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Antitrust Troubles Snowball for Tech Giants as Lawmakers Join In (nytimes.com)
384 points by johnny313 49 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 298 comments



Allow me to temper some of the glee exhibited in the comments and even in some of the reports but a key line here is:

"The divvying of antitrust enforcement does not mean that the agencies have opened official investigations"

It is worth keeping in mind that antitrust enforcement in the US doesn't care about whiny competitors but if the enduser and customer is harmed and it doesn't appear to be the case when it comes to any of these corporations.

This whole thing is terribly misguided, there is a long list of companies and markets worthy of antitrust scrutiny and these tech companies if they are on that list then they are at the very bottom of it. The real drag on the economy are the high prices of healthcare and housing, there is also the case that ISPs have obvious monopolies and are providing inferior products and services and the list goes on.

The role of the media here shouldn't be ignored, they coined the term "big tech" to conjure negative associations and they continuously publish alarmist coverage about any combination of these firms, they also stand to benefit if any enforcement action were to occur.


Visa and Mastercard have a pretty effective duopoly, too! Their fees and chargeback procedures are a drag on the entire economy. Getting banned by them effectively kills your ability to accept payments, and many legal but politically unpopular businesses find themselves in the crosshairs.


Can we include Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion to the list of monopolistic anti-competitive financial companies?


Not to put too fine a point on it, but we've almost immediately started down the road that HN user fyoving is cautioning us against. The idea that our government is going to go after financial firms is a bit fanciful. (In all honesty, legally speaking, fyoving is even correct in asserting that they aren't even going after tech firms.)

When you're getting people's hopes up by making them think that something is going to happen, and then nothing happens. People immediately blame big banking, big finance, big tech, corrupt politicians, corruption in general, etc etc. Which is entirely understandable. People get upset at dashed hopes. They look for something or someone to blame. And to be fair, sometimes it's even true that corruption is part of the reason.

But this time I have a strong suspicion fyoving is likely correct for a more systemic reason. Any sort of action against a lot of these companies, tech or finance, won't pass muster with the courts. It's not corruption, it's just the law. Which we can change, but it's really hard to do so because there are good reasons for some of these laws. (One way to address that problem though is to add new laws instead of changing the current ones, but there is going to be natural resistance against that too.)

I suspect that's the entire reason a certain segment of politicians are trying to bring action against the tech giants within the parameters of current law. Because they know it won't work already. They know how the supremes will rule on any such actions. (Rulings the supremes won't even have to hand down because the agencies in question will probably decide against wasting the time taking any actions in the first place.)

It's terrible. A likely diversion of 10 years minimum, during which no one will actually be able to gain any traction towards changing the laws because these elites will be wagging the dog making people think something is going to happen under current law. We should have pushed for changes in the law first. Then gone after the big businesses. But that was probably just a pipe dream of mine anyway. It was never gonna happen.


Are you arguing that politicians would spend ten years investigating companies with the full knowledge they won’t get anywhere with it beyond political brownie points?

If so, I agree 100%.


I agree < 100% as this is one of many benefits for a politician to take this stance. Another benefit is leverage over an industry. Leverage is a tool that can be used for different purposes. Even if the courts thwart one possible outcome, there are other possible outcomes.


The shitty thing about Equifax is that there's no way to not be a part of their credit score system. For Visa and MC, I can choose to not use their cards and go with something else. With Equifax, I can't stop using their service to stifle their business. I'm amazed the government is not intervening in cases like these where the end consumers have no choice in the matter.


I'll go one level further and add the three bond ratings agencies that played front and center for the economic meltdown: Moody's, Fitch, and S&P.


Chargebacks are overwhelmingly positive. It allows you to use your credit card fearlessly knowing the card companies have your back. Truthfully, if they decreased payment volume or "dragged the economy" card companies wouldn't offer them.


> Chargebacks are overwhelmingly positive.

Not in my experience! Chargeback can kill small businesses rather easily. My dad used to run a timber store. His biggest chargeback was around $5k. The 'card owner' who we vetted, by giving correct name, home address and cvc. The 'card owner' asked it to be delivered around the corner (which is not unusual). 48hrs after delivery (1 week after ordering) later the bank did a charge back...

A large supplier near us got stung for >40k with a single chargeback.

Both instances had documented proof that the retailer has all the information about the card holder & had all reasonable evidence to assume it was the right person.

Most trade people I know, these days ask for 'staged' payments, to ensure a) cashflow & b) reduce risk of chargeback.

It's made me wonder why any retailer puts up with it.

That said, for internet purchases, I appreciate how awesome it is!


The issue here is fraud, not the chargeback. The outcome would have been the same with stolen cash, just with more lawyers.


The issue is relative size and power, which does speak to antitrust.

If Visa, MasterCard, Amex, et al., or PayPal make a decision, most businesses have little recourse. The cost of not accepting cards is too high.

Ergo, payment processors can essentially set their own terms.


The 'buyer' still has the goods, and now has the money too. You can sue, and probably get them arrested for fraud. If they have the identification information they say they do, it should be a slam-dunk case. It's as though they walked in and took the lumber after closing time. The system isn't to blame, the clown who defrauded the mom and pop shop committed a crime, and there's lots of ways to do that.


The problem with chargebacks is that they're mandatory, even in cases where the seller is more trustworthy than the buyer. Then you end up with all the losses associated with buyer fraud even if the overwhelming majority of legitimate buyers would have enough faith in the seller to waive the ability to conduct a chargeback in exchange for a discount in the amount of the fee that has to be charged to cover them.

The fee should be on the customer side and they should have a choice whether to pay it per transaction. Paying for insurance is fine, being forced to pay for it when you don't need it is not.


> The problem with chargebacks is that they're mandatory, even in cases where the seller is more trustworthy than the buyer. Then you end up with all the losses associated with buyer fraud even if the overwhelming majority of legitimate buyers would have enough faith in the seller to waive the ability to conduct a chargeback in exchange for a discount in the amount of the fee that has to be charged to cover them.

This is actually accounted for in the merchant interchange rate. It varies by MCC (merchant category code) [and potentially merchant to merchant] and the frequency of chargebacks is built into how much the merchant pays for processing. Further, that bubbles up to the customer in terms of the pricing. Merchants may offer cash or other payment method discounts, so in a sense, what you're asking for already exists. Merchants do not opt into it because it's not in their interests.

That said, that's not how the math works out. If a buyer has a number of chargebacks, the buyer may be investigated and has their account suspended or is charged with fraud. This works both ways. Again, merchants and payment networks are aligned in this case, both make money on greater transaction volume, this feature increases transaction volume, that's why it's there, otherwise it wouldn't be there.

Also, paying per-transaction isn't really insurance as it leads to massive adverse selection risk. The most helpful chargeback for me personally was a two thousand dollar chargeback against Expedia where they refused to refund a refundable ticket. I filed a chargeback and I got the money back within a few days.

It's a good thing, unless you've got data to back your case.


> This is actually accounted for in the merchant interchange rate. It varies by MCC and potentially merchant to merchant and the frequency of chargebacks is built into how much the merchant pays for processing.

But the number of chargebacks is as much related to the frequency of buyer fraud in that industry rather than anything the merchant can control. If it's all buyer fraud then the rate is high, but how do you solve that other than by moving the liability back to the buyer?

> Merchants may offer cash or other payment method discounts, so in a sense, what you're asking for already exists.

It exists in person, but where's the equivalent that allows you to pay cash over the internet? Cryptocurrency, maybe, and now we're back to monopolies and market share because you can't really accept something people aren't familiar with and don't know how to use.

> If someone has a number of chargebacks, the customer is investigated and has their account suspended or charged with fraud.

One of the most common sources of chargebacks is identity theft. Someone makes a purchase on a stolen card and then the real cardholder gets the bill and disputes the charge. The merchant in that case did nothing wrong but has to eat the loss, even when the identity theft was enabled by the cardholder's negligence. Then we get more such negligence, and lose the demand-side market pressure for higher security like two factor authentication and replacing credit card numbers with public keys that could have prevented the fraud, which increases costs for everyone.

But investigating the customer whose name is on the account does you no good in that case, because even if it was proximately their fault, it wasn't them who actually committed the fraud and it won't be their name on the account next time when some other negligent customer carelessly gives all their information to a fraudster because it costs them nothing to do so.

> Again, merchants and buyers are aligned in this case, both make money on greater transaction volume, this feature increases transaction volume, that's why it's there, otherwise it wouldn't be there.

It's there because the credit card companies don't give customers the choice.

> Also, paying per-transaction isn't really insurance as it leads to massive adverse selection risk.

All insurance leads to adverse risk selection. That's the nature of insurance. It's why you can't buy life insurance when you're 114 years old. Should we force them to sell it anyway and then make everyone else pay for it?

> The most helpful chargeback for me personally was a two thousand dollar chargeback against Expedia where they refused to refund a refundable ticket. I filed a chargeback and I got the money back within a few days.

And you would have otherwise had to take them to small claims court, which would have been more inconvenient.

Meanwhile if you paid 3% more on purchases totaling $200,000 over the last decade due to the increased buyer fraud, have you really come out ahead?

> It's a good thing, unless you've got data to back your case.

We would have the data if we gave people the choice.


> But the number of chargebacks is as much related to the frequency of buyer fraud in that industry rather than anything the merchant can control. If it's all buyer fraud then the rate is high, but how do you solve that other than by moving the liability back to the buyer?

You are. Retail price is adjusted to account for interchange which is adjusted to account for risk. Merchants can offer cash discounts.

> It's there because the credit card companies don't give customers the choice.

Again processors make money when transaction volume is higher. If this reduced transaction volume why would they do it?

> Meanwhile if you paid 3% more on purchases totaling $200,000 over the last decade due to the increased buyer fraud, have you really come out ahead?

Average merchant interchange is around 3% and there are 2% cash back cards, so it’s 1% net, meaning I’d be out $2000, so break even. Not to mention the interest-free one month loans, car rental insurance, loss insurance, warranty extensions and so on.

> We would have the data if we gave people the choice.

So you’re speculating in spite of the fact interests are currently aligned. And setting aside that the choice specifically exists for all brick and mortar merchants - so is there some reason they’re a poor sample?


> You are. Retail price is adjusted to account for interchange which is adjusted to account for risk. Merchants can offer cash discounts.

That's not moving the liability the buyer, that's just part of the insurance cost. It doesn't cause the buyer to be less careless or care more about security. And there is still currently no plausible cash-equivalent over the internet.

> Again processors make money when transaction volume is higher. If this reduced transaction volume why would they do it?

Insurance companies make more money when everybody has to buy insurance. How is that an argument for forcing everybody to buy insurance? "Middlemen make more profit" is an argument against.

> Average merchant interchange is around 3% and there are 2% cash back cards, so it’s 1% net, meaning I’d be out $2000, so break even.

You're using peak cash back and average interchange fees. The cards with 2% cash back aren't the cards with 3% interchange fees. And you're not accounting for the merchant losses from the chargeback itself which causes them to have to charge higher prices. Meanwhile a legitimate $2000 chargeback is atypically large.

Those numbers go even further south for people with bad credit who can't get a cash back card and then have to shop at low income merchants who suffer a high customer fraud rate, meanwhile they won't be making a large legitimate chargeback because they can't afford purchases that large to begin with.

> Not to mention the interest-free one month loans, car rental insurance, loss insurance, warranty extensions and so on.

Marketing gimmicks that purposely sound valuable but aren't worth very much in practice.

> So you’re speculating in spite of the fact interests are currently aligned.

You're asking for data so I'm asking to run the experiment. How else do you get better data?

And your claim that the interests are aligned ignores the cost of the insurance. If you can get a discount for waiving your right to a chargeback for a merchant you trust, it's basically free money, and your interests are both aligned in not paying for insurance you don't need. If the fee is then high to have a right to do a chargeback against the shady merchant you don't trust, maybe there is good reason for that.

> And setting aside that the choice specifically exists for all brick and mortar merchants - so is there some reason they’re a poor sample?

The sample is confounded because many merchants don't offer a cash discount but many credit cards still offer cash back, and cash is slower, so many customers prefer credit cards for reasons outside of the ability to refuse charges later.

But even then, many people nonetheless pay cash, especially when the discount actually exists. If the value of being able to do a chargeback was so great, why would anybody ever do that? More importantly, why shouldn't they be able to, including over the internet?


> That's not moving the liability the buyer, that's just part of the insurance cost. It doesn't cause the buyer to be less careless or care more about security. And there is still currently no plausible cash-equivalent over the internet.

Right, which drives up transaction volume which in turn means the payment network and the seller get more volume and more money. The risk is accounted for in interchange.

> Insurance companies make more money when everybody has to buy insurance. How is that an argument for forcing everybody to buy insurance? "Middlemen make more profit" is an argument against.

The bigger your risk pool the lower your cost. That's how insurance works. The more people you can socialize big losses over, the less you have to charge each person. Your margin on top is a function of your business goals. It's not strictly true that more people equals more money, you can always pass on the costs. Depends on where you make your money. A 501(c)(3) that offers insurance for instance would just charge less.

> You're using peak cash back and average interchange fees. The cards with 2% cash back aren't the cards with 3% interchange fees. And you're not accounting for the merchant losses from the chargeback itself which causes them to have to charge higher prices.

3% for card present is actually really high, I was using a blended average of the ~2.5ish% charged for card-present, 3ish% charged for online and 3.5ish% charged for card-not-present transactions at the point of sale to small and medium sized businesses. You can expect this to be 1% lower for merchants of substantial scale.

I'm not sure what you're suggesting is true. If we look at markets that cap interchange fees, they charge 0.3% [1]. Therefore, I think it's safe to assume that 0.3% is typical to cover the cost of loan origination and fraud. The rest is returned to consumers via rewards programs, plus a little cream due to lack of regulation. Further Visa interchange on that 2% cash back card is no more than 2.4% meaning I'm not out of the ballpark with my 2% rewards + 0.3% loan origination costs + 0.1% cream/chargebacks/misc insurances/etc. [2]

> Meanwhile a legitimate $2000 chargeback is atypically large.

Hey, you asked for mine, I gave it to you.

> Those numbers go even further south for people with bad credit who can't get a cash back card and then have to shop at low income merchants who suffer a high customer fraud rate, meanwhile they won't be making a large legitimate chargeback because they can't afford purchases that large to begin with.

Again, see [2].

> Marketing gimmicks that purposely sound valuable but aren't worth very much in practice.

In what way is my getting a one-month-free loan a gimmick? It's the foundation on which I structure my personal finances, secure in the knowledge if someone defrauds me I don't have to pay until it's resolved. I've also taken advantage of the loss protection.

> You're asking for data so I'm asking to run the experiment. How else do you get better data? And your claim that the interests are aligned ignores the cost of the insurance. If you can get a discount for waiving your right to a chargeback for a merchant you trust, it's basically free money, and your interests are both aligned in not paying for insurance you don't need. If the fee is then high to have a right to do a chargeback against the shady merchant you don't trust, maybe there is good reason for that.

If you start letting people waive the cost of insurance adverse selection kicks in so now only the people who plan to abuse the system pay for the insurance making it prohibitively expensive. This is why you don't allow people whose houses are on fire to buy fire insurance. Or why until recently you couldn't get health care in the individual market that covered pre-existing conditions. Why on earth wouldn't you not get cover until you needed it then buy it? Because that's not how insurance works.

> The sample is confounded because many merchants don't offer a cash discount but many credit cards still offer cash back, and cash is slower, so many customers prefer credit cards for reasons outside of the ability to refuse charges later.

Debit cards?

> But even then, many people nonetheless pay cash, especially when the discount actually exists. If the value of being able to do a chargeback was so great, why would anybody ever do that? More importantly, why shouldn't they be able to, including over the internet?

I'm saying the value you're suggesting doesn't exist. If it did, it'd be an option. And that that's not how insurance works.

I don't know, you keep making un-founded assertions as though they were fact then demanding an opportunity to prove them. I don't understand why you're suggesting that this is some big money-making scam when it's far more profitable for these companies to increase transaction volume than to skim 'chargeback insurances' which just aren't that big a portion of interchange.

Let me ask this: how much do you think chargebacks actually cost and do you have data to back this up.

[1] https://www.adyen.com/blog/all-you-need-to-know-about-the-eu...

[2] https://squareup.com/guides/credit-card-processing-fees-and-...


Part 2 because "that comment was too long":

> In what way is my getting a one-month-free loan a gimmick?

The thing that actually pays for that is the "oops" that regularly happens at scale when busy people trying to maximize their "free loan period" miss the deadline for the late fee and then get whacked with a charge high enough to subsidize "free loans" for everybody else.

Notice that most banks have an auto-pay option for making the minimum payment every month or some other fixed amount, but not one for automatically making a payment in exactly the amount that you owe that month, on the last day that you owe it.

It's also a bit of sleight of hand to begin with, because the bank has extremely low borrowing costs on one hand (the money in your account doesn't physically exist and they're only required to keep a small fraction of it in reserve), and on the other hand the risk of non-repayment is already priced into the nature of the credit card whether it's one day or thirty, so their cost is negligible. But that also implies that they could still do it even if you couldn't issue a chargeback to the merchant, and make their money in the same way (late fees and high interest charges).

> It's the foundation on which I structure my personal finances, secure in the knowledge if someone defrauds me I don't have to pay until it's resolved.

Then you would pay for the insurance anyway, as would other people like you, so what does that do to your argument that it would become unaffordable?

Though even you probably don't need it for <$100 purchases.

> If you start letting people waive the cost of insurance adverse selection kicks in so now only the people who plan to abuse the system pay for the insurance making it prohibitively expensive. This is why you don't allow people whose houses are on fire to buy fire insurance. Or why until recently you couldn't get health care in the individual market that covered pre-existing conditions. Why on earth wouldn't you not get cover until you needed it then buy it? Because that's not how insurance works.

But that's not how this would work either. You can't wait until after the merchant defrauds you and then buy the insurance. You have to do it at the time of purchase.

Then basically nobody would do it for small purchases from trustworthy merchants, but there is no reason to do it in that case, and that's the point. Meanwhile if you're going to spend $2000 for a refundable ticket you want to make sure is actually refundable, go ahead and pay the extra few percent. But don't do it for the non-refundable ticket and waste the money for nothing, because disputing the charge in that case would be fraud and paying a premium for the ability to is not very valuable.

And yes, the cost of the insurance would be a bit higher because everyone who plans to burn down their house for the insurance money is first going to buy fire insurance, and not requiring everyone else to buy fire insurance means the cost of the arson has to be spread over fewer people. But that doesn't cause fire insurance to be unviable -- and if you want it to cost less, the answer is not to force everybody else to subsidize arson, it's to reduce the amount of arson. But forcing insurance on everyone only creates more of them, because you cause there to be more people in a position to make money by collecting an insurance payout from insurance they wouldn't have bought but were forced to anyway. (The analog here being e.g. people with buyer's remorse wrongfully disputing credit card charges.)

> Debit cards?

Debit cards use different rules than credit cards but they still allow chargebacks under many circumstances. They also typically have fees but not rewards, so people avoid them.

> I'm saying the value you're suggesting doesn't exist. If it did, it'd be an option. And that that's not how insurance works.

Part of the reason it doesn't exist is that laws don't really allow it. It's not a free market outcome. But the credit card companies are largely the ones who control those laws, so it's still completely reasonable to blame them for it.

> I don't understand why you're suggesting that this is some big money-making scam when it's far more profitable for these companies to increase transaction volume than to skim 'chargeback insurances' which just aren't that big a portion of interchange.

The insurers get their vig on every transaction. That's why they want to maximize volume. But "maximize volume" doesn't actually help everybody else -- adding a million more transactions when 20% of them are fraudulent helps the payment processors because they get paid their full fee to process a million more transactions. But the fraud costs everyone else more than the value of those additional transactions. And the existence of insurance for transactions that would otherwise be trustworthy enough to conduct without it induces fraud, because there are many types of fraud only work against an insurer who doesn't know who to believe and not an honest counter-party who well knows whether they've provided you with goods and services or not.

The big cost isn't transaction profits, it's the cost of the fraud itself, which the payment processors are foisting onto everyone else.

> Let me ask this: how much do you think chargebacks actually cost and do you have data to back this up.

If you're just looking for numbers:

https://chargebacks911.com/chargeback-stats/

"All totaled, fraud costs the average merchant 1.47% of their total revenue."

But that's not including the destruction of businesses. When Best Buy eats the cost of fraud, they raise prices and you pay more. But what happens to anything controversial? Their chargeback rate gets above some threshold as a result of trolls and spouses questioning charges the other spouse doesn't want to admit to, and they get cut off by the payment processor and go out of business. What's the cost of that?


> Right, which drives up transaction volume which in turn means the payment network and the seller get more volume and more money.

It only drives up transaction volume for high risk transactions, which is bad because those are the ones that increase the amount of fraud.

> The risk is accounted for in interchange.

The risk is magnified from fraud taking advantage of the insurance. You have to pay more because the insurance is a deep pocket to steal from with weak ability to protect itself because the actual parties are no longer vested in preventing it. Or the cost of the "insurance payout" is paid by the merchant who knows that they're innocent but the payment processor has no way to know that.

> The bigger your risk pool the lower your cost. That's how insurance works. The more people you can socialize big losses over, the less you have to charge each person.

That's not how insurance works at all. You buy insurance because you and some other people each have a 0.1% risk of losing $100,000 and you would each rather pay $100 with 100% probability than $100,000 with 0.1% probability. For this to work it makes no difference whether there are a million other people or a billion. It only matters if you get down to something like 1000 people and even then your expected value is still the same, but there is a greater chance that your premium ends up as either $200 or $0 instead of $100. But we're not talking about population numbers that low here anyway.

And the socialized losses are the issue, because that's a moral hazard. Once you're insured you take bad risks and rely on the insurance to eat it, which raises costs for everybody.

When you have to insure a $100K+ loss you can't afford to suffer, you're willing to eat that overhead. But to insure a $100 loss? It makes no sense. You're going to make enough $100 purchases yourself that you can "self insure" cheaper than an insurance company with bureaucratic overhead and moral hazard can do it for you. It costs less to lose your modest purchase price a small percentage of the time than to pay a higher than that percentage for the insurance. And the amount you lose buying the insurance is inherently more than the amount you lose of your own on average unless the insurance company is losing money.

> Your margin on top is a function of your business goals. It's not strictly true that more people equals more money, you can always pass on the costs. Depends on where you make your money. A 501(c)(3) that offers insurance for instance would just charge less.

If your net margins per transaction as an insurer are a given percentage, you make more money by processing more transactions unless that percentage is zero or negative. A non-profit may purposely have zero margins, but then in what sense is it "in their interest" to have greater volume? (And how many non-profit major banks are you aware of?)

> 3% for card present is actually really high, I was using a blended average of the ~2.5ish% charged for card-present, 3ish% charged for online and 3.5ish% charged for card-not-present transactions at the point of sale to small and medium sized businesses. You can expect this to be 1% lower for merchants of substantial scale.

You're implying that "merchants of substantial scale" are paying an average of around 2%, or around 1.5% for card present transactions, for cards paying 2% cash back. That seems a bit fishy, doesn't it?

Square is using "let us mush all this together and average it out for you" pricing, but that only really works if they reject merchants with high chargeback rates etc., and still requires them to raise their rates if cards that give higher rewards by charging higher fees become more popular.

Meanwhile most other payment processors are going to impose chargeback fees on top of that, which is what we're really trying to avoid here -- plus the major cost that isn't in any of these numbers which is the cost of lost merchandise and labor when there is a fraudulent chargeback for goods and services already rendered.

> Again, see [2].

Right, so the merchant is paying 2.9% to Square, but the poor customer has a 0% cash back card because with their credit history it's all they can do to get a credit card offer at all. Then too many of the merchant's other low income customers commit fraud and they get kicked off of Square and have to suffer the high end of "between 2.87 percent and 4.35 percent" from whichever of Square's competitors will take them.

This customer might be quite pleased to precommit to not doing a chargeback with a trustworthy merchant in exchange for a ~4% discount.


I’m not quite following you here. Are you suggesting that there is an alternative to the current system that allows buyers and sellers to opt out of the ~2% fee built into prices to cover the cost of fraud?

And that this system is currently precluded by law?

As I understand it, merchants are now allowed to offer a lower price for cash purchases. The fact that so many merchants use credit card systems seems to speak to their marginal value.

My off-the-cuff analysis is that there is a certain amount of fraud that is inevitable with any non-cash transaction, especially those that allow chargebacks.

The credit card companies have tried to enforce the lack of a cash discount because it enables them to spread the costs across virtually the entire system of users. Without the ability to do this, I don’t see how a system as widely adopted as Visa and MasterCard could have got off the ground. This is what makes it work.

If we assume the cost of fraud is independent of the structures that determine who bears the cost (a big assumption) then the argument is going to be about how that cost is apportioned among users.

Since the system has been adopted, overwhelmingly, by both buyers and sellers, it seems reasonable to conclude that it has been a (huge) value add to the whole economic system.

If you allowed participants to use the system but opt out of paying what is essentially the insurance policy against fraud, the total cost of fraud in the system can’t go down without the gross level of transactions going down.

You seem to be saying that there should be a tiered, opt out system of fees. Buyers wanting to use their card in high risk (of fraud or chargebacks) industries, like porn, should bear the cost of providing the fraud insurance buy paying higher fees?

It begs the question why such a service is not being provided by the market. Essentially, credit card companies have come to the conclusion of providing such a service is not profitable.

In a sense, they are offering an “opt out” for the extreme cases like porn, by making it hard for the porn providers to offer credit card services at all.

Forcing a universal fee structure on everyone provides two huge advantages:

It facilitates the build-out of the network itself, which provides tremendous value to all users.

And it lowers the total cost of determining what the actual cost of fraud insurance should be. This cost would fall across all parties.

The card providers would have to build the industrial infrastructure to understand the costs at a more granular level. It would require both capital investment and ongoing costs to manage such a system. It would also incentivize non-productive activity around trying to “game” the system. Essentially it would be a new attack surface.

It would also move some of the costs of evaluating the risk of a given purchase onto the consumer. This would result in a large net increase in total costs as individuals who lack the skill and scale to properly do this would be forced into it. This would also result in a massive “duplication of effort.”

Intuitively, I think this would result in a large decline in overall economic activity, as it simply would not be worth the investment to make certain kinds of purchases.

The current system puts the costs of fraud mitigation into the entity who can provide it at the lowest cost.

There is also of course the simple argument that the credit card system is opt-in. It is possible to conduct business with cash or check. I use a tech who repairs speakers that I collect. He adds 3% to use Paypal. I opt to send him a check.

You can also send cash through the mail. In this instance, a transaction where the seller won’t release the product until they receive the funds provides the kind of transaction you want, where the entire risk of fraud (or loss) is borne by the buyer.

I think most small businesses at least would accept cash in person or the mail.

It’s not ideal, but my guess is that how the net cost of fraud protection with electronic transactions is distributed is pretty close to ideal.

This is just one of the many problems that render crypto-currency systems to be hopelessly expensive. The lack of ability to build in “socialized fraud protection cost” will prevent mass adoption.

They also suffer from the problem that the cost of securing the network should rise in a system lacking inflation as the total value of transactions increase.

The game theoretical costs of providing the minimum of security a proof-of-work system offers are hard to parse. But the current cost of bitcoin transactions is outrageously high, when accounting for mining cost.

IMO, the bitcoin system is being supported by a combination of outright fraud, speculative investment, and money laundering.

The real costs land in a very disproportionate manner, for example, when exchanges go belly up, or when an individual is scammed out a large sum.


The customer being able to decline chargeback per transaction is nonsense, because the primary use case is fraud; you don't want the fake "customer" being able to decline the real cardholder's ability to chargeback.

(There are chargebackless payments such as bank transfer; the £5k wood example above would be a good case for that.)


I'm pretty sure that they should be included as well here... the bigger issue is at what point, and to what extent should civil rights protections extend to publicly available platforms. ie Public Spaces in Private Ownership.


Is that right? I thought there were several payment service providers and interchange networks.


Visa/MC/Amex/Discover for Americans, with Visa being far in the lead.


> Antitrust enforcement in the US doesn't care about whiny competitors but if the enduser and customer is harmed

So why does it allow harmful mega-mergers of ISPs and corrupt buying of laws that forbid building municipal networks, which is just a tactic to cement local monopolies?

The whole net neutrality topic is primarily about competition law. And lawmakers still (supposedly) can't wrap their heads around such basic thing, dancing to the tune of said monopolists, who pull their strings with legalized corruption.


Replace "big tech" with "big banks" and this is almost word for word what I hear from my friends on Wall Street.

The fact is that these are some of the most powerful companies in the world. Tech has skated by with a tiny fraction of the scrutiny that similarly powerful industries get. You say that it doesn't appear customers have been harmed by these companies, but maybe it doesn't appear that way because nobody with any power has bothered to look.


This is actually a decent point, and tech has only recently realized that they need lobbyists in order to smooth the legislative runways (this is the most charitable description I could imagine for what is being done here).

Congress & the executive may want to look into this with cool heads rather than doing the lambasting song and dance. There’s a lot of s&p 500 money in the companies they are going after, and I’m getting the feeling that the “enormous tax cut” is really just gonna end up as cushion for trillions in dumbass value destruction.


Google has been lobbying for at least a decade. These big companies didn’t “recently realize” anything. It’s just come to light now because there isn’t an administration in control now that is politically aligned with them.


It's interesting how the media is owned by the ISPs.

They couldn't possibly be trying to redirect our attention after the Net Neutrality uproar and insane disapproval ratings for Ajit Pai -- could they?


The fact that I can't purchase any software for my iPhone without Apple taking a 30% cut absolutely harms me as a consumer. It naturally leads to higher prices.


15% when the subscription is over a year and the 30% cut only applies to digital goods so Uber, Lyft and food delivery, for instance, are exempt. My guess is these fees will continue to drop naturally over time, but they probably haven't dropped fast enough.


Other than government intervention, what incentive does Apple have to lower their fees, particularly as they intend for "services" to be an increased money maker going forward?

Perhaps more importantly, why should consumers be subject to Apple's good will? If consumers were able to acquire software from other sources, the market would naturally determine how much of a cut Apple actually deserves.


When people buy a different phone, obviously. If iPhones are so much more expensive that it’s harming you as a consumer, why don’t you switch to one of the many android options?


This is nonsense. You can just buy a different phone -- there are dozens of companies out there.

Apple's "tax" allows them to pay for software without selling my data. At the moment, I have a choice: 1) Buy software funded by spying on me (any Android phone) 2) Buy software funded by selling to me (and iPhone). If they're forced to "open up" their platform, then their revenue stream becomes more difficult, and I don't have choice any more.

If you want to have all your software funded by letting people spy on you, then go for it. But don't take away my choice.


> Apple's "tax" allows them to pay for software without selling my data.

It does? macOS seems to do well enough on the privacy front.

I don't think Apple's App Store, or its 30% cut, needs to disappear, but consumers should have the option of running software from outside the store too. That's adding choice, not taking it away.


> It does? macOS seems to do well enough on the privacy front.

And my laptop is a lot more expensive than my phone.

Look, you're presumably complaining because you either own, or want to own, an iPhone, in spite of there being dozens of other phones with similar features, and hundreds more with different features. The feature / price point combination of those phones are in part a result of the App Store policies. Changing that cut will change the feature / price point: they'd have to charge more, or give you less, or find alternate sources of revenue (i.e., start spying on you).

Now, maybe their business model would work fine without having to resort to ads or raise the prices too much. But maybe it won't. The only way to find out would be to risk destroying it. Which is completely unnecessary, given that there are so many alternatives.

If you don't like their policies, don't buy their phone. If Spotify doesn't like paying a 30% cut, they don't have to make an iPhone app. There are lots of other options out there.


> And my laptop is a lot more expensive than my phone.

It's not for many people. An iPhone X starts at $1,000.

> The feature / price point combination of those phones are in part a result of the App Store policies. Changing that cut will change the feature / price point: they'd have to charge more, or give you less, or find alternate sources of revenue (i.e., start spying on you).

Apple is a ridiculously profitable company. They quite literally have more money than they know what to do with, as evidenced by their enormous bank account.

I'm happy Apple has been so successful, but I also think a portion of their inordinate profitability has come from anticompetitive practices, namely how locked down the app store is. They don't have a right to that particular revenue stream.


but consumers should have the option of running software from outside the store too

They do. It just won't run on iOS. That's a choice Apple made, and by extension, a choice the purchaser made when they bought the phone. For example, it is a primary feature that holds some responsibility for my continued use of iOS.

That's adding choice, not taking it away.

Yeah, who is Apple to say that I didn't want my entire contact list uploaded to a Russian server? Maybe I like a little malware mixed in with my Kandy Krusher.

In summary, if you don't want to pay a 30% surcharge for vetted software and a system that ensures that those you support technically will load only vetted software, an iPhone probably isn't for you or your loved ones.


Ironically, I actually think a more open platform could increase privacy significantly. On a Mac, you can install Little Snitch to carefully monitor connections into and out of your phone. Security researchers also have the ability to probe apps as they see fit. Not on the iPhone.

The iPhones's closed nature also prevents security researchers from sufficiently examining third party apps for vulnerabilities.


That's all well and good, despite doing little to address my point, but you seem to be dodging the question of why you don't just go buy an Android phone. You don't like how the guy at the local convenience store treats you? Pound sand and go down the block to the other one. You have yet to explain why you don't do the same with phones. I happen to like the way iOS works in the this respect, and you sound like someone that just moved into the neighborhood complaining things that have been that way for the last 20 years.


Quite frankly, the primary reason I can't switch to Android is iMessage, which is used by my family and coworkers. (I also greatly prefer iOS's UI and touch response time.)

My current, personal solution is a Jailbroken iPhone, which I'm very happy with. But, I'm getting tired of worrying about what happens if my phone breaks and I can't get a new one on an exploitable firmware. I wish Apple would stop fighting to make this impossible. Build in a switch to unlock the bootloader or what have you, and nothing will change for the rest of the user base.

> You sound like someone that just moved into the neighborhood complaining things that have been that way for the last 20 years.

Is Comcast not a monopoly because you have the option to move to a different city?

If the only neighborhood with good jobs and a good school also prevented me from buying my own furniture, I'd complain.


I think you would have a hard time proving this, because software prices are much (much) cheaper than they were pre-app store.


That assertion seems harder to prove than the assertion that a 30% built-in cost leads to higher prices.


How is it harder to prove? It's completely provable and even a huge complaint of developers of the platform.

Everyone expects free/0.99 apps and it costs way more to produce and support them.

Apps, before we had an app store, were absolutely more expensive than this.

Which apps are expensive?

Not to defend Apple here, but when the store was introduced people didn't mind the 30% hit because: 1. Credit card processing wasn't as easy as it is today, and the store takes care of all that 2. Store hands distribution and listing

Before the app store we actually had to go to a physical store to buy software. Sure some you could buy online but really not all that much (comparatively) and discoverability was basically "hope someone with a big blog or CNET review it".

Of course now it is difficult to be discovered because there's tons and tons of other things out there. CC processing is not difficult and there are companies like Stripe that you can go through... etc.


> antitrust enforcement in the US doesn't care about whiny competitors but if the enduser and customer is harmed and it doesn't appear to be the case when it comes to any of these corporations

One, the House Judiciary Committee is also investigating. That not only makes the investigations bipartisan (though the DoJ is technically nonpartisan). It also introduces the potential for new legislation.

Two, there has been consumer harm. It's just not dollar-denominated harm. From a recent New York Times article:

"In 2007, for example, Facebook introduced a program that recorded users’ activity on third-party sites and inserted it into the News Feed. Following public outrage and a class-action lawsuit, Facebook ended the program. 'We’ve made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we’ve made even more with how we’ve handled them,' Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, wrote in a public apology.

This sort of thing happened regularly for years. Facebook would try something sneaky, users would object and Facebook would back off.

But then Facebook’s competition began to disappear. Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014. Later in 2014, Google announced that it would fold its social network Orkut. Emboldened by the decline of market threats, Facebook revoked its users’ ability to vote on changes to its privacy policies and then (almost simultaneously with Google’s exit from the social media market) changed its privacy pact with users.

This is how Facebook usurped our privacy: with the help of its market dominance. The price of using Facebook has stayed the same over the years (it’s free to join and use), but the cost of using it, calculated in terms of the amount of data that users now must provide, is an order of magnitude above what it was when Facebook faced real competition" [1].

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/28/opinion/privacy-antitrust...


there is a long list of companies and markets worthy of antitrust scrutiny... The real drag on the economy are the high prices of healthcare and housing

I'm curious what you see as the antitrust violations that lead to high housing prices?


The housing case is non-traditional because the entity the cartel organizes through is the local government rather than a corporation.

You have to live somewhere to get a vote there, so the people (sellers) who already own property in a location get a vote while the people (buyers) who are about to move there don't until after they have and have switched from customer to owner. The result is that the existing property owners have a lock on the local government and pass anti-competitive rules that constrain the housing supply and raise prices.

You might think renters would help there, but there are areas where the majority are not renters, and the areas with majority renters often end up with abominations like rent control which cause market rents to go even higher while neutralizing the threat to the anti-competitive rules by paying off just enough of the tenants to retain local majority support.


I don't think that's really an anti-trust problem, and I don't think you can call a majority of voters in an area a "cartel". It's a matter of giving the majority of residents/voters what they want, even if it's bad for them in the long run.


> I don't think that's really an anti-trust problem

What kind of problem is it then? High prices being maintained by a purposeful conspiracy of existing owners to constrain supply sure sounds a lot like an antitrust problem.

> It's a matter of giving the majority of residents/voters what they want, even if it's bad for them in the long run.

But it's not necessarily bad for them. They make more money by monopolizing the local real estate market in the same way as any other cartel monopolizes anything.

Even if their choices are bad for the city itself, they may be planning to sell and move to another area before the long-term negative consequences to the city are felt.


> What kind of problem is it then?

Regulatory capture?


That's hardly mutually exclusive with cartel behavior


It’s still a cartel from a market perspective. They are colluding to control supply.


You're painting a picture of greedy homeowners restricting housing to make their investments go up. But there are other, more legitimate reasons for homeowners to resist turning every town into high-density mega-apartments. Some people highly value a quiet neighborhood. Some people (like myself) are extremely sensitive to the sounds of neighbors playing music with subwoofers. Good luck avoiding that in a high-density apartment (you'd need about 5 feet of solid concrete to damp out a loud subwoofer next door).


then dont live in a city.


Sure, I'll go move out into the country. And others like me will do the same. And then soon people will start whining about how expensive it is to join us, because of the low population density, and how we ought to replace our houses with apartments...


There are two prominent examples of antitrust/monopoly problems in the U.S. real estate market: MLS and dual agency. The MLS seems to be complicit in forcing home sellers into paying higher buyer agent commissions: https://therealdeal.com/national/2019/05/22/doj-demands-core...

With consolidation of real estate brokerage firms, many home buyers may have overpaid due to a single firm representing both home seller and buyer, known as dual agency: https://therealdeal.com/2019/05/01/houlihan-lawrence-fails-t...

There is a third issue of large private equity firms buying large volumes of houses that may, in the future, warrant an antitrust investigation.


I agree that being forced into 6% commission regardless of the effort it took to buy/sell your house is a problem, I don't think that extra few percent is what's pricing people out of buying a home.


The effective cost implications are more likely 10-12% at each sale. A seller will try to increase the price of the house to cover these commissions.

Your comment is focused on buying a home, but there can be dramatic consequences for home owners, the stakeholders forced into paying both agents.

When a seller has little equity and a poor housing market, exiting a primary mortgage can be financially impossible. A recent survey found a large fraction of the US can't handle a surprise $400 expense. So the follow-on effects of these commissions are not trivial for a large swath of the country.

I also agree that depending on location (looking at you SF metro) there are much bigger factors, e.g. constrained supply, inflating home prices.


Just so you know, that "$400 expense" survey has been widely misreported: https://www.politifact.com/california/statements/2019/apr/19...


>>> I'm curious what you see as the antitrust violations that lead to high housing prices?

https://www.nar.realtor/about-nar


I don't understand why you're being down voted... It's a valid question. Nothing pops into my head when I imagine a corporation that owns a majority of real estate. It's a conversation worth having.


The closest I can think of is mobile home manufacturing. Berkshire Hathaway has 52% of the market (up from 17% in 2007).

https://concentrationcrisis.openmarketsinstitute.org/industr...


I agree with the sentiment of the comment you're responding to, but I also think this is a valid question and don't understand why your comment appears to be downvoted.


I agree with his overall sentiment too, there are lots of cases of monopolistic practices harming consumers, but I just don't see the same thing with housing prices. Low interest rate loans and restrictive zoning seems to be more of a problem than a few companies colluding together to drive up housing prices.


The difficulty is that antitrust law as originally written did care about "whiny competitors", not just harm to the consumer, but the Justice Department in the Reagan era changed their standards (without changing the law) and both Democratic and Republican administrations went along with it.


As the article goes into, the consumer welfare standard that you mention is an interpretation of the Sherman Act, not a cut-and-dry statutory phrasing. Changes in either judicial thought or legislation could still put "big tech" in danger, even if they don't run afoul of the consumer welfare standard. I would hope that questions of competition and influence would be asked in the digital age, hopefully without the malign influence of the media and "whiny competitors."


> "...he US doesn't care about whiny competitors but if the enduser and customer is harmed..."

It's difficult for me to imagine the Justice Dept being able to argue that "customers" were harmed...using services that were free.


> It's difficult for me to imagine the Justice Dept being able to argue that "customers" were harmed...using services that were free.

C'mon, not offering any choice in how you pay for the service is inherently anti-consumer behavior. It's certainly not free, and they certainly never offer the consumer any insight into exactly how they are paying for it.


> C'mon, not offering any choice in how you pay for the service is inherently anti-consumer behavior.

This might be the best take I've heard yet. What constitutes choice in method of payment. Since it appears you consider "forcing users to pay with data" to be anti-consumer, is "forcing users to pay with dollars" equally anti-consumer? Does that make, like, restaurants that don't let you pay with personal info anti-consumer? What about companies that take data and don't offer anything in return (Equifax et. al, ISPs, etc.)


I'm not against paying with currency, except insofar as this inherently benefits a subset of humanity. But the issue is not that ads are inherently bad, it's that the interaction is inherently dishonest. A more honest way would allow you, the end-user, to bid for the same ad spots to allow a proper valuation of the ad to the perspective of the consumer. My impression is that Google goes to large efforts to obscure the 'value' of a web page from consumers. If there were proper exchanges between ads and money this might make sense, though I can only imagine the number of ads you might watch to pay for a meal would drive anyone insane.

Plus, ads try to target users with money, so presumably their value is proportional to your value. That's probably also a key reason why you don't see this anywhere: it's a blatantly classist practice.


My recollection is that google has tried variants on what you suggest (contributor). Publishers don't like it (I don't know why), and I think I recall consumers not wanting to pay enough.


> https://contributor.google.com/v/beta

If this is a serious effort it's incredibly disappointing.

> Publishers don't like it (I don't know why), and I think I recall consumers not wanting to pay enough.

Not wanting to pay enough for what? To even justify giving us a choice? Inexcusable.


> If this is a serious effort it's incredibly disappointing.

This was the second attempt, after a previous one (in 2015?) also failed.

> Not wanting to pay enough for what? To even justify giving us a choice? Inexcusable.

To justify providing a service. Unfortunately Google isn't a charity. To clarify, my recollection is that contributor leads to less revenue because consumers are unwilling to pay as much as advertisements provide for the same site. That means that either

1. You as a consumer have to pay more than you're willing (and maybe you're willing to pay more, but not enough people are)

2. Google subsidizes contributor users

3. Publishers take less money.

It appears you're suggesting that its inexcusable that a corporation doesn't want to subsidize your preferences.


Google makes it obvious they make money from advertising. You are not forced to use google products. It’s going to be really hard to make an anti-consumer argument here when you’re essentially saying you want google’s product but don’t want to pay the advertising price.

That’s like saying McDonald’s is anti-consumer because they don’t let you buy a cheeseburger by singing a song.


> You are not forced to use google products.

That's like saying "you're not forced to use a car to travel", it's just not practical to use the internet without it for many reasons.

> It’s going to be really hard to make an anti-consumer argument here when you’re essentially saying you want google’s product but don’t want to pay the advertising price.

I'm looking for a transaction rather than pimping your data in a completely opaque manner, which is inherently an anti-social interaction, for the end of selling you products you don't want and don't need, another anti-social interaction. It doesn't need to be this way.


My cynical suspicion is that the tech giant's platforms allow for citizen organization in a way that the other ignored monopolies do not.


Big tech does many scummy things in the name of corporate greed, far from misguided, this is overdue.


In my career, first it was IBM, the unstoppable juggernaut that was going to take over the world. Then it was Microsoft, and everyone forgot about IBM. Then it was Apple, and everyone forgot about Microsoft.

Before IBM, it was RCA. Everyone has forgotten about RCA.

It's like in retail. First it's Sears, the unstoppable juggernaut that will take over the world. Then it's Walmart, and Sears is bankrupt. Now it's Amazon, and Walmart is the underdog.

It's almost as if the theory that monopolies inevitably grow to take over the world has serious problems :-)


I'm not sure I find your examples convincing.

MS still firmly monopolizes desktop OS (over 85% market share there). Sure, that market has lost weight due to the rise of mobile, but last I checked we're all still doing our day jobs on desktop computers, and for most office workers (who aren't developers), that's synonymous with working on a Windows machine. For 20-30 years people have had effectively no freedom to choose their OS and there's no change in sight.

Not sure why you're bringing Apple up since they never really were a monopoly. I don't think their very brief ownership of the smartphone and tablet market counts as a monopoly, that's just called being first to market.

I'm not American so I'm less acquainted with Walmart, but a quick Google search shows their stock isn't nosediving either.


Marketshare != Monopolizing

Microsoft would have to be doing anticompetitive behavior to be monopolizing the desktop market. Things such as forcing OEMs to not allow linux support, or banning iTunes installation on Windows. Simply being popular isn't the same as a monopoly.

Apple has, on the other hand, been monopolizing their iOS devices with the app store. It is the only way to install apps on iOS and Apple has played fast and loose with competitors (like Spotify) in the past: https://www.macrumors.com/2019/06/03/eu-awaiting-apple-respo...


> Microsoft would have to be doing anticompetitive behavior to be monopolizing the desktop market

No. I think the distinction here is important and worth being mindful of.

Whether or not a company is abusing their monopoly position has no bearing on whether or not they are a monopoly. You can't abuse a monopoly position if you aren't a monopoly to begin with, after all.

The distinction is important because in the US it's perfectly legal to be a monopoly. What's illegal is the abuse of your monopoly position.

I think by any fair standard, Microsoft can be considered to have a monopoly in the desktop market, whether or not they're leveraging that monopoly in illegal ways.


Microsoft has a long history of illegal anti-competitive behavior going back decades. I particularly remember an attempt to break Lotus Notes in a service pack that backfired and broke Windows servers.

This was as they were building up Exchange.


You're right, but the victory is pyrrhic. Sure, by the dictionary definition of the word "monopoly", you've got a point, but in the actionable legal sense, you do not, and it's in the legal sense that we're discussing (not all that accurately, admittedly).

Everyone here who isn't talking about semantics is using the word monopoly to mean "abusive monopoly".


I think by any fair standard, Microsoft can be considered to have a monopoly in the desktop market

How? Lots of people I know use Macs, and developers/techie types frequently use Linux.

Windows is the most popular for some types of business, arguably most types, but it doesn't have a monopoly within the desktop space.


Again, simply being dominant in a market _is not_ being a monopoly.

Monopolies are definitively the exclusive control or possession of the supply of the market. Just as a Monopsony is exclusive control or possession of the demand in a market. Microsoft has dominant market position but they do not control the entire supply of OS, hence they are the popular choice but not the exclusive choice.

Whether or not a monopoly is legal or illegal is non sequitur, since it doesn't apply in context here. There are plenty of legal, regional monopolies that benefit consumers from such regulation in utilities, but those are not tech markets.


I'm not sure where you're getting your definitions, but they're not the ones used by the justice department.

"An unlawful monopoly exists when one firm controls the market for a product or service, and it has obtained that market power, not because its product or service is superior to others, but by suppressing competition with anticompetitive conduct." [1]

That's somewhat different from your definition in that it is deliberately open to interpretation (the Sherman Act, for instance, doesn't actually define monopoly) and revolves around anti-competitive conduct rather than exclusive control of supply (which isn't required - ex. Microsoft never had 100% of the OS market, nor did Standard Oil have 100% of the oil market).

[1] https://www.justice.gov/atr/antitrust-laws-and-you


That is because the DOJ website is only interested in defining lawful vs unlawful monopoly, not defining what a monopoly is.

The definition of the word "Monopoly" is already widely denoted as supply side control:

- Wikipedia: The exclusive possession or control of the supply of or trade in a commodity or service. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopoly)

- Investopedia: A monopoly exists when a single entity is the sole provider of a particular asset or service. (https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/032415/whats-differ...)

- Oxford Dictionary: The exclusive possession or control of the supply of or trade in a commodity or service. (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/monopoly)


The definition of the word "Monopoly" is already widely denoted as supply side control:

That's obviously too narrow. Someone controlling the demand side could be just as obnoxious. A company in a company town is in control of the demand side of the labor market, for example.


So you think Oxford Dictionary, Wikipedia, and Investopedia are all too narrow with words?

Control of the demand side of a market is called a Monopsony, not Monopoly. It's mentioned in the thread above, more info here: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/monopsony.asp


You are correct, sir! I remember now HN has had this discussion before. However, I think most people would refer to both a Monopsony and Monopoly as the latter.


No, that’s not true. People rarely even consider that there is a special term for being the only buyer or controlling all of the buyers.

I can’t think of any scenarios where people referred to the military as having a monopoly on the missile market. It doesn’t make sense because it doesn’t even make missiles.


I can’t think of any scenarios where people referred to the military as having a monopoly on the missile market.

But Farmers being ravaged by middlemen would use that term about the middlemen buying their crops.


This always comes up - the vocabulary we use in this discussion has been heavily tainted over the years by those who would most benefit by broadening the definition of monopoly. Keep fighting the fight. Precision in language is vital on this front.


They have patents on a lot of stuff. I think cut and paste was one but memory might be off. They use patent suits to suck billions out of Android suppliers. We'd probably have seen that with Windows-compatible desktops like ReactOS if they got mature enough with enough users.

Further, Oracle going for the API ruling means companies like them could monopolize at API level by making ports even riskier and costlier. Then, there's the interface look-and-feel which Apple likes suing over. That's at least three ways they can go after competitors.


Well, I’m that case Microsoft has been monopolizing their XBox’s as well as Nintendo and Sony with their consoles since you can’t buy physical or digital games without the respective owner’s approval.


> Microsoft would have to be doing anticompetitive behavior

You mean like when they actually did and got caught? I'm not sure I understand your take.


We're talking about now, not 20 years ago when they were fined and forced to change their practices.


What does that even mean? Apple is monopolizing their product. Yes, all companies monopolize their own products. That’s the basics of product protection. McDonalds monopolizes their BigMacs and they are miss using that monopoly because you can’t buy a menu that includes Burger Kings Twister fries?

Apple isn’t forced to provide alternative app stores like hacker news isn’t forced to provide third-party plugin support support in their backend, and amazon isn’t forced to allow you to place arbitrary products on their market place. That’s not abuse of monopolies, that’s just having a product and deciding not to be as open some users or nonusers want them to be.

Now if Apple went and told app developers that they will not accept apps that have android versions on the App Store, that would be miss-use of their market position.(and their market position is not a monopoly, there are tons of competitors and Apple only has around 15% market share.)


> It's almost as if the theory that monopolies inevitably grow to take over the world has serious problems.

That's a straw man. No one is saying monopolies are immortal. An economy where monopoly usurps monopoly, one after the other in a continuous cycle is a problem, too.

If you want a real debate, make the case that the world wouldn't be better off if these tech giants were split up like Ma Bell was in the 1950's and forced to compete without the benefits of being able to buy out the first hint of competition. Make the case that we're better off having ONE giant social network, ONE giant online retailer. How often are promising young product or service companies bought out by giant companies just to be left to dry on the vine, no longer a threat to their new owners? Is this what a healthy economy looks like?


If you had multiple social networks, people would still aggregate toward one. That’s kind of the definition of a network.


> No one is saying monopolies are immortal

But they do! They main complaint about monopolies is that they're impossible to outcompete.


Which holds true for both IBM and Microsoft. Both still hold (virtual) monopolies in their respective markets: Mainframes / desktop OS. It's just that these markets are no longer the most important. That's also the reason the EU antitrust law looks at abusing your current power to get a leg up in a new market (e.g. by manipulating search results to promote your shopping service. One of the many things that got Google in hot water in the EU).


> Both still hold (virtual) monopolies in their respective markets: Mainframes / desktop OS. It's just that these markets are no longer the most important.

That's actually a good point. Thanks!

Of course what's a "market" can be defined in a zillion ways, depending on what point you want to make. It's good to remember that "market" is a theoretical construct, not something tangibly real.


AT&T operated as a monopoly until 1984. Antitrust proceedings started in 1974. It had lots of operating subsidiaries like New York Telephone before that, but they were all the same company and system.


> Make the case that we're better off having ONE giant social network, ONE giant online retailer.

That's a straw man. I see no need to assume that a case needs to be made for one or many social networks or online retailers. I understand you think there is one, but I think this is an odd "choice" you believe we are supposed to somehow make as a society through government. Why are we (you) saying we need legislators or courts to decide what the exactly correct number number and size of social networks is? Like it or not, it seems the people have spoken. We want a few large social networks that are owned by publicly traded companies, and many small, esoteric ones very few people have heard about.

> How often are promising young product or service companies bought out by giant companies just to be left to dry on the vine, no longer a threat to their new owners?

They don't have to accept those offers. If they really wanted to "threaten" these companies rather than seeking to be bought, they wouldn't have been bought.


Don't forget AT&T. They became a monopoly, and wiped out everyone else. Whole industries would have probably not arisen if they hadn't been blocked by anti-trust. And then they were split up.

If you have a land line, odds are that your local phone, your long distance service, and your cell carrier are all carried by pieces of AT&T. Pieces that would have reassembled if not blocked by anti-trust. And even if your provider is actually new, they could not have come into existence without rules requiring interoperability.

Some monopolies are "natural", as in once one is established, it is hard to squeeze in on them. For example there is no point to a phone that can't call all the people you want to call. So everyone naturally gravitates to the same network. Most businesses are not natural monopolies. Just because my friends shop at Ralph's doesn't mean that I can't shop at Safeway.

Whether you have a natural monopoly isn't a question of size, it is a question of the unit economics. Retail is a notable example where your advantage as the 800 pound gorilla only goes so far. But technology has many examples where your advantage can be more lasting. (AT&T's decades long monopoly is the best example.)


The government sanctioned AT&T’s monopoly in exchange for building the world’s most capable telecommunications. They’d probably still be the only telecom, if they could have behaved.


AT&T and other real monopolies were created by the government.


At the same time, it was Bell Labs that invented the transistor and other incredibly important things. What would the world have been like without a Bell Labs?


Yes. And then they were prevented from going into computers. Else IBM would have never had a shot.


> It's almost as if the theory that monopolies inevitably grow to take over the world has serious problems :-)

Even if they don't last forever they cause harm while they are around. The theory isn't that monopolies allow companies to last forever but that they prevent competition and harm consumers.


I know that it isn't binart but I can't help but note the irony: if they don't last forever and their demise isn't from obsolescence but a competitor isn't that a statement contradicting preventing competition?

One could be technically more precise and limit prevention to "full effectiveness in all in their domain" or use it loosely enough that simply making one potential competitor unable to set up due to lower margins or investment in efficency is not wrong in a pendantic sense separate from the legal definitions.


> I know that it isn't binart but I can't help but note the irony: if they don't last forever and their demise isn't from obsolescence but a competitor isn't that a statement contradicting preventing competition?

You're right and I also mispoke when I said monopolies cause harm in and of themselves. The issue isn't monopolies but when companies use their position as a monopoly in an anticompetitive way.


> It's almost as if the theory that monopolies inevitably grow to take over the world has serious problems :-)

I'm not sure the sequence of progressively bigger monopolies is a positive thing.


It's almost like many of the very companies you mentioned were subject to antitrust investigations and without antitrust laws hanging above their heads like a sword of Damocles would be free to use their vast fortunes to stamp out any competition that threatened them ^.^


Now it's even worse, we have the FAANG monopoly:

Five monopolies at the same time!!


oligopoly


For both IBM and Microsoft, I would argue that anti-trust cases at least contributed to their fall from the top.

https://www.nytimes.com/1981/02/15/business/us-vsibm.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Microsoft_Cor....


Don't know about IBM, but in case of Microsoft it was some really horrible technical decisions and a lot of internal fights that caused their downfall.

Well, maybe downfall is a harsh word for a company still very successful & profitable...


IBM is still very successful and profitable as well.


For IBM, I would definitely say that it was primarily incompetence from executives and an overwhelming level of bureaucracy/gridlock that led to its downfall. Microsoft under Steve Balmer was largely the same after Bill left.


The anti trust case had nothing to do with MS losing dominance. It is still dominant on the desktop.

- it lost the browser war because it basically disbanded the team for years

- it lost the mobile market because they tried to do Windows everywhere.


I would say the anti-trust case/ruling has certainly curtailed abusive behavior, though.


The only “abusive” behavior it curtailed was not allowing them to forbid OEMs from installing alternate operating systems - that didn’t make a difference.


Hmm...Microsoft is currently valued at close to a trillion dollars and, AFAIK, the most valuable traded company on earth.


IBM's fall happened long after the anti-trust action against them. It's Microsoft that tipped them over, not government regulators, and IBM made one disastrous mistake after another, starting with the PS/2.

While MS was convicted of anti-trust, there wasn't much of any action taken against them. The reasons for them slipping would make for an interesting book.


IBMs fall began with the PC, which they made an open design explicitly because of anti-trust pressures. They lost control of the design and the market on PCs, which led to the rise of, well, most of the market since then. Your comments are wrong enough to be attempts at revision of history.


> which they made an open design explicitly because of anti-trust pressures.

AFAIK, they didn't not, in fact, make it an “open design” intentionally. They published clear specs to encourage peripheral development, which also helped clone makers, but the BIOS was proprietary and had to be reverse engineered by clone makers to be legal. IBM sued several clone makers for infringement (largely for copying rather than reverse engineering the BIOS) and forced them to shutter, which presumably would not have happened if the design was intentionally open.


I suppose it's possible to have a difference of opinion on the meaning of "open". The BIOS was the only bit of the design that IBM had any IP in, and they definitely intended other hardware manufacturers to make compatible products, if not perhaps entire systems.

It's important to remember the regulatory environment that IBM had operated in at the time.

For more than a decade it had been illegal for IBM to exclude 3rd party hardware makers from its mainframe market, beginning with the so-called "plug compatible" peripherals, which resulted in publishing standards for the IBM Channel interface, the prohibition on refusing to allow e.g. 3rd party memory for mainframes, and importantly, the requirement that IBM license its operating systems and software to run on any manufacturer's hardware.

This was the environment that the PC was designed in. The (IMO) open design - which was not an accident - was really the only possibility that IBM had while still holding to those earlier legal restrictions on bundling, tying, and license restriction.

The fact that Compaq could reverse-engineer the BIOS was inevitable given the market opportunity. IBM tried to hold on to that thin reed but it was a doomed effort. As the "PC Compatible" market took off IBM became irrelevant to much of the growth in the industry.


> was really the only possibility that IBM had while still holding to those earlier legal restrictions on bundling, tying, and license restriction.

How does that fit in with the IBM PS/2 design, which was carefully closed?


The PS2 was released in 1987, 5 years after the US antitrust suit against IBM ended, and after IBM no longer had a monopoly position in the PC market.

It was a different era and the horses had left the barn. The PS/2 was a dead end. The original PC architecture, openly evolved, is still generating hundreds of billions in revenue each year - just not for IBM.


I'm still interested in a reference that says the IBM PC being open was a result of anti-trust.


> IBMs fall began with the PC,

IBM was enormously successful with the PC, so successful that IBM was assumed throughout the 80's that they would continue to utterly dominate the desktop market. (See the humorous 1984 Apple ad for what people thought of IBM and the PC at the time.) Everyone quaked in their boots when a new PC was imminent.

> which they made an open design explicitly because of anti-trust pressures.

I haven't heard that before in histories of the PC I've read. The way I read it was IBM made it open to cut costs and because they didn't think the PC would be a big market.

Additionally, IBM closed the design of the later PS/2 and fenced it in with patents in order to continue dominating the PC market and fend off clones, which contradicts the idea that such behavior would entice anti-trust action.

Do you have a reference for your version?


It's practice, not just theory. There's a good reason companies are effective at a certain scale and beyond that it's an impending disaster.


I agree, it's bullshit. Not only that, but monopolies are not a bad thing, as long as they are not government granted ones.


A monopoly regulates supply to extract more money from the consumer than a competitive market could. What's the good parts?


Theoretical "perfect" competition eats all money that could go toward R&D, by making profits razor-thin. It's an awful way to exist that no sane person who's thought it through actually wants—assuming it could ever exist stably for any length of time, which, probably not.

Going the other direction, monopolies leave the most money available for R&D. Japan famously leveraged the power of a small set of huge players—not monopolies, but very, very far from "perfect competition" markets, certainly—to drive post-WWII R&D, ensuring their continued success by delivering them a captive domestic market while pooling their excess funds with cooperation-encouraging incentives (=more money, from the government) to rapidly improve their tech and productive capabilities, aiming to become an export powerhouse. It worked.

This is not meant to be a defense of monopolies, especially those not firmly under the yoke of government to ensure all that excess is captured in some way for something resembling the public good, but the situation is more complex than one might first think, and whether one may prefer a huge number of market participants or a small number could be very much situational.


They can avoid unnecessary redundant infrastructure as an example. Imagine trying to dig for construction when there are 30 potential cable companies running utilities underground.


That's why utilities like electricity and gas are tightly regulated to protect consumers.


I don't disagree but the movement has been to deregulate these exact examples. A customer can literally buy electricity from a provider one thousand miles away at a cheaper rate if they live in a deregulated area.


But this is only possible because regulators force the local provider to allow the distant provider to use their infrastructure at a fair price.


I don't think that's exactly right. Energy prices are broken down to generation and transmissions costs. The transmission costs remain regulated, but generation can charge a market price.

Regulated transmission prevents other providers from creating redundant infrastructure in a deregulated environment. Deregulation is possible not because of regulated infrastructure but in spite of it. I.e. Deregulation could still exist without regulated transmission but it was deemed to be in the public interest to reduce redundant infrastructure.

Incidentally, the 'public interest' has been one of the claims of moving to a deregulated market, with the thought that this would provide lower utility costs. However, this hasn't always worked out:

https://fuelfix.com/blog/2016/06/08/deregulated-texas-electr...


> monopolies are not a bad thing, as long as they are not government granted ones.

I disagree. Outside of "natural monopolies", monopolies are bad things whether government-granted or not.


What is a natural monopoly depends on government regulation. In particular regulations granting access from one company's system to another's can stop natural monopolies from being natural monopolies.

A simple example is that the pattern of long thin property rights needed to create a railway system completely blocks anyone from creating criss-crossing railroads that would allow them to compete. But government rules forcing the initial company to allow competitors to cross or share its railways will create competition.

Forced access to long distance telephone networks has the same effect.


No, they are good because they are not forced ones. Like google, anyone could use any other search engine, like I do using duckduckgo. If people use google, it's because they think it's very good and they don't find something that is so much better that they'd leave.


Natural monopolies are just as bad if they exploit their monopoly, which they will certainly do if they’re left to their own devices.


What about government granted regulated monopolies like utilities?


So the companies that have more or less sprung up out of nowhere are...to blame for the economic stagnation of the middle class over the last 40 to 50 years?

Pardon the editorial but here we go again, politicians pinning the tail on the wrong donkey (i.e., spinning root causes out of symptoms and correlation); the voters will fall for it, and five to ten years down the road we'll all realize we wasted our time (as the root causes further strengthened their stranglehold).


Unsurprising. The government needs to appease the public after killing net neutrality.

And, now that ISPs don't need to follow net neutrality, the regional broadband monopolies are free to zero-rate their own video services like AT&T openly does [1]. Next they can throttle Netflix, charge them a premium, and pass costs to the consumer without taking any sort of financial hit for doing so.

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


This seems unrelated. What does this have to do with net neutrality?


Fair question. IMO this is the government trying to appease the public after they refused to maintain net neutrality, despite overwhelming public support for the policy. I've edited my comment to make that clear.


I have not heard anyone complain in person about the government killing net neutrality. The general public is not harboring resentment about it.


You must be joking. It was front page here and r/technology for months before net neutrality was repealed.

There is no question that public support for net neutrality is broad and bipartisan. The only question that remains is which 2020 candidates will stand up to say they support net neutrality.


I think their point is that outside of some online communities (i.e. most people in the public sphere) there isn't interest or even awareness to net neutrality.


Oh I see now. Thanks for pointing that out.

I agree it's not a top 5 issue now, but I believe this is our generation's first amendment torch. We can carry it, or let it go out. To that end, I tend to ignore anyone who suggests "this isn't important" or has the defeatist view that "nobody else understands this" because it is our job to share it with them.


> general public

> front page of r/technology

If you think the average person follows r/technology, you may live in a bubble.


Point is people who understand NN support it. I did not mean to imply non-techies get it, only that when they do, they largely support it.


> Point is people who understand NN support it.

Absolutely wrong. Among people who understand NN and oppose it are people like Bob Kahn, Marc Andreessen, David Farber, David Clark, Louis Pouzin, and Jeff Pulver, not to mention numerous economists.


Have the net founders in that list discussed the topic recently? I only see results from 2007, and it's about legislation, not policy, so it could have meant something different at that time.

It is unsurprising that investors like Andreessen are opposed to net neutrality: they stand to get richer without it. Regional broadband monopolies can strong arm content providers for higher prices by zero-rating services that become "part of the [insert telecom name here] network".

Regional broadband monopolies suck.


> Have the net founders in that list discussed the topic recently? I only see results from 2007

You must not have searched very thoroughly. Here’s the first article that came up when I searched “David Farber net neutrality”: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/531671/are-we-really-savi...

> it could have meant something different at that time

Nope. It meant basically the same thing it does today.

> It is unsurprising that investors like Andreessen are opposed to net neutrality: they stand to get richer without it.

The firms and investors backing NN also stand to benefit from it, so this ad hominem is moot.


> You must not have searched very thoroughly.

You're being fairly condescending while assuming I should read the biographies of 7 people based on your brief comment. I'll make this my last comment.

Here is a video titled to make you believe Bob Kahn is against network neutrality [1]. Net neutrality does not come up until the question & answer period. Bob states that the word is just a slogan and that you need to look at what is intended by policy. His response is long, nuanced, and he points out several times that he is against policy that would fracture the internet. And again, that was in 2007.

In 2019, we have a better idea of what net neutrality policy looks like, and we know that ISPs abuse it because they are regional monopolies. Countries that do not have regional monopolies do not seem to have such issues of abuse.

So, there are two options to foster sufficient competition. Bring back net neutrality, or eliminate regional broadband monopolies.

[1] https://youtu.be/ZnP5ZgfnN58?t=6228


Yeah, I mean net neutrality lasted all of one year -- there wasn't a problem and there still isn't a problem. Perhaps one day net neutrality will be an issue but it's not one now.

The issue that local governments granted monopolies to cable companies and telcos -- that's the true problem.


> there wasn't a problem

Throttling traffic to certain websites [1] is not a problem?

The reason net neutrality policy came into being is ISPs were beginning to violate it [2].

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jun/22/major-int...

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


The article authors didn’t understand peering agreements that have always been a thing. If one network receives more data than it sends there have always been price negotiations.


> Yeah, I mean net neutrality lasted all of one year

The FCC policy orientation lasted much longer than that, though the last of the various regimes by which the FCC pursued it only lasted about that long.

Of course, the policy orientation was about maintaining a status quo on the internet which was only starting to crack when the first approaches were taken as commercial ISPs started breaking the way the internet has previously worked either to constrain costs or pursue various synergies with their other businesses; the basic state of neutrality on the internet was older than the FCC policy orientation toward actively maintaining it.


Net neutrality was never imposed on cellular networks.

Besides all of the carriers offer unlimited data these days anyway.


Disappointed that the telecom media conglomerates aren't getting more scrutiny.


I'm more disappointed that "regulating telecom" apparently means Net Neutrality these days. In the United States, the telecom industry engages in quite a bit of anticompetitive practices, specifically MSOs (multiple system operators) like Comcast and Spectrum.

They frequently have agreements to be the only registered cable operator for a given geographic region. They frequently become the only provider for a given apartment complex or multi-tenant location. We're not allowed a la carte programming due to bundles of channels these companies have a large stake in because of distribution rights. Rates have been outpacing cost-of-living and previous profit margins year-over-year since the 90s. Consumer broadband internet is still slower than most other developed nations, and we pay more for it at all pricing tiers. The only time I remember seeing speeds increase while rates dropped were when Google started building out fiber, and that only happened in a couple microcosms.

I think there's a serious need for trustbusting, but the tech industry at large doesn't seem to be a good target yet.


Agreed. Net neutrality needs to be an election issue in 2020. Red/blue agree. The most upvoted comment ever removed from t_d was about NN [1] [2].

[1] https://revddit.com/user/yiannopoulos_m?after=t1_dirwgoo&lim...

[2] https://revddit.com/r/the_donald


Huh? red & blue definitely don't agree on NN. I know some might point to poll numbers that suggest a majority of republicans support NN, but its important to remember that republicans are ideologically opposed to politicians that support NN. This is similar to how a majority of republicans support universal background checks for firearms but nobody suggests that "red/blue agree" on this issue because, despite supporting universal background checks, republicans are ideologically opposed to the type of politician that supports background checks.


>despite supporting universal background checks, republicans are ideologically opposed to the type of politician that supports background checks.

You don’t sound like you know much on this topic.

When the poll question is asked as: “Do you support background checks when purchasing a firearm to keep criminals from getting guns” the answer is high.

When the question is more appropriately asked as: “Do you support the government requiring permission via an unrelated third party who has no obligation to comply before you are allowed exercise your civil rights?”

A lot less support when the real question is asked.

I don’t think that examples helps your argument in this case.


Your proposed wording is disingenuous partisan spin that encodes your own point of you into the question. Fortunately, even partisan polling organizations wouldn't waste their time with such a stilted questionnaire.


The second wording reflects the indisputable reality of the proposal. But... please feel free to tell me why I’m mistaken.

You can start with why the Federal Firearm License requirements make sense to only 1/2 deploy to citizens while preventing their access from the NICS system directly, that a citizen’s rights should be directly tied to a 4473.

Then also please tell me why the compromise of the 1993/4 Brady Bill where private sales were EXPLICITLY protected in order to get the votes to pass - were only two years later called a “loophole”.

I look forward to being educated on this topic.


> reflects the indisputable reality of the proposal

No, it reflects your stubborn partisan viewpoint which I'm uninterested in debating.

https://www.people-press.org/2015/08/13/continued-bipartisan...

The numbers speak for themselves. Unless you have some alternative polling data to show I am not interested.


>The numbers speak for themselves

Except that’s exactly my point that you can’t argue.

How about in Washington. I-594 required background checks. The NRA spent a lot of money fighting it - but was outspent by gun control groups over 14:1, 10:1 of that was Michael Bloomberg alone.

You know results when it was actually put to a vote? 60/40.

A far cry from the polling lie that 92% want mandatory background checks on all sales performed by a dealer for a fee who has no obligation to perform using a system that has no obligation to be online.


You could frame a question your way and get “no” even more than the former would get a yes - at least the first example mentions firearms and background checks.


Remind me... is it good practice to put the name of something in the actual definition of itself?

You might not like it, but “universal background checks” are a tax on a right, a defecto national registry, a future ban option by simply denying all transfers of X type gun in the NICS system at any arbitrary time, and entirely unenforceable by default up until people start winding up with guns they couldn’t possibly have received legally over time, oh, and almost completely unrelated to crime as it does nothing for stolen guns, straw purchases, or existing illegal transfers which are the predominant ways criminals obtain weapons. You could also admit that no state that passed “UBC” style checks has seen a reduction in crime as an effect.

I apologize for bringing facts to an emotional topic.


You're the one who seems emotional.

Taxes exist on lots of rights, as do fines. Try to hold a rally in any town center without a permit. If being a gun owner who's registered not being a part of a well organized militia? Its interesting how you jump from extremely broad sweeping concepts into extremely detailed criticisms of proposals.


>Try to hold a rally in any town center without a permit.

Nope. You are now not only misunderstanding 2A, but 1A as well. A government body can not require a fee for a protest that does not impact normal property function (traffic, police, park use) and that fee can not exceed the actual costs. Nor can a government deny an organization based on content grounds. This example is bad.

If there are taxes on "lots" of other rights, and you used a poor example, I look forward to other examples to try and see your point of view.

>If being a gun owner who's registered not being a part of a well organized militia?

Well, because MILITIA means "any able bodied adult who can fight for defense of self or state", I am a member of the militia, and unfortunately so are you.

The words you are looking for aren't "well organized" but the text of 2A is "well regulated" which according to Oxford 1800 means "Well training, in good working order". Not "lots of regulations" and not as you imply "well organized" like a milita requires a phone tree if someone's going to be out sick on war days.

>Its interesting how you jump from extremely broad sweeping concepts into extremely detailed criticisms of proposals.

It's interesting how when presented with ACTUAL EFFECTS of a proposal (try me on any of them and I'll school you) you chose instead to wholly believe the propaganda. Which is exactly what it is, I mean... Who could ever be against "Universal Background Checks"!? Those have to be good thing and can't possibly be a tax on a right, an avenue for defacto ban, unenforceable, and an unconstitutional restriction on the free trade of personal property covered under an explicitly enumerated right.


What is your evidence? I cited mine above.

People who understand NN support it because it only enables entrenched interests to get more subscription fees from customers.

The strong arm is regional ISP broadband monopolies. Through them, a slew of services can be forced to pass costs on to consumers.

And, by the way, this map [1] is about to feature one fewer "competitor",

[1] https://www.webfx.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Top-In...


> What is your evidence? I cited mine above.

My evidence is the congressional record which indicates republican politicians overwhelmingly oppose NN and democratic politicians overwhelmingly support it.

I wouldn't regard a single post on a subreddit as evidence; it is at best an anecdote, and one of dubious credibility IMO.


> congressional record

Politicians do what their constituents want now? That's new.

> I wouldn't regard a single post on a subreddit as evidence

Visit [1]. See the spike in the graph? That is the link I posted above. It is not anecdotal. As I said, this is the most upvoted comment ever removed from that sub.

[1] https://revddit.com/r/the_donald


An overly-censored troll subreddit [1] is far from being evidence of anything, much less voting stances for bipartisan politics in legislature. In fact, any subreddit for that matter is not a good indicator.

[1] https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/dissecting-trumps-most-...


The popularity of the topic and its censorship is evidence that the powers-that-be will put down NN wherever they have a chance.

What would you use as proxy? r/conservative? They support NN too.

https://www.reddit.com/r/Conservative/comments/6mtvln/net_ne...


https://www.reddit.com/r/The_Donald/search/?q=net%20neutrali...

So is that anecdotal or QED proof that republicans hate net neutrality?


Comments/posts of little substance are evidence of manufactured propaganda.

A highly upvoted informed view, on the other hand, that gets removed, is evidence of censorship by those in charge.


Sounds to me like you're just disregarding anything that doesn't fit your narrative of "both sides support NN". A bunch of subreddit posts are not evidence of anything except the trends of a reddit bubble, however, if you're using subreddit posts to justify your position, I don't understand how you can cherry-pick a single post as evidence, but reject an entire page of posts as "manufactured propaganda". I don't think you're posting in good faith, so at this point I am going to stop the conversation on my side.


I shared aggregated statistics calculated across a whole subreddit's history to make my point. That is a fair basis for discussion.


You cherry picked a deleted comment from a troll subreddit to act as an indicator of the entire Republican party stance on Net Neutrality.


> You cherry picked a deleted comment from a troll subreddit

No, as I showed, that post is the most upvoted removed comment in the sub's history.

If you think t_d has no influence over the republican party, you do you. This is my last comment in this thread.


> Politicians do what their constituents want now? That's new.

Clearly there is a strong correlation between political identity and the politicians that are elected to represent those identities since democrats overwhelmingly vote for candidates that support NN and republicans overwhelmingly vote for candidates that oppose it. This is pretty simple to verify based on the congressional voting record, the machinations of subreddit shit-posting is wholly irrelevant.


Net neutrality is not what most people are voting on.


I realize this is probably not a popular opinion but Amazon, Google and Facebook are natural monopolies in the businesses they operate in. That is to say the optimal market structure in almost all internet businesses is high concentration with a single organization controlling +80% of market share. So breaking up these organizations doesn’t necessarily solve the problems we are facing today. This is not an antitrust issue. Economically speaking, it will likely be impossible to prove that someone like Amazon behaved in a anti-competitive manner. Same goes for Google. Facebook is the only one I can see broken up largely due to all the negative publicity.


Those markets are pretty "winner takes most". Not quite sure if I would call it a monopoly per say as anyone can compete but few can scale close.

I would expect most would agree the network effect serves them well - although all may fall in the face of a new competitor who actually manages to be "better" - especially if they do something stupid.


The potential cases against the large tech firms are all coming in at the same time. I wonder what could be driving it.

If they move foward, I hope that the nature of the results are good for the public (i.e. preventing anti-competitive behavior)


Government finally had it with the amount of power they have over culture and messing with their 3 letter agency initiatives?

I am one of those pessimistic folk who views everything on a geopolitical stage as a power struggle, so..


From the left, populist economists calling for Big Tech to be broken up for monopoly and tax dodging.

From the right, culture warriors calling for regulation so their chosen avatars of free speech are not de-platformed.

From the bottom, consumer advocates angry at the privacy abuses of large corporations, not to mention increasingly shoddy quality caused by lack of competition.

From the top, as you mentioned- tech companies flouting state power, including in the realm of state surveillance.

十面埋伏 - attack from ten directions.


Which means they are legitimately too big and too powerful that affects every faction of the political spectrum.


This is the best way to look at it. No matter what your political leanings, you have to admit maybe it's not the best thing if these companies can have such enormous influence over such an enormous percent of the entire human population.


Holy smokes, since when did interest in our constitutional rights of free speech become a "right" thing?

It seems like the "From the right" should be "right-wing belief that tech platforms push left-wing biases", true or not, that is their gripe.


> since when did interest in our constitutional rights of free speech become a "right" thing?

Confusing government regulation of private parties to prevent those actors chosen exercise of the right of free speech by way of not actively using their resources to magnify the reach of your favored actors speech with “free speech” is a “right” thing, and one diametrically opposed to Constitutional free speech.


not actively using their resources to magnify the reach of your favored actors speech

In 2019, having online speech without discovery and viral propagation is obviously disadvantaged. That's like saying in 1960's America, it would have been alright for networks to ban a political party from using radio and television, because they still have newspaper ads.

What you're advocating is that one side of the political spectrum should get a huge media advantage in terms of "friction" and network effects -- because their side owns the companies controlling it. That's not advocating for a free marketplace of ideas. That's advocating for a rigged marketplace of ideas, because you happen to like the direction of the tilt.

Would you be satisfied if Republicans were deplatforming your pundits and widely censoring speech you favored on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter? I wouldn't, and I don't think you'd like it very much. (In a way, it was like dealing with the Moral Majority types back in the 80's and 90's.) Be careful how you rig the system and distort the marketplace. One day, it might well be the turn of people you don't like. (1)

diametrically opposed to Constitutional free speech

Free Speech is more important than property rights:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marsh_v._Alabama

(1) - Given that I agree with Bret Weinstein, that some Bad Actors are exploiting the far left for their own purposes, this is basically already happening. It's just that the bias of most left leaning people prevents them from seeing the corruption on their own side.


Who Twitter & friends choose to allow or not on their services doesn't really involve the First Amendment at all. Or rather, it doesn't as long as they're allowed to choose for themselves. Regulation trying to control who they can kick out and why would implicate the First Amendment quite directly.

If you wanted to be charitable, you could say people mad about social media "deplatforming" are more trying to uphold a cultural value of free speech, but not a constitutional right.


>are more trying to uphold a cultural value of free speech

Which is almost always a red herring. Typically the ones being deplatformed are causing harm to individuals, for which even the founders of free-speech philosophy said should be an exception.


That's a huge claim. I've encountered lots of people who have been erased from social media over time and invariably they haven't harmed anyone - not unless you consider "saying things other people dislike" to be harm, of course, which is what's behind the whole speech is violence trope from the left.


> Typically the ones being deplatformed are causing harm to individuals

"Typically"? Spoken like someone who actually looked at all cases? Or just taken some cases your peers agree on, and painting all cases with the same brush without even looking at them?

Who did Carey Wedler harm, for example? See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzlPhxf4Rd0 Or is that "not typical", as in "No True Scotsman"?


For this to be a no-true-Scotsman, I would have to have claimed all bans, which I did not do. It's not an appeal to purity.

Since this is the internet and people will nitpick things to death, I said Typically, because in any normalized population of bans you're going to have outlying false negatives and false positives, in which you've gone to lengths to dig up and present one.

How do you even know that Anti-Media was banned for their speech anyways? According to them they never received a reason.


> you've gone to lengths to dig up and present one

No I didn't, I have been subscribed to her Youtube channel for years, actually. I didn't dig up anything. Even if I had, that wouldn't detract even from iota from it.

Naomi Wu is a similar case: https://hn.algolia.com/?query=naomi%20wu&sort=byDate&prefix&...

I've also had my FB account suspended after 9 years of use, 100+ RL friends, using my real name all along, plenty of photos of me and being in tagged in photos, because apparently, people who wanted me off FB reported my profile as not being a real person. I didn't scan my ID and send it to FB out of principle. Mind you, nothing I posted or commented violated the rules, I never got any "trouble" until I flat out couldn't log in because, I guess, "typically" several accounts reporting a profile means it's fake, and the people who act on those reports probably don't get paid enough to actually take an in-depth look at the profiles they kill.

I'll admit, I'm glad, it was the best thing FB ever did for me. But I'm not all people, for some people that would be terrible, and terribly unfair. I know first hand that there is no process worth a fuck, and people just tend to assume "they wouldn't be treated this way unless there was a good reason for it". It's as old as cowardice and selfishness are.

If "false positives" are just a thing you would accept as long as you aren't hit, then I'll just act as if you were removed in this way. Another unfortunate false positive, nothing to see, really. Then there is also nothing I would have to to "nitpick to death" [by making a single comment with questions you ignore, no less] either, very tidy. If you don't care for due process for others, no due process for you.

> How do you even know that Anti-Media was banned for their speech anyways? According to them they never received a reason.

I take this as the answer "nobody to my knowledge" to the question of who she harmed, and "nope" to the question whether you have actual knowledge of the actual individual cases. "there's going to be outliers" isn't enough, that you resort to saying I "went to lengths to dig up an example" just shows you don't necessarily shy from making authoritative statements about things you don't actually know.

The fact is that the speech was curtailed, if no reason is offered that doesn't mean "maybe there's a good reason, so let's just assume that and move along". You wouldn't want to be treated that way.


> To the amalgamation of politicals and criminals, with which the concentration camps began both in Germany and Russia, soon a third element is added, which would soon form the majority of all inmates. This largest group consisted of people who hadn't done anything that stood in any rational relation to their imprisonment, be it in their own mind or in that of their torturers. Without them the camps could have have existed, that is, they would not have survived the first years of the regime.

and

> Criminals don't actually don't belong in a concentration camp. That they still form a permanent category in all camps is, from the viewpoint of the totalitarian power apparatus, a kind of concession to the prejudices of society, which in this way can be made to get used to their existence the most easily.

and

> the first crucial step on the way to totalitarian power is the killing of the juridical person, which in the case of statelessness happens automatically because the stateless person ends up outside of all law. In the case of totalitarian power this automatic killing becomes a planned murder, because concentration camps are always placed outside of the penal system, and the inmates are never to be put there "for punishable or other offenses" (also see Maunz, p. 50). Under all conditions totalitatarian power takes care to put people into the camps, which only are -- Jews, carriers of diseases, members of dying classes -- but have already lost their ability to act, be it for good or bad.

-- Hannah Arendt

But how can marching in goosestep be wrong, when not marching is goosestep is so scary, right?


Both commments at minus 4?

"dampers, mutes, and hooded executioners"


And the down votes prove your point... Incredible.


Or perhaps its just a reminder to the user that free speech does not need to be extended by private organizations...They have in their TOS to remove content they do not deem fit in the same way users do not need to use these services.


Was it okay for communists to be blacklisted in Hollywood in the 40s and 50s? I personally don't have a problem with it, but I am not a communist.


>I personally don't have a problem with it, but I am not a communist.

The way this reads to me is: If you were against it, it could only be because you were a communist. #mcCarthyism


It’s a reference to a rather famous text from Martin Niemöller, about what happened in Nazi Germany.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_they_came_...


I love how downvotes on Hacker News have become a totalitarian attack on free speech.


They're proof of cowardice and intellectual dishonesty. That's enough.


Oh the irony.


What irony?


Why « belief » ?

They assert it in their values and in responses to interviews about deplatforming, so claiming it’s a belief makes it look less proven than it is.


Since a while. I'm definitively not a right-winger, but I increasingly have to align myself with folks whose speech I hate in order to defend free speech against folks I agree with on issues. Too many on the left are gleeful at the thought of deplatforming any and all of their detractors.


If we're being honest here, "Free Speech" has never really been a true philosophical maxim in this country. It's been a useful tool to acquire political and then, once acquired, it's jettisoned as a principle.


> tech platforms push left-wing biases

That's half of it. The other half is suppression of right-slanted content. The issue is monopoly status + pushing one side + suppressing the other side.


十伏埋面 - ten volt buried surface


It's just in time for the 2020 election cycle. I'd love to share your hope but undoing 20 years of Bork [0] will take more than unofficial talks with Apple and FB.

[0] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2012/12/20/antit...


> I wonder what could be driving it.

Redirecting people's anger for Comcast, and this admin's failure to maintain net neutrality despite protest from both sides [1], towards something else.

[1] https://revddit.com/user/yiannopoulos_m?after=t1_dirwgoo&lim...


As far as Apple goes, I'm not sure. But Facebook and Google have been walking in this direction from their own behavior regarding consumer data and omnipresence online.


This is the part where the people who brought us PRISM tell us how the real problem is facebook and they are the solution. Ok.


The FTC and the DOJ brought us PRISM?


The WP reported that Rep Cicilline said the "Internet is broken". I agree -- because the ISPs broke the internet, and Congress is letting the FCC allow that. Why aren't they fixing that?


I'm glad we're finally taking anti-trust seriously, but this timing is incredibly suspicious. Right after we put sanctions on Chinese tech, we start taking steps to limit our own?

A good, plausibly deniable soft power attack would be to make an antitrust case, present it to the feds with the work already done, and let them do their thing now that they basically have to take action or look foolish.

No malicious actors involved, except for the people who choose to trigger the audit at the opportune moment.


> Right after we put sanctions on Chinese tech, we start taking steps to limit our own?

I don't see this as taking steps to limit our own tech at all.


I guess we'll see how this plays out. I would of course like to see anti competitive behavior be minimized, but how they will go about that I'm not sure. Even if they are broken up, I doubt we will see much improvement for lowering the barrier of entry for these industries. I would like to hear what other users' thoughts are about what to do to prevent anti competitive tactics without regulating the market too heavily.


Just recall what happened to Standard Oil. SO's market share continued to decline throughout the anti-trust trial against them. Rockefeller was unable to stem the tide of nimbler competitors.

What happens is when companies exceed a certain size, the inefficiencies of central planning tend to paralyze them and they fail to adapt to changing circumstances, and go into decline.


And not Comcast, Walmart, AT&T? ... I wonder why



To be clear, it's illegal for corporations to give money directly to federal candidates. This is a tally of donations from employees of those companies, which makes this a function of workforce ideological leanings more than anything else.


It's interesting that every company in that list (except Walmart) had a massive spike in contributions to the blue team starting in 2016.


Comcast and AT&T have the ability to force consumers to pay more with no chance of losing revenue. Regional broadband monopolies + no net neutrality allows them to,

1, Zero-rate their own video services [1]

2, Throttle competitors like Netflix

3, Charge competitors more, passing on costs to consumers

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


To be fair, they tried to go after AT&T to kill the Time Warner deal (because they own CNN), but the judge basically threw out the case.


Surprised to not see Amazon on here, esp. given DJT's hatred of Bezos. But maybe they're saving the best for last. Certainly would not be surprising given Amazon's developing vertical monopoly on all things bought and sold.



Ah ok. Well there we go. Let the fireworks begin.


And Netflix is not, probably because Hastings once said net neutrality is no longer their primary battle. IOW, they will pay to play. Disgusting. The selections make this a transparent move.


Netflix is nowhere even remotely close to being a monopoly.


I agree that Netflix dominating does not make them a monopoly. No more than Google or Facebook.


Netflix is far less critical, and has far less marketshare (as a proportion of the general population), and far more competitors than either Google or Facebook.


If anything, Netflix is more a victim of the monopolies that media conglomerates have on copyrighted content licensing.


If Amazon has a monopoly on all things bought and sold, that would undermine the antitrust cases against the other targets.


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