While I do think there are probably some monopoly issues with these tech companies, this seems more like a government witch hunt against them because the current administration doesn’t like what they’re doing, not because they are truly concerned about the possible monopolies.
> other than as a cudgel/threat by the government to try to punish these companies?
It's exactly this.
Not really. They've de-emphasized topics that promote harassment and violence. "Atheists" or "Mormon" topics rarely, if ever, stoop that low, so I don't think you're comparing the same things here.
This is a very common refrain and I would agree completely with this if we didn't live in a society where Facebook, Twitter and YouTube dominated the our communication channels. I wish that we had a neutral way (like email) to reach a large audience and that it wasn't owned by three or four private companies.
Are you saying the feature is that you can block phone numbers? Or is there some central list?
It can't be a central list due to all the spoofing going on. Almost all spam calls are spoofed these days from what I've seen.
Discrimination regarding expression and ideology/belief becomes an anti-trust issue when you're dealing with platforms, broadcasters, or otherwise distribution systems in cases where the company has a monopoly.
The NY Times and Fox News may discriminate on the basis of political ideology, precisely because they do not have a monopoly on news. If one of them were the monopoly, it would be acting as a censorship extension of the US Government so long as it were allowed to keep that position. The actions of the monopoly would be the actions of a government censoring speech and expression by extension.
Why? Because there is no alternative. At that point it's not merely a company with a bias, it's censorship.
The government is given power to deal with monopolies, via anti-trust laws among countless other agency controls. They're often the only entity powerful enough to be capable of removing a monopoly (consumers realistically can't get rid of eg cable or airline monopolies without the assistance of the government).
Google and Facebook both have monopolies directly dealing with expression and distribution of information.
Facebook's social monopoly is a multi-faceted monopoly that is extremely entrenched. Its actions to block speech are de facto censorship accordingly. In the course of censoring, it's inherently discriminating. It matters because they're the giant monopoly in social, with WhatsApp, FB, Instagram.
Google has a global monopoly in a distribution platform (Android), a search engine monopoly, and YouTube (a broadcast and distribution platform). There are no serious, large competitors for what YouTube does, it's overwhelmingly dominant. Its monopoly in that segment of video is every bit as strong as its search engine monopoly.
If Google, using its search engine monopoly, decides to remove all/most search results for the left or right politically, then it's a clear anti-trust abuse (to use a glaring example). It's using its monopoly position to censor. Only the government can deal with monopoly abuse with any consequential immediacy. For example in a case where a monopoly like Google or Facebook attempts to throw an election by using its monopoly power.
This is clearly not true. And leads me to believe that your claim that a monopoly publisher is, by definition, an agent if the government, is wrong.
They'll still have to argue that case in court.
I'd say it's more a preparation of the electorate for the real anti-trust fight coming, to increase chances for successful regulatory action.... but maybe I'm just saying what you said with nicer words. Anyways, it's very smart politics for the President.
The fact that the 'bias' complaint is not particularly substantive doesn't really matter to the politics of the situation. Google, Facebook, et al can never produce evidence that "proves" their systems are not biased (closed code, closed data). People on the fence will become fatigued with their unverifiable and self-serving protestations.
The only people who have to say "trust me" are the ones who are not seen as trustworthy.
When the REAL substantive debate begins, it will be from a stronger political starting point. It makes it easier to solidify political support for anti-trust action, and increase the chances for successful legislation.
Not really a fan of the current administration, but holding out hope that something good (pro-consumer regulation) will come out of this. No thanks to Obama.
Apple (while not social media per-say) has stayed neutral and Tim Cook has done a great job working with the administration when needed.