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I’m not seeing the connection here between “antitrust” and the alleged discrimination against conservative views. How does alleged discrimination become an antitrust issue, other than as a cudgel/threat by the government to try to punish these companies?

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.




> How does alleged discrimination become an antitrust issue

It doesn't.

> other than as a cudgel/threat by the government to try to punish these companies?

It's exactly this.


In fact, the EO appears to be explicit about being retaliation, since it mentions "platform bias" in its reasoning. "Platform bias" isn't an antitrust concern, and, in fact, the President has no authority to "de-bias" private companies.


I think with current law, the platform bias claim is a stretch --unless these platforms are recategorized and regulated as utilities like a telecoms provider. T-Mobile can't just say, we'll ID all atheists and kick them off the service (or anyone who isn't a Mormon, for example) Currently, it looks like Google could simply say, we'll de-emphasize all Atheist or Mormon topics and it would be permissible.


> Currently, it looks like Google could simply say, we'll de-emphasize all Atheist or Mormon topics and it would be permissible.

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.


Right, I don't think they would, but there is nothing stopping them from doing that other than internal mechanisms [and the market] --it's not fear of running afoul of the law though. That's the point. Telcos on the other hand can't do that without running afoul of regulation.


I see your point. So basically we need legislation (preferred) or regulation (FCC, meh..) to bring companies like Google and Facebook into the late 20th/early 21st century?


Protecting ‘platform bias’ is literally why the first amendment exists. The idea that the press is supposed to be neutral or unbiased is a relatively modern invention.


>"Platform bias" isn't an antitrust concern, and, in fact, the President has no authority to "de-bias" private companies.

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.


It would seem to be difficult in the extreme to wield antitrust law against Twitter, which is embattled, competes bitterly with Facebook, and holds no monopoly on anything.


Twitter seems to hold somewhat of a monopoly on a certain kind of shouty, instantaneous social interaction.


You have email, phone, and regular mail? What's not neutral about them?


Google is one of these large companies who controls one of the major ways of reaching a wide audience(search). They also control a spam blacklist which controls who you can reach through email, and they've implemented a feature in Android to just blacklist phone numbers as spam in one click when a new number calls you


>they've implemented a feature in Android to just blacklist phone numbers as spam in one click when a new number calls you

Are you saying the feature is that you can block phone numbers? Or is there some central list?


> "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.


If there's no central list, then I don't see how implementing the ability for users to block numbers is non-neutral. There's no central enforcement or organization, it's just a private thing.


I don't know, but if they start blocking every random number in your area code it will cause a problem.


As is always the case with this administration, sometimes you can agree with their actions but in those rare cases it is NEVER for the right reasons.


> I’m not seeing the connection here between “antitrust” and the alleged discrimination against conservative views. How does alleged discrimination become an antitrust issue

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.


There's a glaringly obvious issue with this: assuming there is a government, and a monopoly publisher that only publishes anti-government media, you claim that the government must suppress anti government views on the name of free speech.

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.


The decision to prosecute Google or Facebook on antitrust grounds is inherently political. It went in favor of Google during the Obama years when the FTC's political appointees overruled the FTC staff's recommendation to bring an antitrust case against them [1].

They'll still have to argue that case in court.

[1] https://www.wsj.com/articles/inside-the-u-s-antitrust-probe-...


Prosecution against Google in the EU is political as well?


> ...other than as a cudgel/threat by the government to try to punish these companies?

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.


Playing devil's advocate if Google and their leadership weren't so overtly political and anti-conservative and actually bothered to show up at the hearings they would not be in this predicament.

Apple (while not social media per-say) has stayed neutral and Tim Cook has done a great job working with the administration when needed.


According to current doctrine, monopolies are only a problem if the consumer is harmed. Given that Facebook and Google give away their services for “free”, it is hard to argue harm in terms of higher prices. However, if a certain portion of the consumers are getting their lawful communications suppressed, and if they don’t really have a viable alternative due to the monopoly status of the incumbents, then you have both monopoly and consumer harm.




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