make big headlines. But probably Congress would make some noise and nothing substantial in terms of policy or law would come of it.

When companies fall short in the marketplace, they seek to outmaneuver their competitors in courtrooms and legislative lobbies.

It's an apt metaphor, comparing politics to a shark (or pirahna) feeding frenzy.

And while we congratulate ourselves for finally coming to our senses about "the SV", I offer the following counterpoint -- when people who normally disagree with each other are in sync on a topic, it's either an issue of mortal danger or a tawdry bit of extortion.

And by my reckoning, the Four Horsemen aren't The Axis Powers or even The Axis of Evil. Which leaves extortion.

To steal a meme: Gee, nice company you have there. It would be a shame if someone regulated it. BTW, I'm up for re-election.

Can someone explain to me how any of these companies could ever be considered monopolies?

Competitive products are available at the same or lower costs and widely so.

Let's say I own a railroad and you own a soap company. For years to get your product to consumers you pay me money and I transport it to stores to be sold. Now, I see how lucrative your soap company is, so I decide to get into the soap making business. However, I raise prices on how much it costs to ship your soap while lowering my prices. I also ship all my soap first, cause delays in shipping your soap, etc. People can buy my lower quality soap cheaper and stores make bigger profits so I ship continually more soap than you. Keep in mind your soap is what consumers want but they can't access it anymore (since stores stock less / supply is always limited / etc) so they have to by my lower quality soap.

Now replace "railroad" with "search engine" and "soap company" with "reviews" and you have the same situation with Google vs. Yelp or Google Shopping or Google Maps.

Essentially you're just stifling competition at this point and preventing the market from choosing products.

In that scenario would your railroad company not make even more money but just charging higher freight rates?

Too many nods to Yelp in this article

Yes. These big tech companies have to be nationalized. I hate what they've done to society.

As a leftist I'm inclined to be pro-antitrust but Steve Bannon's interest has me reconsidering. Bannon is a powerful propagandist who uses deception and fraud. Since the government has given up on all responsibility to police political campaigns Bannon rightly sees tech companies as some of the last power centers that can slow down the spread of misinformation.

Nah, Bannon's just a mixture of economic leftist and authoritarian nationalist that got pretty popular at the beginning of the last century, too. (It, uh, fell out of favor.) He wants to regulate tech companies because it would be good for the people, and he also wants to make sure that "the people" doesn't include too many non-whites. Don't dismiss his economic views just because his overall worldview is awful.

I am very wiling to critically analize any racist and bigoted manifestation from the right. I hope you can back up some of the stuff you claim as facts.

Can you point to a public statement where he states that the 'whites' need to be favored and that the rest need to take a back-seat?

Please watch the 60 Minutes interview and you can see and hear for yourself that he argues clearly in favor of the working man, which definitely includes minorities. He clearly states that the black community has been hit hard by the illegal immigration, and being outbid in the job market.

Another good source for Steve Bannon's views comes somewhat ironically from Buzzfeed:


In regards to your point about arguing in favor of the working man, here's an excerpt from a response about how to counter ethnic/racial tribalism:

"I think in Spain it’s something like 50 or 60% of the youth under 30 are underemployed. And that means the decade of their twenties, which is where you have to learn a skill, where you have to learn a craft, where you really start to get comfortable in your profession, you’re taking that away from the entire generation. That’s only going to fuel tribalism, that’s only going to fuel [unintelligible]… That’s why to me, it’s incumbent upon freedom-loving people to make sure that we sort out these governments and make sure that we sort out particularly this crony capitalism so that the benefits become more of this entrepreneurial spirit and that can flow back to working-class and middle-class people. Because if not, we’re going to pay a huge price for this. You can already start to see it."


Please stop breaking the guidelines. We've already asked you several times and we ban accounts that won't post within them.


Is this for real?! Which guidelines are you talking about that are broken? You mean to say that asking for arguments/specifics is something that goes against HN guidelines?!

Now it looks like it becomes an issue if you ask somebody to argue his/her statement. And if you praise somebody for providing a specific piece of info, at the expense of being down-voted, even that becomes controversial. What school of thought are you guys applying to this?

And how-come you show up to moderate this one week after everything has settled? This is an ideological witch hunt on your side.

And where can I verify your mod status? Who is to say that you are not simply pretending to be a mod and acting to stifle rational dialogue?!

I have a suggestion: to make things truly arbitrary, please ban me, and then I will be sure that you are a moderator.

For such a sad joke, feel free to ban this account. I am not interested in playing in your box.

Jesus, I just realize there's a whole generation of people on the internet who think the fact that no one will argue with them means they're right. Like, are you really going to go your whole life thinking that your worldviews are confirmed any time someone tires of you saying "postmodernism exists to promote marxism" and ignores you?

Anyway, funny story: after he was appointed Chief Strategist I wrote up a little thing explaining Bannon's white nationalism, with links to his writings, public statements, endless radio show, and quotes from people close to him from across the political spectrum, including not just liberals but libertarians, modern right-wingers, and traditional conservatives, who clearly understand that he's just another authoritarian who wants a racially and religiously homogeneous society. Because I've been paying attention to Bannon for years, ever since I decided to go and see what white nationalists actually thought, and got a bunch of alt accounts to hang out on fascist sites where they love what the guy's doing. Worked on it, edited it, expanded it out to a pointless book length, tried to make it as solid as I could. Shared it as wide as I could, tried as hard as I could to bring it up when someone (rightfully!) pointed out that most people criticizing Bannon just make fun of him for looking like a drunk or make casual and irrelevant Nazi references.

Didn't do a damn thing. Which I should have known, I mean I'd basically been aware that despite the claims of wannabe logicians, any high school debater knows that arguments don't really change minds, but hey, I was scared. But that sort of thing is never going to reach the right people, and it's never going to change the minds of people who ask for it.

Sorry for taking this all out on you, it's not really relevant, but like... christ. You think this is what being intellectually serious looks like. There's so many people out there vaguely mimicking logical processes like a cargo cult, but only ever asking to be spoon fed information. You're seriously going around asking people you disagree with for lists of sources, like you're trying to get a trophy and not actually understand the world. If you want a path to knowledge, challenge yourself, do your own research, try to find things that would disrupt your worldview, and stop taking shortcuts by trying to make other people make arguments for you to agree or disagree with. Actually live with the people you disagree with, rather than just studying them to recite lists of fallacies. The only people who will give you a worldview over the internet are propagandists.

Again, not really about you, exaggeration and all that, and this probably isn't the right place to vent, either. You're probably a fine person most of the time, but just please know that when people make bad arguments at you, it's not because we're stupid or wrong, it's because we've seen enough people doing your same song-and-dance to know that no amount of argument will convince you, time is limited and frustration is real, and there's a lot of work to be done in the real world.

This. Thank you for writing this. It's a crystallization of a whole set of emotions and thoughts I'd never quite had in clarity until reading your comment. It's the epitome of the self-reinforcing echo chamber to declare, "Nobody has posted a counter argument therefore we're right." And when someone does provide a counter argument, the source is almost always immediately disregarded as "inherently biased". At some point you just say to yourself, "This isn't worth my time. I'm not going to have the same useless exchange happen with every single person on the internet who doesn't want to actually do the work of understanding the basis for a position counter to their own."

If you care about the truth, some peoples reactions shouldn't matter. Your described reaction will only serve to create a self-reinforcing echo chamber.

Of course it's your choice who and what you decide to debate. Trying to convince the internet you're right, however, will be an exercise in futility.

It's not about "being right". It's about understanding how another person can hold a worldview completely opposed to your own and still "be right". It's accepting that the world is a complex place and that humans being innately attuned to pattern recognition and self-reinforcing bias are really bad at attempting to see how someone who doesn't hold the same beliefs and viewpoints may very well also "be right" or that in the end your own views "are wrong".

And I think that's where legitimate debate comes into play.

Yeah you can accept that others have just as much of a monopoly on truth as you think you do, but if you're not willing to walk over the proverbial coals to assert your experiences & what you believe to be true, then you've lost some agency over your own worldview.

Although I will agree that people need to see topics from more perspectives than they seem to, traditionally--I don't agree with letting down your guard without reason to. There are too many people and groups out in the world actively trying to get a free lunch by pulling the wool over your eyes.

Well, on the one hand, thanks, on the other, that sensation of your emotions and thoughts crystallizing into clarity is usually a sign of an oversimplified worldview, sometimes being supplied by someone trying to manipulate you.

I appreciate that perspective. Sometimes "emotions and crystallizing" can be enlightenment in the Buddhist sense. You need to understand and accept suffering to alleviate it.

As someone probably not too ideologically inclined to agree with you, I'd ask you to post a link to what you've got anyways, and I'll make an effort to read it. I can agree that facts and hard data and research usually don't have the kind of effect we would like, or at least not right away. But I think we have to believe that the truth will come out and win out over the long term if we all keep at it long enough. Call it faith maybe. We can either give up and be a bunch of monkeys constantly killing each other over what amounts to nothing, or we can work for something better.

I think one way to think about it is that there is a wide variety of ways to change the worldviews of people. After all, everyone experiences reality differently and has different preferences on what is more significant to them or not (especially when it comes to the interplay of mediums). In other words, articles only work on a limited subset of people. Other methods such as music, or art, or social setting etc. and whatever combination of these things produce the change that you're hoping.

Sometimes what seems like the most direct path (discussing the issue itself) is actually the longest path around.

At the cost of incredible irony, any chance you could link to that writing? While it may not make a difference in changing minds, it's nice to have all of that information collected together.

In the same vein, with how much Trump has done / scandals etc, few to none have documented everything in one place. Those that try to capture everything get tired after at most a month, if not sooner, and I worry that we won't have a good comprehensive list of events that occurred in this era.

Yeah, that's the draft of the second thing, which is fun to read as repeated edits get more and more deranged while I slowly realize that each edit is making the case against publishing it in the first place. There's a link at the top of that to the Cliff's notes version of assorted quotes, will convince exactly 0 people and re-affirm the biases of 100% of readers, basically as it should, since it's not a good argument.

I went through your Medium post and let me give you props for using writing as a cathartic tool.

My personal impression is that you might be seeing things a bit darker than they actually are.

I am absolutely sure that in real life we would manage to work together on a professional level. No need to fall for the media hype machine. With a deep breath, things are not as bad as they are made to be.


Oh yeah, I mean I'm definitely plowing through the tail end of a manic phase here, and HN isn't the appropriate place. C'est la vie.

I'm impressed that it stirred such a strong emotion in you. And I appreciate the time you put in to write all this.

I would love to take a look over your article and digest it. Other than that, one quick question:

Did you spot any inconsistencies between the Bannon that was interviewed on 60 Mins and the Bannon at the time you wrote your article?

Where did he flip in his positions now and then?

I would love to read what you wrote. Care to post a link?

So... I've got a weird and evolving philosophy about those sorts of arguments in general, which is what led to me taking most versions down, and why I'm not really comfortable with spreading them any more either. (And why I feel bad about getting so mad over this, too.) I really do think that people on the Internet underestimate how much making a persuasive and well-sourced argument is about the skill of the arguer, rather than the ground truth. That's one of the reasons Breitbart and Bannon have been so successful, and why trying to combat that with persuasive and well-sourced arguments isn't really a good idea morally or practically.

My advice now if you're curious about what Bannon thinks or what Breitbart really does is: don't start from a position that they're bad, don't believe the media frenzy, don't follow the line of reasoning of people you agree with, definitely don't assume they're neo-Nazis or white nationalists, don't go out looking for arguments one way or another. You just have to start at neutral and spend a ton of time reading Breitbart, listening to his radio episodes, reading what former Breitbart workers have to say, getting savvy to how the community thinks, and, if you can stomach it, using the anonymity of the internet to ingratiate yourself to online fascists until they open up. That's how I did it, anyway. Not sure I can actually recommend it.

Basically, I think I really would rather people did their own research and came to conclusions I might disagree with than listen to my arguments and evidence. Which is the sort of frustrating thing to say that leads people who want to be told what to think to conclude that everything I believe is bullshit. Oh well. Back to taking a break from writing/getting mad on the internet.

It basically is bullshit if you have nothing to show for it. I could say I'm ex-MI6 and call you names the whole while you didnt believe me. I could tell you that you should try and figure out whether I was or wasnt yourself. No one will bother.

I think you've spent too much time hanging around thick-headed individuals. HN is not filled with the self-serving types of people you're describing. Commenters are eagerly awaiting support for your point of view, and you're practically spitting in their eye. No one will care what you have to say after that.

My goal is to make sure no one cares about what I (or another) has to say.

There's a big difference between caring about what someone says and looking for information. Your comment implied your article was mostly compiled information. At the very least I think you should consider releasing a research sheet of sorts with the sources you used/found, and which people can investigate themselves. Sure, the collection still has a narrative, but if you avoid all bias, you will avoid everything. Everything has a perspective, and whats important is that a reader can properly parse and consider that perspective, not that content is devoid of it.

It's okay to not agree with an approach or argument you used before, or even the why of the existence of either. But it doesn't mean all of the content is useless.

Global warming is a hoax created by China.

Now go do your own research and see if I'm wrong. Its not like my arguments will change your mind anyway.

Not trying to trivialize your comment, but you should be able to see how your position is not a productive one.

If you still have your book, now would be an obvious best time to share it.

I'd be thrilled if you'd drop me a line via gmail.

> Bannon is a powerful propagandist who uses deception and fraud.

Care to put some more meat on this statement? Do you think Bannon forced Charlie Rose to interview him? Or that he forced which questions to be asked?

Out of curiosity, which points from Bannon's recent 60 Minutes sit-down, in your view, where inappropriate?

Otherwise, please allow me to say that your statement is too broad and lacks enough specificity to make sense.

>Do you think Bannon forced Charlie Rose to interview him

Those two really went at it. Whenever the topic turned to the media Charlie's (conscious or otherwise) bias was so glaringly obvious.

It was like watching a debate between the president of a police union and and a the director of an inner city drug treatment program or an oil company exec and a university professor who researches climate change. Neither side could comprehend that their biases reinforced by the people they surround themselves with throughout their careers causes them to greatly over-estimate the validity of their side of the issue.

It was some damn good TV.

Bannon existed long before those interviews happened. He has a long history.

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