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Justice Department Is Preparing Antitrust Investigation of Google (wsj.com)
870 points by Despegar 18 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 414 comments



The career officials at the FTC recommended antitrust action against Google back in 2012, but the political appointees shut them down.

>When the Federal Trade Commission neared a momentous decision on whether to charge Google with violating antitrust laws in January 2013, the White House was watching closely.

New emails uncovered by the Campaign for Accountability, a public interest watchdog organization, show that a White House advisor met with top Google lobbyist Johanna Shelton and top Google antitrust counsel Matthew Bye twice in the weeks before the FTC announcement.

And minutes prior to the final decision – in which FTC commissioners took the unusual step of overriding their staff’s recommendation to sue, and voted to settle the case instead – the White House official even sought Google’s talking points in the matter.

https://theintercept.com/2016/08/18/white-house-official-coz...


FWIW: It sounds nefarious, but the DOJ/FTC/etc quite often meet with all parties prior to taking antitrust action.

That's because (at least in the number of times i've been invited to meetings with these sorts of regulators) the relevant folks are not idiots, and in fact are trying to understand all sides of the issue before deciding what they should do.

This is actually what you want them to do, as there are rarely, if ever, truly disinterested parties in these sorts of things.

As an aside, i'm pretty sure Matthew was not the top antitrust counsel at Google at the time. I believe it was Nikhil Shanbhag. Job titles on linkedin seem to confirm my recollection.


The fact is that the revolving door between Google and our government was spinning pretty quickly during that period.

>The Campaign for Accountability (CFA) this week launched the first two of its Google Transparency Projects. One of the projects – a visualisation of the revolving door between Google, the White House and US government agencies – is so dense, the website suggests viewing it on a desktop display.

As well as Googlers leaving the ad giant to join the administration, there’s also a heavy traffic in the other direction, with federal employees leaving to join Google. The project documents 61 staff taking key public positions after leaving Google, or firms working closely with Google, and 171 leaving public office to join [Google].

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/04/29/google_transparency...


Notice that no Googlers have a good response to this or the Eric Schmidt / Hillary Clinton connection. Google’s ties to the Obama administration were deep.


Which raises deep suspicions about the political motivations of this "investigation".

Anti-trust is about companies using their market power to exclude rivals, raise prices, and hurt consumers. It's not about consumers overwhelmingly choosing a product because they like it more.

Can anyone really say that Google's practices are more anti-competitive than, say, the dominant players in broadband or health insurance or wireless telecom or household appliances?


It does look like their is a strong partisan element here - but that isn't a bad thing in this instance. I think this is an interesting tangent to take.

From a health-of-the-system perspective it really should be intolerable that a few large closed-garden platforms control the flow of information. Information monocultures are a threat to everyone, even if one partisan group feels more threatened than the other at any one time.

I happily take the market-efficiency position on most debates, but the risk of Google being anything but neutral is worrying. They appear to have a political bias in their employee base and are under pressure to make judgements about fact v. fiction (might even be an inherent requirement of choosing a sort order for search results) - that is a position somewhat similar to a conventional media organisation.

I support the concept of media being a special case where the risk of an information monoculture outweighs the damage of being inefficient. Laws that basically make it impossible for one media source to control a market are fine. I'd like to see internet search designated as a market where there legally can't be one dominant player, and details get sorted out as best can be done.

Maybe that is already how the market is, I don't know. There are many alternatives not controlled by Google. But something even stronger than antitrust seems appropriate as a matter of law, even if we don't apply it today. I can't see how a platform like Google can be neutral given the ongoing partisan extremes that have developed in American politics and Google's connections to the Democrats.


They appear to have a political bias in their employee base and are under pressure to make judgements about fact v. fiction (might even be an inherent requirement of choosing a sort order for search results) - that is a position somewhat similar to a conventional media organization.

Apps and games are media. In 2019, that's a glaring truth which is obvious to many in the industry. It's just that society and the culture haven't caught up with technological reality yet.


On the other hand forcing media to give 50% of time/space to "both sides" leads to silly situations like 50% of media saying vaccines do cause autism, dinosaur fossils were planted by the devil, net neutrality is bad, etc.


You could either keep a blanket rule of 50% coverage excempted from such cases, or you could only mandate 50% coverage rules on particular settings/events, such as Presidential election main-line coverage.


> Anti-trust is about companies using their market power to exclude rivals, raise prices, and hurt consumers. It's not about consumers overwhelmingly choosing a product because they like it more.

Antitrust doesn’t care about how you got market dominance. It cares about what you do with it. To use the browser example I used elsewhere: maybe Google’s dominance in search is because it’s indisputably the best. But that doesn’t mean Google can use its dominance over search to get you to use Chrome.

To address your other examples, say health insurance or cellular, that market dominance is absent. Google has 89% of search market share. Verizon has 35% of cellular. Likewise, no health insurance company has more than 15% market share. That’s a completely different market. And I can’t get a discount on cellular because I’m a FiOS customer, nor can I buy car insurance from my health insurance company.

As I said elsewhere, I don’t think an antitrust case against a Google would succeed at this point in time. But lots of things that are common in the web tech space (cross selling products, giving away products for free, etc.), become potential antitrust concerns when you’ve got 90% market share in an industry. For example, giving away Android for free to push Symbian and company out of the market and cement Google search dominance in mobile. You wouldn’t be crazy to try to make a case out of that.


> I can’t get a discount on cellular because I’m a FiOS customer

https://www.verizonwireless.com/promos/verizon-fios-installa...

> nor can I buy car insurance from my health insurance company.

https://www.statefarm.com/insurance/health/individual-medica...

and bundling deals: https://www.statefarm.com/insurance/multiline


Huh. The Verizon deal must be new. Not sure if that’s a good idea. The State Farm thing is a “marketing alliance” with Blue Cross. I don’t think State Farm sells health insurance.


They do not. It's just a co-marketing partnership.


I’ll add that FiOS has under 40% market share in its footprint, not nearly 90% like Google search.


You ignore the fact that business operation in many sectors are localized. I don't have numbers, but my impression is the said companies like verizon, healthcare provider, power suppliers all have regional stronghold where their market share is easily a dominant one. I used to live in a valley in west Massachusetts, where you don't have any options to choose from for power supply(believe it's a government regulation issue) so basically you are locked up and have no means to curb the ever raising rate.


> consumers overwhelmingly choosing a product

By "product", I take it you mean their advertising services? Most of the other products are not paid for. In fact, critics are often fond of pointing out that the consumer is the product in this case.

Whether this action is right or not, parallels can be drawn with the Microsoft investigation: Microsoft allegedly used its position within the desktop to "push" their browser; Google is allegedly using its position within search to "push" their browser.

On a personal note, I'm not convinced that this is grounds enough for antitrust action. There could be a personal data related angle to this, but then again that would not come under antitrust.


> "push" their browser

Windows didn't get to 90% market share because consumers chose it. Windows achieved overwhelming dominance because Microsoft punished computer manufacturers if they sold any competing operating system.

That's anti-competitive, and Google isn't doing anything like that.

Then Microsoft used their illegally-obtained dominant position in operating systems to bundle their shitty browser, essentially forcing every consumer to install it instead of any competitor. And you couldn't uninstall it if you wanted to.

Again, that's not at all similar to Google and Chrome. Windows, Mac, and iOS don't have Chrome pre-installed. Android manufacturers are free to pre-install Firefox or Opera or anything else they want.


Windows didn't get to 90% market share because consumers chose it. Windows achieved overwhelming dominance because Microsoft punished computer manufacturers if they sold any competing operating system. That's anti-competitive, and Google isn't doing anything like that.

Google was doing exactly this until it was forced to into a consent decree with the EU. Manufacturers couldn’t sell Google licensed Android phones and sell non Google Android variants.


> That's anti-competitive, and Google isn't doing anything like that.

Just this week it was announced that Google will disable important features required to implement ad blockers. Google absolutely abuses their monopolies (browser, search, streaming video, possibly maps) at least as aggressively as MS ever did.

Have you ever tried to watch YouTube on Firefox? That’s a deliberately hobbled experience if I’ve ever seen one.


I’m no fan of Google these days but I have no issues what so ever using YouTube on Firefox. I listen all day long at work from a Slackware laptop and at home on Windows, Slackware and OpenBSD. I don’t have streaming issues and can watch full screen HD, no problems at all.


I don’t think this is the typical experience particularly on Linux. Do you not experience tearing? Excessive page load times? Even on Chromium, getting good YouTube performance on Linux requires tweaks.

Completely off topic at this point but I’m curious what video card you have and if you’re on X or Wayland.


I did nothing to “tweak” Firefox. I did use their binary installer for Linux because I wanted the latest updates and Slackware is a bit conservative with its packages.

My Linux box at work is an HP laptop from several years ago with a pretty basic business class AMD graphics card in it, I did have to install AMD’s binary drivers on this machine.

And, using Slackware, it’s X. Not sure if Wayland is easily installable or not on Slack but it’s certainly not part of the base install or supported by Patrick.

Firefox is the only piece of my install that isn’t part of official Slackware-CURRENT.

Other than running it in Windows all of my other computers that use Firefox are running stock, no fancy desktop versions of Slack or OpenBSD. I use calm window manager on both. (Sorry, this contradicts an earlier statement, I also had to compile and install Calm on Slackware from source, everything else is just part of the supported packages for CURRENT)

Maybe my low resource OS’s help?


Thank you for the great info! I bet it's the AMD graphics card helping. I know Nvidia is a mess (and requires the aforementioned tweaking). I'm glad it's working well for you and I'd love to test a setup like this as I really want off Chromium but haven't had an equal experience with Firefox (on OS X and Linux with Nvidia cards).


In my Linux and Freebsd boxes I have to install the proprietary driver for Nvidia cards to have full hardware acceleration.


You think Firefox having shitty video rendering performance is somehow because Google tweaked YouTube not to work? Are you kidding?


You don’t think Google could make YouTube work better on Firefox? Of course they could.


I don't see anything wrong with this monetization move. Chrome users don't pay Google for the use, so Google has no obligation whatsoever to make unpaid users as happy as their paid customers. And Goolge has(could) not set any barriers for competitors to come out with superior products. If enough people switch because their dislike, Google will adjust. It's market dynamics


The whole point of a monopoly is that you can leverage it to allow unfair advantages that allow your products to be worse for consumers and they have no choice but to accept it. As long as Google has search and browsers locked down they will have an unfair advantage in the direction of the web, one definitely not in consumer’s favor.

Whether it’s the government’s role to break that up is a political question, but Google is most definitely a classic monopoly and the internet is worse off for it.


Google’s behavior RE: Android licensing is more similar to Microsoft/Windows than you might think, from what I understand.


Antitrust action was recommended by the career antitrust officials at the FTC, not the politicians.

It was the political appointees (from both parties) who shut their recommendation that the FTC begin an antitrust action down.


The 2012 antitrust actions were settled with Google by the FTC, not shut down:

https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2013/01/googl...


It was shut down. They just call it a "settlement" to avoid it looking suspicious and for the FTC to save face.

So what was this "settlement"? Google promised to be nicer and said mea culpa a bunch of times. They did not pay a fine, did not agree to any hard regulations that would carry a penalty if violated, they did not pay any compensation to the entities they kinda admitted they wronged.


Who did they wrong?


Other companies and consumers.


No names? I’m not sure where to start.

With Microsoft there were clear injured parties: Netscape, Samba, WordPerfect, and those results created a chilling effect around Windows.


Well, the unilateral smackdown they just put on ad blockers with their monopoly position browser when they happen to also be the largest internet advertiser does appear to be market manipulation and doing customer harm in my not-professional opinion. I am not a lawyer.


Every content site implements AMP for fear of losing Google traffic, not because customers wanted or demanded it.


Gonna have to ask for a cite on this one.

Google search prefers sites that are fast. Amp makes sites fast.

Non-Amp sites that are equally fast and relevant get equal search ranking.

Is there any evidence whatsoever that Google ranks Amp sites higher because of Amp, instead of speed and relevance?


> Non-Amp sites that are equally fast and relevant get equal search ranking.

Nope. Amp ranks above everything else in a page-topping spinner.


>>Google’s ties to the Obama administration were deep.

>Which raises deep suspicions about the political motivations of this "investigation".

So, if a company was in bed with politician X, and get investigated under a future (opposition) politician Y, it's the ...political motivations of the investigation that you're concerned about?

That sounds totally backwards...

>Anti-trust is about companies using their market power to exclude rivals, raise prices, and hurt consumers. It's not about consumers overwhelmingly choosing a product because they like it more.

Well, Google uses its power over search results to do all of the above.


> It's not about consumers overwhelmingly choosing a product because they like it more.

And that's not what the charges are about either. You're making it way too simplistic. Google has been involved in actual anti-competitive actions, for which they've already been found guilty in Europe that had nothing to do with "users liking their service more" - Google actually downranked competition in the search engine, and other stuff like that.

There even was a story a while ago on HN about ProtonMail being essentially shadowbanned from Google search for the term "encrypted email" for a year before they made a big scandal about it and Google "admitted its error" (the same bullshit excuse Facebook uses every time it's caught tracking users in a new and more nefarious way).

Also, I can't be bothered to look for a link now, but there is a good story out there about how Google killed a map competitor in the US around that time, too (Skyhook was it?). Once again - nothing to do with "users liking Google's maps more" -- Google took real action to prevent a competitor from existing in the market place.

It's also a super-duper coincidence that Eric Schmidt started working for the Pentagon, while also remaining on Google's board and some kind of technical executive, too, not long before Google started working with the Pentagon on Project Maven.

Either people don't want to admit what's happening or they are being way too naive when they see all of this and think it's "nothing but a coincidence". It was well known that Schmidt was one of Obama's besties at the time. And Google is ranking very high in its lobbying efforts, too.


> Eric Schmidt started working for the Pentagon

I may not like it, but it's not an anti-trust concern.

> Google started working with the Pentagon on Project Maven

Google shut this down under pressure from employees. Also, not an anti-trust concern.

> Schmidt was one of Obama's besties

Executives at right-wing media are besties with the current president, but that shouldn't result in a future administration launching anti-trust actions against their firms.

> encrypted mail, Skyhook, etc.

Sounds pretty tenuous, but if there's something here roughly equivalent severity to other anti-trust issues then sure, investigate that.

But it looks to me like a piddling pretext to punish perceived political differences in media and infotech.


Wait, what kind of argument is that? We should antitrust the other players you mention too.


Yet they don't.

Selective enforcement is arbitrary, politically motivated enforcement.


Every enforcement agency at every level does selective enforcement. Nobody has the resources to go after every case of law-breaking.


Clearly many traditionally established regional monopolies/oligopolies not being probed into is not a matter of resource scarcity. Can we argue in this logic that if some companies are not punished by existing applicable laws/regulations for so long a time, that means those set of laws/regulations are acutally juridically invalid and thus can't be applied to other entities as well.


> Can anyone really say that Google's practices are more anti-competitive than, say, the dominant players in broadband or health insurance or wireless telecom or household appliances?

No, but I'd love to see antitrust litigation against those monopolies/oligopolies too.


Google isn't, and the fact you're getting responses that are dodging your question just goes more to your point that this is most likely politically motivated.


The lack of competition on commercial infrastructure is a problem which occurs -AFAIK- worldwide. It occurs on wireless such as 4G, it occurs on DSL, and it occurs on cable. It is a real problem which indeed warrants a discussion, but not in a whataboutism-esque distraction. 2 wrongs don't make 1 right. It doesn't matter which one's are more anti-competitive. They both are (IMO); at the very least they're risky and therefore deserve careful analysis.


Can anyone really say that Google's practices are more anti-competitive than, say, the dominant players in broadband or health insurance or wireless telecom or household appliances?

I guess, "not exactly exonerating, but not exactly damning" is à la mode in 2019.


This is a bold take!

Google's close ties with the Obama administration makes the Trump administration suspicious!


Close ties are suspicious, strong swings in prosecution policy are also suspicious.


But it sounds like the career officials wanted this 7 years ago, but were blocked by Obama's political appointees.

So, there is no swing in policy, at least among the career officials.


That's a very good explanation! But it's certainly worth looking carefully into it to reach/validate that explanation.


It can be both.

The Obama administration shut down and buried the previous FTC investigation. I'd guess not just because of lobbying, but also because google was nice enough to allow a ton of google employees to take some "vacations" to work for the Obama campaign for a bunch of months, and the likes of Eric Schmidt being chummy with Obama[1].

The current investigation is probably motivated not just by those career bureaucrats who had their previous investigation shut down, but also by the Trump administration wanting to hurt SV and Google in particular for being too friendly with Democrats, and to put those social media companies (Youtube, Facebook, Twitter) on notice not to "prosecute" and ban conservatives on their platforms (at leas that's what Trump and a lot of "conservatives" say is happening).

[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/06/obamas-...


Antitrust also covers government. If Google colluded to pass laws to prevent competition, they broke the law.


We’re not talking about telecoms. We all know they’re a corrupt monopoly. Nice strawman.


It really shouldn't matter what a public officials prior employment, often domain expertise is often a good or necessary thing. But it unfortunately seems to be a recurring problem worth investigating. There should be some conflict of interest rules around anything related to your former employers. Only if they were previously high up at the company, of course.

The DoJ and other state legal offices have rules about excusing prosecutors from cases but this one seems to not be seen as an issue at these regulatory and broader judicial agencies.

This should matter considering the US is disparaging China for having private companies backed by the powerful government bodies, operating under a different set of rules than everyone else.


You never asked for one?

Here's one:

This dataset includes people like my intern, who left to go join USDS after his internship was up, etc

So there is some amount of flat out silliness here.

It also covers 14 years (2002->2016), and has a fairly small number of people for that number of years.

A significant number are DC people, and, surprisingly, if you want to stay in DC, you are going to work at the government most likely.

During the earlier parts of this timeframe, there was no one other than Google who was local (google opened the office in 2006). During the middle part, 2006-2013, other tech companies were just staffing up policy orgs. Over the entire time period, the government is by far the biggest employer in the region. There were not a lot of even tech companies (let alone local policy orgs for tech companies) in most of that time period, the biggest other one would have been weird things like "livingsocial".

Having been recruiting in DC during the 2006-2012 timeframe , out of the 1000+ resumes i'd reviewed, i'd say 80+% were working at the government.

Like, why is this a conspiracy instead of normal attrition? In particular: where was it you expected them to go that was more acceptable? I think you are seriously overestimating the amount of non-governmental jobs they would have been able go to if they wanted to stay local.

It's a little more true now, but even then you'd just see them bounce between tech company policy departments.

Over the same time period, i'm 100% sure as many policy/legal/etc people in MTV/etc went to go work at Facebook, startups, etc (IE whatever the local industry was).

I'm also sure you'd find the same relative number of facebookers/etc in DC (which again, was very small during that time period) left for the administration, etc.


I wish it was common knowledge that large and influential companies and the government have VERY strong ties. It’s how the entire upper echelon of the world works, for better or for worse.


As were the Obama administration’s early ties to many technology companies. Obama explicitly attempted to bring on “technocrats” into his cabinet as a way to try to modernism the effectiveness of government and leverage the internet. In contrast to many other administrations who lag behind technology, at least Obama was attempting to keep pace with it. I don’t view this as a bad thing.


Googles entire restructuring into Alphabet was a response to this imo. They knew this could happen and have already organized the business into discrete operating and reporting lines. The battle will be over how much they fracture the big 4 Google services themselves (Maps, Search, Email and YouTube).


Analytics & Ads


Is that wrong? Maybe we should do something about Fox and Breitbart's link to the current administration then.

481092 17 days ago [flagged]

So much for intellectual honesty on this site. New user and I thought this was something praised here. The hypocrisy of upvoting the parent because they're against information propagators being linked to an administration while ignoring the elephant in the room.


I'm not sure what your complaint is about here, but it breaks the site guidelines. Would you mind reviewing https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and not posting comments like this? If you're concerned about something not being right on HN, you're welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com so we can look into it.


This. Obama administration had a lot more googlers than Trump administration has Fox news icons. I still don't why exactly they have ties so deep specifically with Google.


I’ll note for the audience that such meetings are common for many types of prosecutions, even for relatively low level criminal ones. If you’ve every watched a TV show about a murder investigation, you know the police will talk to you and get your statement before they arrest you. The SEC will also send a “we’re thinking of suing you” letter (Wells notice), where you can respond with a PowerPoint presentation of “why you shouldn’t sue me.” When you’ve got complex antitrust and securities issues, that up-front discussion becomes even more important.


TV shows are notoriously bad sources of information about the real world. In the real world if the police has anything solid which they believe points at you as the perp, they will arrest you first (possibly after watching you for a while). Extracting information from you is so much easier when you are intimidated and fearful - as anyone would be after marinating for a few days in a cell.

Talking to the police before you get arrested is just plain stupid. Let the lawyer do the talking. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRNc3Qic-Ks


rayiner is a notoriously good source of information.

He is also a laywer, see his profile: https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=rayiner


Doesn't reduce the validity of averros comment.

Rayiner may be factually correct, but his comment normalized the great injustice of the situation.

Kid gets caught with a little pot at a parade, and the cops slam his ass to the ground and book him.

Google screws millions and millions daily, and they get a letter.

Lawyers are experts in law... not so much with justice.


Yeah, this is basically how regulation works. You give whoever a chance to do something reasonable before you bring the hammer down. Threat of regulation is a key part of the process.

Ajit Pai just did this move with robocalls and SHAKEN/STIR:

> Ajit Pai orders phone companies to adopt new anti-robocall tech in 2019 Pai threatens "regulatory" action if carriers don't use Caller ID authentication. (https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2019/02/ajit-pai-orders-...)


FWIW: Before the preceding comment apologizes and distracts from the real issue, the WH involving itself in the issue is very different from the prosecutor meetings described by the previous comment.


Given that this amazingly nameless "white house advisor"and title is clear spin for their narrative in the same way the "top competition counsel" thing is (and proven wrong by totally trivial fact checking), do you have evidence or anything to back up that this was not a standard meeting?


I have no opinion on the nature of the meeting but the White House Advisor is named directly in the article and they include screen shots of the emails.

This is the advisor: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._David_Edelman

See also https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/author/r-david-ede...

It's not like he was Secretary of State but he also wasn't just an intern.


Do you think you might have a conflict of interest here?


If he cites factual information and gives reasonable arguments, what's the difference?


He gave no facts about the whitehouse advisor.


Notice the "if". My point was that his working for Google shouldn't matter if those conditions are met. Whether or not they were met is another matter.


So, just to put this straight, he/she didn’t give any factual informations about the White House advisor.


No, actually. I've been quite clear on my position on this many times on HN (it's just another fun form of bias people try to use to not have to engage in real discussion on the merits, and convince themselves their position is right), and i'm being totally consistent with that.

Do you have anything substantive to add to the conversation? Do you want to disagree with anything I said?

In practice, my comment comes more from being in DC for 7 years, not for working for any company.

What i said applies across just about every media outlet these days. Every unnamed white house advisor (sometimes even "senior advisor", because why not!) who isn't an "anonymous source" is usually unnamed because otherwise you'd be able to point out their job title matches what they were doing and is unrelated to the white house (or their attachment to the white house is "tenuous at best").

It's true the white house sometimes has people with the job title "advisor" in it, but you will notice when articles mention real names, if you were to go looking, you'd see that was usually their real title (or they failed at fact checking).

That's not just the white house either. Random low level people at companies become "senior executives", etc.

This even spreads, unfortunately, using those things as sources, and later often becomes "truth".

Here, i'll take a totally non-political thing as an example for you:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Fredinburg (RIP) was a great person and all around good guy (IME), but he was 100% not a google executive. This is an objective fact, by any definition of executive (including Google's). You can see the sources cited for these claims are news articles.

All of which, in order to play up their narrative on a tragedy, decided to give him that title (and various others!)[1]

Thinking that anything else here is happening, in this, or really any other situation, is just naive (or gross application of variants of gell-mann amnesia).

In the situation in the original article, do you seriously believe that if the current administration had the chance to nail a real former obama whitehouse advisor doing something illegal or untoward, they wouldn't jump at the chance do it?

It's not like they don't have white house visitor logs and plenty of people around the DOJ/FTC/etc who can tell them what happened!

[1] As an aside, i find it pretty sad that it appears people find "google executive" to be a more impressive/etc way to memorialize someone than "good person". If i pass away in a news-worthy event, can y'all make sure it says "good father" or something.


Very fascinating, thanks. Do you have any reading resources I could peruse about these kinds of topics? I read The Power Broker and thought it was an amazing insight into the nuances of politics and media.


That's one interpretation by interested parties another would be that enforcement lawyers are always aggressive and those who make the decision in the end would have to weigh the odds of winning in court and unanimously they decides not.

Regardless, the FTC would have had a much better chance than the DOJ as they have specific broad powers more suitable to this case.


Google was also very positively connected to the Obama administration. It was some googlers that stepped in and turned around healthcare.gov for instance. I've heard a lot of rumors that they gave a lot of data access to the campaigns too.


Not only is the amount of revolving door between Google and the Obama administration well documented, but Eric Schmidt was literally part of Hillary's campaign staff and personally funded a company to provide her campaign's development and infrastructure.

Suffice to say, they have a lot less allies in DC this year, and even Democrats are starting to look negatively on them now.


Although this is a minor digression, I always felt that it was very interesting to contrast the overwhelming amount of airtime on the legacy media devoted to throwing fuel on the fire of "Russian interference in the 2016 election" with the scant concern for Alphabet's working relationship with the Clinton Campaign. I know I'm not the only person concerned with the disproportionate influence that companies like Google, Twitter, etc have on modern political discourse. Isn't it frightening that the assistance of such companies can be bought with the promise of regulatory lenience? Even if someone didn't agree with the previous statement, isn't it still of significant concern that the companies controlling the flow of information are participants in partisan politics?


I don't know about data accesse rumors but the fact that a bunch of Googlers did government work during the Obama years is well documented, that said the FTC is an independent agency with commissioners from both parties and they unanimously voted against going to court.


Google engineers also built Obama's campaign software. The relationship was far tighter than most people realize.


They built his campaign software while working for Google? Are you sure about that?


I think you're jumping to a conclusion with that phrasing. It's very likely they happened to also volunteer (or maybe be hired by) the campaign WHILE also happening to be employed by Google.


And Google would allow their employees to build IP for a particular political campaign? That is, they would waive their rights to the IP produced by their employees for the specific benefit of a particular candidate? That seems unlikely.


Eric Schmidt literally went out of his way to organize the Clinton IT infrastructure on ridiculously good terms.

https://qz.com/823922/eric-schmidt-played-a-crucial-role-in-...

The idea that he utilized Google resources to do the same for Obama while he had more direct influence over Google isn't a crazy idea.


And he did so in his capacity as a private citizen, not by exercising his influence at Google. By the way, we are quite far afield from the initial claim that Google employees wrote software for a particular political campaign.


> And he did so in his capacity as a private citizen, not by exercising his influence at Google. By the way, we are quite far afield from the initial claim that Google employees wrote software for a particular political campaign.

Google has been providing free services to campaigns it wants to help for over a decade, in the open. This started when Schmidt was CEO.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB118489524982572543

The Obama campaign was the first to really realize the importance of IT infrastructure, _and_ their whole shtick (more or less neoliberalism with a friendly face) aligns really well with Google's political goals.

I'm not really sure why you seem to think that this is some conspiracy theory, when everyone involved is openly talking about it.


Nothing in that article corroborates any of the claims mentioned by others above. I notice that the farther down in the thread this conversation goes, the more watered down the accusations of political meddling get. Next you’ll criticize Google for letting campaigns use Gmail or something.


Board members are not company employees, and Eric Schmidt is not a Google engineer as GP claimed. This is a stretch even by conspiracist standards.


Schmidt was the CEO of Google during the first Obama campaign in 2008, and during most of the ramp up to the 2012 campaign.


Google has various programs under which employees can release code without having to care too much about the broad copyright assumptions in their contracts.

The two most popular are https://opensource.google.com/docs/releasing/ (which is for open source code, with (C) Google, because with open source you mostly don't have to care much about that line) and https://opensource.google.com/docs/iarc/ (author retains copyright, no open source requirement or association with Google at all).

IARC should be quite suitable for projects on "contentious" topics like politics or religion: Google generally stays clear of these topics (so there won't be a conflict of interest in building something like that, as Google just isn't active in that market), and the company won't have to deal with being associated with one team (versus all the others) through some side hustle they can barely control.

(Disclosure: working at Google, but far from the licensing folks. I found them reasonable to argue with, though.)


I would find it surprising that Google would be OK with that, particularly because it could be construed as them contributing to some campaign. An employee writing a check to the campaign? That’s perfectly fine, Google has no say over that. An employee producing IP for a campaign? Well, Google does technically have a say over that and would have to waive their right of ownership of said IP...


I am not the slave of anyone or anything. What I do on my own time is my own thing.


That’s nice that you believe that. If you have a job, maybe read your employment contract first next time.


They took leaves of absence, with the company's blessing. And Google is incorporated in California, which has strict laws that employees are allowed to develop what they like when they're not on the clock using company resources.

It's interesting people here are calling this a "conspiracy theory" when I guarantee you there are hundreds if not thousands of posters here who remember the TGIF and groups discussions where this came up.


At least admit that your initial statement was unclear at best, and intentionally misleading at worst. You made it sound like Googlers, in their capacity as employees, were working for a political campaign.

>And Google is incorporated in California, which has strict laws that employees are allowed to develop what they like when they're not on the clock using company resources.

Not really. Try to develop a search engine in your spare time and see what happens.


It's not so much an interpretation of what happened as it is a leak of what happened.

>The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday faced renewed questions about its handling of its antitrust investigation into Google, after documents revealed that an internal report had recommended stronger action.

The 2012 report, from the agency’s bureau of competition, said that the agency should sue the Internet search company for anticompetitive practices, according to several people who saw the report but would speak about it only under the condition of anonymity. At least one other staff report, they said, recommended not to pursue a lawsuit. In early 2013, the agency unanimously voted not to bring charges after an investigation.

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/20/technology/take-google-to...

Google has already lost several antitrust actions in the EU. It's not difficult to imagine that the investigation by FTC career officials found sufficient evidence of wrongdoing to recommend taking action.


The EU has different rules (and extra motivation to go after US companies) they also don't need to win in court, their enforcement action in unilateral.


The mental gymnastics below in the thread where people try to explain why not investigating Google in 2012 was OK and investigating it now is not OK are quite amazing.

Though to be fair, in 2012 Google exerted its monopolistic power far less than it does now.

For the life of me I can't understand why it's good that less than a dozen unelected and non-removable people in this country (Schmidt/Page, Zuck, and the owners of 99% of "independent" media) have the power to decide who wins elections, and what people think about issues.


Here's the staffer report from that event: http://graphics.wsj.com/google-ftc-report


In the last ~year Google has admitted to accidentally-but-knowingly stealing $75 million from Adwords customers, and settled a case they had fought four years for $11 million to avoid revealing what happens to a banned Adsense account's unpaid revenue. There is likely several hundred million dollars of fraud just in these two 'edge cases' they ignored handling for decades, so it's definitely time for someone to dig deep into this company.

https://www.businessinsider.com/google-emails-adtrader-lawsu...

https://www.searchenginejournal.com/adsense-lawsuit/248135/


I saw a similar complaint video[1] from ZoggfromBetelgeuse but didn't know the problem was pervasive. It is a shame this killed one of the best channels on YT.

[1] https://youtu.be/SADDJY7e7cM


lets not forget their latest and greatest of releasing chrome for free until it saturated the market and became a monopoly then maliciously making changes to reduce the effectiveness of adblockers like ublock origin


And they did all they could to kill Windows Phone (a viable alternative ecosystem at that time) by blocking access to Youtube[1] and providing sub-par experience for their other services.

Now I fear Firefox has a similar sisyphean task at hand, trying to keep their browser usable on google services. And for many of the users, that is same as usability of the browser as a whole.

[1]https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/microsoft_on_the_issues/...


Microsoft managed to kill Windows Phone by itself and take Nokia, and a more mature more viable smartphone OS, down with it. Windows phone was a "viable alternative" by the end, but in the beginning it was uncompetitive without any hindrances.

Also recall that mobile carriers and OEMs were opposed to Android because it would further degrade their ability to create walled gardens. The carriers lost control of apps, not for lack of trying. Imagine what a world that would be.

The FANG succeed largely instead of a carrier-controlled mobile ecosystem.

You may think that replaces one kind of oppression with another, but if you weaken the internet platforms, you strengthen the carriers who are now off the net neutrality leash, and who see 5G as an opportunity to gain control of a lot of what we now enjoy as an open internet.


Also recall that mobile carriers and OEMs were opposed to Android

I agree with the other claims (about Microsoft killing Windows Phone through their own actions and choices), however this one is a bit weird. Apple gave essentially no ground to carriers, which was a huge change. Which is why carriers all embraced Android, at a time when it was horribly uncompetitive, because it returned control to them, letting them preload any nonsense they wanted, making it undeletable, etc.

Apple updates come through Apple alone. If you have a Samsung phone on a carrier, they still matriculate through your carrier.

Add that of the 30% cut that the Play Store takes for apps and games, historically one half of that went to the carriers (it was always very nebulous, but again was one of the reasons carriers pushed Android when it was not good).


It was tough sledding at first, with just T-Mobile and HTC, both second-tier players, being first to adopt Android. Android's SDK had been released well before this first deal. Android could have turned out to be an interesting but minor embedded OS with a less well run ecosystem of system integrators than Windows CE.

Android was in fact an alternative to iPhone. Google was more amenable to carrier and OEM mods to Android and third-party app stores. But carriers still were hoping the traditional OEM and app store walled gardens would hold, and Apple could be confined to high-end customers.

App store revenue, at that time, was still small for both the carriers' walled garden and for Apple. It was more a matter of control.


Apple and other hardware will not agree. But peope buy devices bacause of the apps. The reason symbian, meego, blackberry, windows et all died was because some of the popular apps where only available on Android and iPhone. Microsoft of course knew this but failed because they where unfriendly to developers. And are now desperately trying to bye goodwill in order to keep Windows on PC relevant.


I've only met happy Windows Phone users


I am not sure how much we can read into it because they are the ones who are already bought in to that ecosystem.

Even I was a happy WP user and but I can't be sure how much of my satisfaction was out of choice-supportive bias.


That makes it even worse. They had a great product and still managed to screw it up.


It's going to be interesting if we have to lie about user agents. If you lie about the UA and it works then something is rotten in the state of Denmark.


[citation needed]


Really? I mean, pick one of a hundred. They are deprecating APIs that would block the interception and are ignoring community pushback.

But since you asked...

https://bgr.com/2019/05/31/google-chrome-update-ad-blockers-...

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/evy53j/google-struggles-t...

https://9to5google.com/2019/05/29/chrome-ad-blocking-enterpr...

But I mean, that was a 2 second search. Citations are indeed hard to come by...


Good reason for about 5-10% of the internet users with adblockers to switch to Firefox. Which kind of hurts the monopoly argument. Not that I support google being more and more monopolistic these days.

I still don’t think the browser market is a good example right now.

There’s far better examples than this.


i'm sure a lot of people that would otherwise have been making browsers decided chrome is "good enough" and assumed google wasn't likely to do anything to scummy like this. monopoly is maybe not the best word choice but its overwhelming popularity and use has given it a lot of inertia and influence over the direction of the web


Prediction: In a year, adblocking extensions on Chrome will still block the same percentage of ads from Google's networks as they do on Firefox. Care to make a bet?


Err, is there another reason for chrome to exist? Google is no philanthropist.


To compete with Microsoft, who used to try to leverage their power in similar ways.


Yes, because before Chrome existed most people used IE which is very slow to create or adopt new web standards and is full of bugs. That makes developing complex websites really difficult.

What company do we know that makes some the most complex web sites out there and would really benefit if the web had... I dunno WebGL so they could make a smooth mapping site, maybe with a 3D mode. Or a new version of HTTP so their sites load faster. Or a new version of TCP that works better on mobile. Or native web components that makes their web framework faster. Or HTML video so their video streaming site is more reliable.

I'll give you a hint - it starts with "Googl".

They created Chrome because IE was holding them back. Not to kill as blockers (did IE ever even support as blockers). Some people here don't use their brains...


Reality was a bit different from what you describe. Firefox was a thing. Its market share was rising slowly but steadily. Google paid leading Firefox engineers such as Ben Goodger and Darin Fisher. It could have doubled down, improved Firefox's performance, marketed it aggressively, and then your narrative would make sense. Instead they pulled the engineers to create Chrome. There was no need at all for that except that Google wanted more direct control over the Internet which the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation ultimately wouldn't give them.


Why pay to develop some other company's product when you can just develop it yourself? Nobody would do that.

Also when Chrome was released IE still had a 60% market share. You can't ignore that.


That nobody would do that is contradicted by the fact that Google did it for years, for instance. But Google ended up doing what most for-profit corporations would do. I'm not saying it's particularly immoral. It's pretty normal, for better or worse. What I am saying is that the narrative that Google created Chrome only to further the Web does not add up.

Also, I was not ignoring that IE had 60% market share. That's perfectly in line with what I said, as that market share was in fact shrinking without Chrome.


So, to be clear, you are saying they were being altruistic and purely motivated by the desire to push forward web standards, and that this is entirely unrelated to the business they run?


No, I'm saying they were pushing web standards because it helped the business they run. It happened to help the rest of the web too which is nice.


Look, I get it — the issues with Google, Facebook, Amazon. But I can’t help but think about how AT&T and other ISPs banded together to claim they shouldn’t be regulated because they are Internet companies just like FANG during the Net Neutrality discussions. When I see just how bad ISPs are acting, in lack of competition, price gouging, content ownership, data monitoring, it really seems they were successful in shifting the focus to FANG and convincing everyone to forget about Net Neutrality.

This is not meant to whataboutism, but the truth is the public/news cycles can only handle so many “tech” related items at one time. People are not “locked in” to any of the FANG companies nearly as much as they are their physical ISPs where they really do not have an option.


You're right, ISP monopolies are a bigger antitrust issue. People are overwhelmingly pro net-neutrality

They will take this action against Google, and meanwhile, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts will continue to take in an average of $100 per customer per month.

This is, quite nakedly, Comcast influencing action against Google for trying to compete in broadband.

It is convenient that Comcast owns NBC while lobbying government for legislation it wants to see.

https://www.cnbc.com/video/2018/10/25/watch-cnbcs-full-inter...


IDK. Maybe this is not totally relevant, and maybe it's not a valid counterpoint, but I find it interesting that the market capitalizations of AT&T, Comcast and Charter Communications combined are roughly $200 billion less than Alphabet alone.


You make a good point. Antitrust actions should be a function of both behavior and size. IMO, actions of ISPs have been more nefarious than FANG,

https://www.freepress.net/our-response/expert-analysis/expla...

https://potsandpansbyccg.com/2019/02/13/isps-are-violating-t...


Why not both? (Apart from politics, obvs.)

As an occasional content creator it's impossible not to be aware that the ISPs can limit access to the bandwidth I need, while any of the platforms I might use - PayPal, Ebay, Google/YouTube, Amazon, Apple, even Etsy - can kill an income stream at any time and keep all my earnings just because they want to, with no convincing good-faith resolution procedures and no (affordable) recourse.


> any of the platforms I might use - ... - can kill an income stream at any time

Being able to access the internet at a competitive rate is more important IMO. FANG platforms depend on your ability to reach them.

Net neutrality, I'm convinced, is one of the only unifying political issues today. Breaking up Google isn't going to make people forget the expensive, low quality service from monopolistic taxpayer-funded broadband networks.


I think more importantly, ISPs made a (in my opinion, bullshit) free market argument that resonated with conservatives. At the same time, FANG made themselves an enemy of conservatives. Conservatives are now in power.


You could make the free market argument here too, but it won't appeal to them. Conservatives have a sort of pact with business interests that are otherwise neutral on social issues. They can look after each other because neither care much about the other's priorities. FANG are not reliably neutral in that same way, they are more like Hollywood in terms of "values". Of course their money is just as good as anyone else's and conservatives will take a lot of it where there is a tactical advantage but there can't be a long-term alliance.


What would be different today had NN passed?


The news can only focus on one major company at a time, but the courts can go after all of them.


There can be very real bandwidth limitations at the government regulatory agencies, however.


A neutral net is pretty meaningless if it’s just a handful of walled gardens you can access


You still have a choice about what sites you visit. Maybe FANG just provide a great value for people so they choose them more often. Most people don’t have a choice in what ISP they can use.


It shouldn't be a whataboutism, it's true. They gave too much of a pass to ISPs and that needs to stop. But it doesn't stop by relaxing on tech companies like Google, that would only further normalize it.


Not only the US is affected by Google's actions and ISPs are not evil everywhere. This is why Google is the more important issue from the perspective of the rest of the world. This is a transnational issue.


Just in case one of the downvoters stumbles upon this again, I'd appreciate your reasoning. What part of what I said is untrue (assuming this is the reason you downvoted)?


I was the biggest Google fan ever. I recommended all their products to everyone I know.

Gone are those days. I now trust Microsoft (heh! M!cr0$0ft, anyone?) more than Google which is strange given I grew up rebelling against MS’s technical desktop hegemony.

I wonder when Google decided “doing evil” was okay. I wonder how the SWE’s and other senior people in this thread feel about working for a company that many now consider scum. All their excuses and retorts can honestly take a hike: It is my honest opinion that if you still work for Google you’re selling us all out.

After years of serving malware through ads and doing nothing to stop it, they’re now trying to stop us blocking ads?! That’s just the last of many strikes that set me down this road.


I wonder how the SWE’s and other senior people in this thread feel about working for a company that many now consider scum. All their excuses and retorts can honestly take a hike: It is my honest opinion that if you still work for Google you’re selling us all out.

Googler here, I understand why you may think Google is evil now and I'm not going to say they are a perfect company. But I think you should consider that it is a large company working on many different products. Not everyone is working on Ads or various "evil" things. Many of us work on things that people like and improve our lives.

If parts of the company is doing bad things, it doesn't make all of us sell outs in my opinion. Just like how every American that pays taxes isn't a sell out for all the bad things the US might do.


As far as I understand, the penalty for not paying taxes is incarceration or heavy fines.

The penalty for not working for Google is effectively having to find work somewhere else. Not exactly oranges to oranges.

I appreciate that you may be working on things that improve people’s lives. How is that work funded? What would happen to those projects when they are deemed not profitable enough or endanger the evil stuff?

I didn’t write that post lightly, but with a heavy heart and a bitter taste in my mouth from a former #1 fan.


I agree its not a perfect analogy but you could argue that you can go live somewhere else too.

And yes, a lot of the work is funded by the "evil stuff" but Google is trying to expand their enterprise offerings and their hardware business is growing as well. I expect those to be profitable one day if not already.


Moving countries is extremely difficult and sometimes impossible. The US is one of the easiest countries to immigrate to and we only have 14.4% of our population having changes countries (coming in at least) [0]. This LinkedIn article citing BLS stats says the average person will have 12-15 jobs in their lifetime [1].

So I don’t think it’s very comparable to say “you can just change countries.” The vast majority of people are stuck with their country, and the vast majority of people change jobs.

It must feel bad to work at Google. Making odd comparisons might be a symptom of explaining how positive things that are cool are still funded by ads that are at least annoying, but seem to be turning out to be anticompetitive and fraudulent even.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_to_the_United_Stat... [1] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-many-jobs-average-person-...


> The US is one of the easiest countries to immigrate to and we only have 14.4% of our population having changes countries

Just to follow this tangent briefly - I'd be surprised if that first statement is true by most definitions (I'd almost say the opposite), and the implication that 14.4% of the population is therefore a high level certainly isn't.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_and_d... has some detailed numbers. In short, although the US has the most immigrants in the world in total, many major nations have double or much higher percentages of foreign-born residents compared to the US. E.g. Singapore (43%), Switzerland (29%), Australia (33%), and that's ignoring the tiny countries with 50+%, or the middle eastern states with large migrant worker/refugee populations, like UAE at 84%, Qatar at 74%, Jordan at 40%, etc etc.

I don't really disagree with your main point - changing countries isn't _that_ hard as a US software developer, but changing jobs is certainly easier - but I keep seeing the US portrayed like this, and it's not really true.


I think it’s important to compare citizens rather than residents because that is a closer number to people who have immigrated. Many of the countries you site have really high foreign-born residents because of guest workers. I suspect these workers would love to stay and become citizens but that’s not possible in Switzerland or Qatar.

That being said, I’m sure there are other countries higher than the US, but 15% is pretty high and certainly amongst the highest. I tried finding a good list that ranked countries but couldn’t easily find an apples to apples comparison like the US’ BLS. But I like your link because it’s helpful for comparison. I wish I had found it.


Interesting how no one was born in Vatican City. Well, maybe Jesus was reborn there (har har).


Australia does NOT have real highest percentage of foreign born and is a very hard country to immigrate to.

Their foreign born are mostly from neighbors NZ and UK.


It's not the highest by a long shot, and their process certainly isn't easy (and I agree biased to friendly English-speaking nations), but 33% of the population is still a lot more than the US.

Or do you mean that that number isn't correct somehow? It's based on a UN report, but I have no idea where their data comes from.


Out of 33% majority of them are from UK and NZ. I think around 90% of them.

Both of them can stay as long as they want in Australia but they are always counted as "foreign born/citizens"


I'm not a googler and I don't think their revenue model is funded by "evil stuff". At least you can choose not to use Google.

For broadband ISPs, on the other hand, you have one option. It's pricey and the service is not what it should be.

If people told me to feel badly about working for Google I'd tell them something not nice. There are real monopolies in the tech world, and Google isn't one of them.


>Many of us work on things that people like and improve our lives.

Why is it that the things that Google creates that might actually "improve our lives" only last long enough to get people hooked into the G before said product is end of lifed?

I do not use a broad brush and paint 100% of Google employees as doing evil. However, I always think of the Grisham novel The Firm when thinking about Google. They lure very young, bright, talented employees in with the lure of very large pay checks. By the time said employees become aware of what the company actually represents, they are too entrenched into the lifestyles to "which they have become accustomed". At the same time, the users are lured in with free apps/tools/services that seem quite useful. Whether these apps/tools/services remain long term or not is a crap shoot, but G has you now


I feel quite a bit of the same as nsomaru; I've gone from being a naive Google fan to cautiously optimistic about Microsoft.

Unlike a bunch of others I never think I despised the majority of people working at neither Microsoft or Google.

But for the Chrome team; aren't they now actively undermining and weakening a major part of the Internet infrastructure by nerfing one of the most used clients to make sure it stops acting on behalf of its users?


But all salaries at google come basically from its ad business that does have some taint.

You can't take a cut of that and clean your slate because you work on defensible projects.

Just take the hit: say you do value Google's work conditions in spite of the questionable things they do. It's honest and acceptable: there are no clean hands in this world.


If it wasn't for ad revenue, do you think you would be able to work on these things that people like and are supposed improvements to people's lives? That there would be funding for such work?

Your position is arguably worse than selling out: Others do the dirty work – 'Ads or various "evil" things' – so you can do the nice stuff and claim a clean conscience.


It's a valid point, but to be completely honest, the same point applies to all the rich countries. The only reason we can have the life style we have, i.e. drive a car that costs only 20k, wear clothes that cost 20 usd, have a smartphone for 150 usd and oay for gas only 3 usd us because if slave labor in third world countries and the American military forces make sure to preserve this state of things. Otherwise we'd pay 40 usd for gas, 200k for Mazda 3, 5000 usd for a smartphone and 50 usd for a coffee.


>If parts of the company is doing bad things, it doesn't make all of us sell outs in my opinion.

That's textbook selling out. As is using compartmentalization as rationalization.


> If parts of the company is doing bad things, it doesn't make all of us sell outs in my opinion.

You’re either lying to yourself or you’re naive. Either way it’s not an excuse to dismiss agency.


Honest question: do you want to see Google broken up or heavily regulated? If I were lucky enough to work at Google, I think I'd be cheering for regulation so I could enjoy all the sweet comp and meaningful work without feeling conflicted about the truly dark parts of the company. Isn't that Google a much better Google to work for?


> Many of us work on things that people like and improve our lives.

Like what? Services that support the ads monetization, lock in users and strengthen control over the ecosystem?


[flagged]


Please don't break the site guidelines regardless of how misinformed another comment is.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


It has at some point. Today? Not so much.


Your work is funded by ads. Ads are effectively making life worse.


> I now trust Microsoft more than Google

What's so good about Microsoft? They filled their OS with spyware and adware and they seem to be incompetent as a tech company - remember their recent Windows update that deleted user data even though early testers have reported the issue.


Lesser of two evils? That's how I interpreted the comment you replied to, anyway.


Microsoft != Windows. Windows isn't its own division anymore. There is a lot more to MS than Windows. Do we judge other companies as a whole based on one product or service they offer rather than looking at the whole?

The "spyware and adware" is added by those who sell the computers (i.e. the hardware manufacturers) rather than by Microsoft. It's been a way for them to make money with the slimming of the profit margins from the hardware. This isn't on Microsoft.

I find MS to be more trustworthy because of their income models. They are far less reliant on surveillance. Their market share isn't as dominant. And, they aim to be a platform rather than an aggregator (see the Bill Gates line).


> The "spyware and adware" is added by those who sell the computers (i.e. the hardware manufacturers) rather than by Microsoft.

Hmm? What about the surveillance tech that was added in Windows 8 through a Windows Update that sends pretty much all your activity to Microsoft? Am I missing something about this?


They serve ads in the start menu and on the lock screen, including some fairly pushy ones (Edge! Edge! You must use Edge!). The telemetry is controversial but does not appear to be used in the same ways that Google uses all of their data. Plus, you can disable 99% of the telemetry.


I would prefer it if I did not have to rely on semblance in this case. If not surveillance, then what is the purpose of such extensive telemetry?


> They filled their OS with spyware and adware

But only after Google, et. al. proved how willing we all are to trade our data for free stuff. This is just the new reality of SaaS, at least as targeted to the general public who now expect free updates for life, isn't it?


Sure if you wanna accept it as a foregone conclusion then that will certainly become the new reality. I paid for windows, including those updates, by the way. I dont need to be mined and packaged for all my information’s worth on top of that without any sufficient choice in the matter.


IMO Facebook is the real modern evil. Google is exhibiting the woes of a company that's become too big for its own good; it controls too much. However it continues to provide very high value services, especially to businesses. Facebook on the other hand is converging toward pure evil. The little value it was providing to the world has turned fully negative, a succubus in everyone's life.


Facebook has the messenger app, that is pretty useful. Otherwise I don't use facebook much.


> After years of serving malware through ads and doing nothing to stop it,

I occasionally see articles to that effect. But I have never been effected by such malware. And that includes 20+ years on the web, including the seedier corners, and without ever taking special measures like anti-virus.

As far as I can tell, this 'ad-distributed malware' are a few cases far between, completely blown out of proportions to justify peoples' use of ad blockers.


Agreed... Google has lost its mind. The removal of ad-block was the final straw for me. There's no rational explanation why that would be needed.


Removal of ad-block is just talk, not actually implemented and live yet, correct?


That’s what was said when this plan first started last year. However, it’s been consistently progressing over the months. When it’s progressing, it’s no longer just talk. They’re clearly adamant about making this a reality.


Who stands to gain when Google is weakened? Conspiracy time. Maybe there was a concerted efforts by media conglomerates and other tech firms (Oracle, Microsoft, Amazon, Tencent, etc.) to bombard Google with bad PR for the last 5 years.

Oracle is fighting to stay relevant. Tencent/Baidu will dominate AI if Google gets nerfed. Microsoft and Amazon will take over all of western tech once Google/FB is out of the way.

/tinfoil


I hope you’re only marginally more trusting of Microsoft. Open sourcing stuff and embracing linux has given them a lot of tech brownie points (effectively, good PR) but just like with what google was vs what it has become, it’s important to be cautious in taking this all at face value when it’s unclear what their endgame is, besides trying to exploit its position as the dominant OS to catch up to google on data mining and selling their customers. They could very well do the same with .NET (Core), and I fully expect that to be true in some fashion. We’ve already seen signs of it with default “telemetry” in the .net core sdk.


> I wonder when Google decided “doing evil” was okay

The moment they incorporated, at the latest. Really. When people go to such lengths to tell you "we're not evil, honest!" -- you should know where it's going.


Would it make you feel better if I told you Google pays really well and offers nice perks for SWEs? It’s worth it to a lot of people to have a path to early retirement, even if it means the destruction of the open internet.


I think you're being downvoted because your post is too nuanced.


I think it’s probably because perks offered to google employees are meaningless to 99% of people. The damage and potential damage google is doing to the public is far worse than the fat salaries they pay their employees. If Google and Facebook paid the same wages as any other other tech company, people wouldn’t be as eager to join them and throw their ethics out the window.


> If Google and Facebook paid the same wages as any other other tech company, people wouldn’t be as eager to join them and throw their ethics out the window.

On that note, if unethical business practices weren't so profitable, Google and Facebook wouldn't be able to offer higher wages than other tech companies.


Dear Justice Department: Take a look at google AMP and how they use it to strong-arm publishers by linking it to search placement. You'll find some stuff.


People don't seem to understand how this stuff works in the US, Google has full editorial control over their search results protected by the first amendment and that right was affirmed in court time and time again:

https://searchengineland.com/another-court-affirms-googles-f...

If you don't like their free no lock in service go elsewhere, and that's why there is no sherman act case here, which is why if the DOJ actually does anything here it would be a waste of time and resources.


I'm not a lawyer but the first amendment argument is a separate concern than antitrust violations. You can exercise your first amendment rights while still breaching antitrust law.


Depends on what's being investigated here, if the government would actually want to compel Google to alter their search results then it's a first amendment case.


> Take a look at google AMP

The argument here is its unfair to bias ranking towards a preferred format. In this case, something about excluding competitors, except AMP is completely open-source[1] so...?

The counterargument is yes you can, because it's your pamphlet/newspaper/website and you're the editor, not the government.

[1] https://github.com/ampproject/amphtml


Yeah, if AMP is antitrust then so is Facebook's Open Graph. Despite the hate for both on HN, neither format is targeting competitors or hurting consumers in this case.


I think the antitrust argument against AMP is a bit more subtle. The argument seems to be that Google is abusing it's market dominance to push sites into using AMP. This in turn prevents them from using third party trackers, while the pages will be served via Google caches when accessed from Google search. Hence Google gets to track the visitor, while third party tracking from other providers is prevented. I.e. Google is abusing it's power to thwart competition in the analytics and ad-tech business.

Of course as a consumer, I don't really care whether it's some random company or Google who gets to violate my privacy, and I especially couldn't care less about lack of innovation in the privacy violation business, so I think the antitrust angle here is pretty slim.


Maybe - is Amp rendering blocking third party tracking from GTM tags?


Third party trackers are not prevented.


You can use Google Analytics through the <amp-analytics> element [1], but since AMP prevents third-party scripts that were not approved by Google, I'm not sure how you would include other trackers in an AMP site.

[1] https://developers.google.com/analytics/devguides/collection...


You can easily use other analytics vendors https://amp.dev/documentation/guides-and-tutorials/optimize-...

> You can exercise your first amendment rights while still breaching antitrust law.

Go on... example?


Here is the first example I came across:

https://www.rbr.com/six-broadcast-tv-groups-settle-doj-antit...

No one is saying these broadcast groups don't have 1st amendment rights, just that they were going about it in an anti-competitive way.


That's a price fixing/cartel case not a first amendment one.


Isn't that the point? What you prosecute is not related the first amendment, despite the actions being protected by it.


This case is clearly price fixing, not first amendment.

The radio stations weren't broadcasting their prices to consumers, but secretly communicating with competitors to form a cartel, which is forbidden. Doesn't matter if they were radio stations or grocery stores.


The fact that the companies in that suit were radio stations seems irrelevant to the facts of the case; they could have been hamburger restaurants and the legal question would not change.


Yes, the first amendment here does not seem to apply, except if the poster above, has something else in mind? That DOJ even considers going to court, hints that they have a strong case -- given how conservative the DOJ is to betting on a court case and not settling.


No one is reporting that the DOJ is considering going to court nor that they have any "case" let alone a "strong" one if the WSJ reports are to be believed it's very preliminary stuff.


Thank you for the correction!


This is not a first amendment issue, this is leveraging a monopolistic market share to force technologies like amp on customers.


I’m fairly sure strong arming your clients does fall under anti trust, regardless of how hostile google is to its ad targets.


Playing hardball is itself not an antitrust violation. Doing it to maintain monopoly power is. (Under section 2 of the Sherman Act.)


Google is not a monopoly in terms of consumer choice (we can choose any one of mostly identical search engines), but it is in terms of market share ala internet explorer. It is in a perfect situation to leverage this to force arbitrary policies that mostly benefit it, like amp.


Google has monopoly power [0] even though consumers can choose to use other search providers. They just don’t.

[0] https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/competition-guidance/guide-a...


> strong arming your clients

You're describing any business, that's how business works.


? I though a business arrangement was meant to be optional and mutually beneficial.


Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren (not exactly a conservative Trump supporter) seems to think that antitrust regulators do indeed have a legitimate role to play:

Warren would appoint regulators who would reverse some of the biggest tech mergers that have taken place in recent years. That would mean the reversal of Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods and Zappos, Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram, and Google’s acquisition of Waze, Nest, and DoubleClick.

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/3/8/18256192/el...


Downvotes be damned, but I honestly can’t tell if this is satire.


lol. well, truthfully, i was trying to make a serious statement.

i figured mentioning a proponent of big tech breakup with valid legal credentials and a different political axe to grind might be useful evidence in deciding whether the antitrust case had any merit.

(i believe the Vox article is trying to be serious as well.)


I think this is a really simplistic view of how the first amendment applies to businesses. I think the key here is the definition of a 'public space' as what freedoms a business has changes when they provide a public space. It's a bit unclear what defines a public space in the digital world, I'd argue that physical presence isn't a requirement and the key aspects are accessibility and communication. i.e. If anyone can go there, and anyone can communicate there, it's a public space. _If_ this is true, then many sites are public spaces, certainly social media. Search is a bit more unclear since the communication aspect is questionable.


Indeed. Many people fail to grasp that in the grand scheme of things, this is unlikely to change anything. Google has always been at the center of the tech industry. Some of its services are not only important to the public and vital for the U.S. economy, but also very critical to national security as well. Rest assured that efforts will be spent to ensure Google will continue to remain at this position in the foreseeable future. Actions like these are more likely to serve as a way to calm down the public aka damage control.


>Google has always been at the center of the tech industry.

Are you showing your age?


Yeah, this is simply capitalism.

Remove the cause and not the symptoms!


AMP is just the start. I won't be surprised if we find out Google is promoting websites for using Google Analytics.


No, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLmO1GE4GvI

> search quality in general does not use Google Analytics in ranking

> it won't affect your ranking


Do you actually believe them? I don't.


I agree with lohszvu and given this was made nearly a decade ago, I'm pretty sure their tactics have changed (I don't even think AMP was made in 2010).


If Google we’re truly committed to building a search engine that is useful they would give the user control of ranking. I hope one day we see a search engine not driven by ad incentives....


They don't even have to be that "extreme" about it. Simple tools that would still allow them to "sell" ads but give the user more control.

E.g. Being able to "blacklist" certain domains from results.

Same thing applies to youtube. You can not permanently block/remove/disable channels from being present in the content results/feed.

I think that deep-down Google high-ups "know" that giving some of these "basic" usability features would essentially disable their control of the content that they push to you. E.g. imagine publicly-shared black-lists of bad domains and bad channels that one could subscribe to. Similar to the ad blockings lists that have generated a bit of a thriving ecosystem. I.e. smart people would eventually use this basic "building block" to build content-control that would be more decentralized/democratic and really personal.


There's already some questionable aspects, like the way that Google search query strings are only available if you sign up for Google Analytics. And I would be very interested to hear what Google does with the other data they collect with Analytics...


It would be interesting to start an Hacker News but for 'anti-trust' suggestions.

Basically you have a company and then people like us can upvote areas we think companies are breaking the law.


If true, this will be a landmark case and should scare FB and Amazon as well. Personally, I think this is a good thing and it's past time for the government to at least set some boundaries, but there's no telling how it will play out with the current administration and amount of lobbying dollars flying around.


Why would this have any relevance to FB and Amazon? I realize a lot of people on HN don't like what these companies are doing with their data, but this lawsuit is not about privacy at all so I don't see how it relates to those 2 companies.


Amazon is not a "trust" in the strictest historical definition, but it's a amoral and terrifying company with incredible reach that frequently can and does snuff any chance any competitor has of using anything else.

If Google is bad for using AMP to try and drive publishers to AMP hosting, then how is Amazon not even worse for ramming crazy terms down publisher's throats while buying or undercutting every other shipping and shopping system in the country? Amazon's pretty much dismantled and eaten the entire American book industry, it's in mid gulp of the American consumer shipping industry, it's already business critical via AWS for a majority of American businesses, and now it's turning to selling "AI" products to government and law enforcement.

As for Facebook, I think maybe Facebook isn't a monopoly. But they shouldn't be allowed to buy Youtube or Twitter.


> Amazon is not a "trust" in the strictest historical definition

Yup. Amazon can legitimately respond to trust and monopoly allegations with "Walmart, Azure, GCP, and Netflix."


Why would Google sell Youtube to Facebook?


I don't think either sale is possible, I'm merely using it as an example of what wouldn't be permissible.


What if Alphabet is forced to spin off YouTube in to a seperate entity?


Such a split will never happen. Rather, YouTube will be torn down.


I'm fairly sure everyone would fight tooth and nail to do this.


Amazon is using it's profits from AWS to 'dump' on other, low margin businesses.

The most recent FT Alphachat podcast with an official from the Fed talks about Uber this way: Uber (and Lyft) are taking money from somewhere and undercutting the classical taxi business. This is a problem for competition. They could feasibly try to run losses until 'regular cabs are pushed out' (or largely) and then lock up the business.

Amazon can do this with any number of products, they can do it to shipping companies, to grocers.

More abstractly, Google does it with mobile OS, possibly browsers etc..

In our new world of globalization, it's a serious problem.

All this money from Saudi Arabia, under the control of Softbank is coming back and just throwing markets upside down in what is arguably tantamount to 'dumping' which is a bad business practice generally.

Even we work is like this - it's losing tons of money, ultimately selling stuff below market value.

In some cases it's much more clear than others, but it's going to pose a problem.

This issue very well highlights the problematic idea that business is about 'better products and service' or even 'free markets' due to the fact that so much cash provides leverage that distorts markets quite heavily.

Alphachat with Robert Kapla @ FT:

https://ftalphaville.ft.com/series/Alphachat


Ant-competitive practices? Facebook buying up any and all rivals like WhatsApp and Instagram? They are a juggernaut and shouldn’t be able to own all social media.


At the time of buying, people were mocking FB for being delusional left and right.

After FB manages these acquisitions well, we are now like "FB is evil and anti-competitive".


Are humans inconsistent?

Are different vocal minorities loudest at different times?

I’m not convinced people is a coherent group.

Does the fact that some people were mocking X at some point in the past negate the validity of antitrust cases against X for ever?


Facebook doesn’t own all social media though.

YouTube, Pinterest, Snapchat, Linkedin, Reddit, Twitch are all major social networks and there are scores of smaller ones. In search it is basically just Google and Bing.


They also tried to buy Snapchat but their bid was rejected.


What’s wrong with buying competitions?


There are market concentration regulations. The SEC typically applies a formula to determine if an acquisition results in a single entity owning too much of the market, in which case it would not be approved.

I don't know if this has been considered for these companies, but I suspect it may have been bypassed. At the very least, that's what an investigation would determine.


Well, in a word, it’s anticompetitive


Buying a competition is not anticompetitive. So why congratulate any acquisition on HN?


Buying competition = removing competition

Removing competition is literally the most anticompetitive thing you can do. Like definitionally.

That’s why all major (edit: US) acquisitions take months to years to get approval from the SEC.


Buying a competitor is no more anticompetitive than causing a competitor to shut down because they weren’t competitive enough.

What is supposed to happen to competitors that are actually less efficient and/or produce less appealing products? Do people really expect “competition” to mean a perpetual exact tie between two or more competitors?


> Buying a competitor is no more anticompetitive than causing a competitor to shut down because they weren’t competitive enough.

Well first off, predatory pricing is a thing, where competition shuts down because a market participant is deliberately losing money to gain market share in hopes of raising prices after everyone else gives up. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predatory_pricing#United_State...

But a competitor doesn't have to shut down to be bought out. In fact, why would a company ever buy a competitor who's only alternative is shutting down? Seems far simpler to buy the useful assets from the bankruptcy. Here's one possibility I've seen: an inefficient incumbent buys a startup that has been winning procurement bids away from them lately. They have deep pockets from all the contracts not yet up for renewal, and can afford to buy the company now while they only have a few source of cash flow. End result is that prices remain high, and the borg lives on a little bit less cash flow until the contracts they just bought are up for renegotiation.

> What is supposed to happen to competitors that are actually less efficient and/or produce less appealing products?

They sell less, and make changes. Maybe they drop prices, invest in efficiency or pursue some differentiation strategy. It doesn't need to be a 50/50 but winner-take-all markets should not be surprised when regulators come knocking.


All you need to do is look at their respective stock price histories to see how they are related.


Both of these companies are very good at extinguishing competition.


Considering how the current administration has - or at least feels it has - been treated by social media companies, I’d give good odds that the administration is the impetus behind the investigation.


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