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Justice Department meeting state AG offices Tuesday to discuss Google: sources (reuters.com)
175 points by mgr86 14 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 190 comments

The best remedy for these tech giants is to force the use of open standards or to allow integration with other products on their platforms and products without profit sharing (e.g. 30% take) or any other share-cropper tactics.

Their big unfair advantage comes from the network effect of consumers using their products and the closed access to those customers.

Open integration benefits everyone except those with the monopolies.

> The best remedy for these tech giants is to force the use of open standards

The best remedy for these tech giants would be to kill the ad-supported business model. The reason users get treated like second-class citizens by the tech giants is that they are second-class citizens; they aren't the customers.

Unfortunately, you can't kill ad-supported businesses with regulation. Only users can kill them, by refusing to let their eyeballs be used as a free resource.

Sure, kill the largest engine of profit of the last fifty years. We'll replace it with all the money the nytimes makes on it's paywall.

> kill the largest engine of profit of the last fifty years

Whose profit? And is it worth the cost?

Huh, I've always wondered why someone doesn't start a company with these open integrations. If it benefits everyone, then people will migrate to this new company, right? Instant success?

If proprietary implementations have a strong business benefit, a company with only open standards (esp if there is some promise to customers) would be unilaterally disarming.

The only way we move forward is if a) open standards have a business advantage or b) all players are forced through regulation to use open standards.

If it benefits everyone, that includes your competitors.

You are still at the mercy of google cancelling your business on a whim

What's wrong with the RAND model? Why should platforms be forced to provide free access? What pays for building the platforms?


Or separate their products. Imagine if Google Maps had to compete as its own company.

It would probably do quite well with Google Search being it's main customer.

Google News might be a more compelling example - how would that ever hold up against the rest of the internet.

Sorry for not getting it but what exactly do you imagine happening?

(My initial thought was "more ads?")

I wonder if US officials will be concerned by the prospect that breaking up these companies may potentially cede market share to tech companies in other countries, such as China. Especially if other countries don't bother breaking up their tech companies if they get too large.

I think fear of China is a common bogeyman to throw out to try to avoid tech regulation. And I don't feel it's a very compelling argument: Tech monopolies squash newer, more innovative competitors. The monopolies are holding us back. For all of the innovation you may believe tech monopolies have accomplished, it pales in comparison to what we'd accomplish without them in a competitive environment where the best technology wins, instead of the biggest monopoly.

The ability to foster rapid, zealous competition is the strength of capitalism and it's what we have over China. We need to get the established corporate entities using their market power to harm competition out of the way.

Wouldn't opening up competition to other companies be exactly the reason why such non-US competitors may be able to acquire more market share?

The only way I could see the US being able to regulate non-US competitors who grow too large is to fine them, such as what the EU does. Although that may not be enough to stop them from acquiring market dominance and may cause retaliation (such as the current trade war).

To be clear, I'm not a shill for these big tech companies. I don't currently work in any of them nor have stock in any. I'm concerned about their dominance, stifling of competition and their use of market position to render consumers powerless just as much as you may be.

It's hard to see search as anything but a winner takes all affair. If you have the best results, why wouldn't the world come to you?

This is only true in a world where the barrier to entry is low, and innovation is "cheap". There is a possibility that true innovation on the internet is becoming expensive e.g. how much does it cost to gain a 1% relevance improvement in search results? how much does it cost to take photos of every street corner twice as often as google?

If we wanted to actually compete with China we'd do what they did - grant immunity to copyright law to a Chosen Company for a given product line (chat, search, video, whatever) and leverage the legal system to block foreign competitors to Chosen Companies from functioning within China (i.e. google search, facebook).

I'm not interested in what it'll take to compete with China because we'll have to act like assholes to do it.

US companies don't have citizenship. The big Chinese companies are mostly owned by high ranking party members, but if the US government does ill against Google it'll be shipping off to <insert tax haven here> before you can blink.

Google isn't even in the top 25 of employers in the US - it's theoretically a large revenue source[1] but losing it would be nothing to the US economy when compared to losing a company like Walmart.

1. US employees at Google probably do pay some substantial income taxes - Google evades corporate taxes much like other corporations, but seems to be a bit less ridiculous in its effort than, say, Amazon.

Focusing just on the companies with the most employees would mean the U.S. would become a retail nation, since that's the industry with the most head count. It isn't the best metric to measure by, since companies can also redistribute their revenue locally through capex, investments, services, and other costs.

There's no reason for US goverment to enforce how countries behave in other countries. US goverment can protect US against Chinese threats, and other governemtns can protect their countries against US or Chinese threats.

My question is what comes after? Look at AT&T, which was once part of the aftermath of Bell. It now owns so much of the telecom market, that it's only challengers own pretty much all major network stations and entertainment companies. And Verizon is no slouch either.

They can split these companies up but eventually some piece/s will gobble up the rest through dark mergers and aggressive business dealings and become bigger than their predecessor.

Agreed. We can't just break apart Google and call it a day.

There are plenty of gigantic corporations who are probably looking forward to eventually acquiring parts of Google. I wouldn't put it past Verizon, who has not only partnered with Google but also fought for telecom control against them. Don't we also need to break these companies up as well? Or do they have too much influence in the government? Ajit Pai, for example, famously worked for Verizon before government.

I'm not trying to protect Google. But I just think that the government needs to find a way to enforce these breakups more evenly or else it just leads to further consolidation, as you pointed out.

>Ajit Pai, for example, famously worked for Verizon before government.

Pai worked at Verizon for two years between 2001 and 2003. He was appointed as FCC member in 2012. How much loyalty do you have to a job you held for two years, nine years ago?

Documentation of things he's said about the relevant matters, which also happened to end up closely aligning with all of his future decisions and positions as FCC chairman, suggests his loyalty very likely never wavered.

I don't know, and I don't think there is a rule for that. It depends on what sort of impact the people at that company had on you and your career. I had a job years ago that I held for two years that I think back fondly on. While it's been about 10 years since I had that job, the people I met through connections in that job are still some of my closest friends. I don't think it's farfetched for others to have similar experiences, and then make impactful decisions to help their friends out when they obtain positions of power.

It might not be farfetched, but we shouldn't jump to conclusions without proof. People essentially claimed he was bought and paid for by Verizon since the day he took office, before he even had a chance to do anything. All because of what job he had nearly a decade prior. I don't know about you, but that doesn't sit well with me.

Right, we shouldn't jump to conclusions. Although, I'm not jumping to conclusions about Ajit Pai. I am simply pointing out a fact: that a former Verizon employee is in a major position in the US government. You decided to make this about how much influence they have over him. I don't really care. As I said, I don't think it's farfetched. I have not come to any conclusions about it.

But you shouldn't be so sure that it has had zero influence, either.

Everyone also thought Tom Wheeler would be terrible as due to his prior career with cable and telecom, but he ended up being a strong advocate for net neutrality.

It's not so much about loyalty as it is about connections, aka cronyism.

The regulators need to do a better job preventing M&A of large companies. These companies all just wait for favorable climate before merging again.

I think we need a better solution than breaking up monopolies. Perhaps something like caps on profit margins and/or asset taxes that apply to companies which carry too much market share.

The better solution is to break off the specifically non-contestable part of the firm (where the non-contestability is often due to network effects or barriers to entry) and regulate it so it has to be run as a fair and open platform. Sometimes this can be done as simply as requiring the firm to use applicable open standards to enable third parties to cleanly federate with its offerings - but the case of a leading search engine and general portal is not nearly as simple, unfortunately.

They will probably make cuts along market segments, along horizontal integrations, along prior M&A; they will probably also, as in the Bell case, cut geographically.

The main obvious cuts for Google and Amazon are to fully split up the technical infrastructure and Web hosting technologies from the consumer marketplaces. For Google, they would force Alphabet to spin off Google Cloud along with Google's own datacenters into a new datacenter host, and force Google/Alphabet to purchase hosting services at arms' length. Similarly, Amazon would be forced to be fully at arms' length with AWS.

As an aside, Facebook could not be directly split up in this direction, but instead regulators would probably choose to unwind their M&A spree of the past decade, in particular spinning off Instagram and WhatsApp.

Your question now can be reframed: What stops Alphabet from becoming big anyway? Nothing, really, aside from the same regulators that have the responsibility of splitting them up right now. Nothing short of legislative action will work, after a certain point.

They probably won't make cuts at all. Assuming they can even get a conviction, what's more likely is a consent degree like what they did in the Microsoft settlement. Either way, it'll be a decade or two before we find out.

Is there research into what systemic mechanisms we can employ that would prevent formation of monopolies in the first place? Relying on corruptible human judgment and the laughable political process to apply fixes ex post facto seems like the worst possible way to address these problems. Surely there’s something more fundamental going on here?

Monopolies are a primary goal of corporate capitalism. When you combine that with the reality of regulatory capture, the answer to your first question becomes "no."

Tbf Verizon was also Bell Atlantic (with GTE), and participation from Vodafone in the wireless side. Your point stands moreso.

It's actually quite simple: Nationalization.

Edit: instead of downvoting me, you may want to argue why AT&T is any different than Amtrak, The Postal Service, and the TSA.

> you may want to argue why AT&T is any different than Amtrak, The Postal Service, and the TSA

It isn't. But that's not an argument for nationalizing AT&T; it's an argument for privatizing the others. In fact, two out of three of them already have private competitors in the US; the only one that doesn't is Amtrak.

Considering how the postal service has been hobbled by politicians attempting to privatize it[1] and as for the TSA, it used to be private, do I really have to argue why that was a bad idea?

[1] https://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/03/04/how-the-po...

> the postal service has been hobbled by politicians attempting to privatize it

So what? That has nothing to do with the fact that private companies have proven, through the entire history of the United States (including before the USA was even an independent country), that they can provide postal service. So there is no need for the government to be doing it.

> as for the TSA, it used to be private, do I really have to argue why that was a bad idea?

If you have such an argument, you should make it to the airports that use private screeners today.


> If you have such an argument, you should make it to the airports that use private screeners today.



You are aware that the program I linked to was put into effect after 9/11, right?

It kinda seems to me that the fact that the government has proven to be able to successfully provide postal service is evidence that we don’t need private alternatives introducing inefficiencies in the form of rent seeking

> private alternatives introducing inefficiencies in the form of rent seeking

Um, what? Rent seeking is one way of taking advantage of government-granted privileges. How are FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc. rent seeking?

I don't think you made it clear in your unedited comment that you were talking about AT&T and not Google. I certainly wouldn't want Google to be nationalized.

Is Google an infrastructural aspect of the internet at this point?

Very savage to “leak” this when Alphabet’s earnings are released. Probably a predictor of a bad outcome for Google. Or, everyone in this administration is an inside trader.

Outside of Chrome being the default browser on Android, I don't see what antitrust Google could be hit with. Their market dominance in almost all of their sectors seems to only exist due to either it easily integrating into other Google products or their product being better than the rest, and nearly every time there are other comparable players you can easily migrate to.

There are other ways Google "leverages" its market share that are questionable. Look at the recent controversy about making all search results look like ads. They are also making it harder for ad blockers to exist in Chrome with every release. Favoring sites that implement AMP, removing urls...

I think our industry as a whole would benefit from Google being broken up.

If AMP favoritism isn't an Antitrust violation I don't know what is.

It'd be like if Microsoft rigged Windows to run .NET applications twice as fast as anything else, and made it very difficult to open any other type of application... where second-class applications are unavailable from being found in desktop search, can't have custom icons or be in Program Files.

AMP is faster by design, and it is impossible to get a generic HTML page to load as fast from a SERP (even a non-Google SERP), so your .NET analogy doesn't fit. Is it an antitrust violation that other search engines (Bing, Baidu, and Yahoo! Japan) also prefer AMP results?

It's not "faster" if I have to wait for the AMP site to load, then figure out where to tap in Google's UI to get the page I actually wanted to go to, then wait for it to load. Especially the case if I want to share the url (the real one, not the AMP one).

I don't need an intermediary popup page between me and the destination I seek.

If the AMP page doesn't have the content you want and the non-AMP page does, that is the publisher's problem and the search engine's problem for displaying an inferior page. It is not a problem with AMP, which usually has the information I need. Similarly, if a mobile-optimized page does not have the same content as a desktop page, that is also a problem with the publisher and the search engine. The same for if an RSS entry does not have the full content of an article or if a transit feed does not match the data that is on a transit provider's web page.

> the real one, not the AMP one

Is that the mobile URL or the desktop URL? This problem has existed for ages. It's the user agent's problem to give a UI to share the canonical URL if that's what the user wants.

> If the AMP page doesn't have the content you want and the non-AMP page does, that is the publisher's problem and the search engine's problem for displaying an inferior page.

Actually it ends up being my problem. I don't want multiple versions of the same thing. AMP is yet another format and it's one that is outside of normal web browsing workflow.

> Actually it ends up being my problem. I don't want multiple versions of the same thing.

Then don't make AMP, mobile-optimized web pages, RSS, Apple News, Facebook Instant Articles, etc.

If you want wide distribution, you have to support multiple formats. At least AMP, like RSS and mobile-optimized pages, is open, meaning that anybody can (and many link aggregators do) consume it.

Publish open specs for lightweight sites and grant them preferential placement in search results.

These companies have already published specs and tooling for making lightweight sites. Lightweight sites are slower to load from the SERP than AMP, so the search engines would continue to favor AMP results.

Just because other search engines jump on the bandwagon of caching sites so they can track EVERYTHING a user does (oh yeah it's speedy too) doesn't mean it doesn't break the open web. Centralizing the way everyone browses the web is how censorship happens. Now governments just have to put pressure on the 1 or 2 dominant players on mobile search and then no one will ever be able to access unapproved information ever again.

It's also convenient Google is trying to delete the url bar and take away the only means for other sites to become a destination on mobile. Controlling all the apps and getting their 30% cut wasn't enough, they have to make it so you have no idea where you are anymore on the web so you forever stay in Google's walled garden.

> Just because other search engines jump on the bandwagon of caching sites so they can track EVERYTHING a user does

Do you have the same complaint about RSS aggregators? About transit feeds? About microdata? About showing page summaries in search results? Why not? All of these keep users on the search engine just like AMP, but they give a better experience to the user. If one search engine didn't prerender AMP, it would lose users to the other search engines that do.

> Centralizing the way everyone browses the web is how censorship happens.

I can see how this applies to Apple News, which requires direct integration with Apple, but anybody can ingest AMP and the other formats I listed above, and many companies do.

> It's also convenient Google is trying to delete the url bar and take away the only means for other sites to become a destination on mobile.

This is separate from AMP, but if a user doesn't like it or anything else a particular browser does, they can easily switch to another one (as long as they're not on iOS).

The issue is that AMP forces companies to use a lightweight site instead of just letting them know how to build a good lightweight site. When you can't include a bunch of bad legacy code and a bunch of off-site resources, the page speeds up dramatically regardless of if it's amp or not. Unfortunately the only thing that made this push happen was Google prioritizing AMP.

> When you can't include a bunch of bad legacy code and a bunch of off-site resources, the page speeds up dramatically regardless of if it's amp or not.

This is true, but my point was that just doing that will still leave it slower than AMP, so the search engines will still prefer AMP results.

AMP pages can be safely prerendered, which is what makes all other options slower. If you defined your own HTML subset that allowed safe prerendering, you will have simply reinvented AMP, and you might as well contribute to the AMP project instead to get all the existing search engines to use it.

Search and ads. They have abused their dominance of search to privilege their own products (places, hotel ads, shopping results).

I don't hate Google (I don't love them either) but they clearly have too much power in Online Advertising.

If you are a publisher and a big one, you have to use Google Ads Manager (formerly known as DFP) because it's the only way to have full access to Google AdExchange which allows you to have access to demand coming from Google Ads (ex Adwords).

And because they had dominant market share in all these markets, they could get to be the first in line whenever there's was a request for ad on the exchanges. This has changed recently but put simply, you can't escape the Borg if you are in this industry.

See https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-google-edged-out-rivals-and...

I've often wondered if all of Android is an anti-trust violation. How much did it cost to make vs how much do they charge for it?

I've harbored a counterargument for a while against breaking up Google or Facebook:

Both of these are effectively surveillance capitalist companies. Their primary business is spying on people and using that data to target them for ads and other forms of manipulation.

When big bloated "Soviet bureau" corporations are broken apart the result is generally an explosion of innovation and growth in a sector.

Do we really want an explosion of innovation and growth in that sector? Maybe it would be a good thing if the surveillance capitalist behemoths are allowed to continue to get stagnant and bloated. If and when an alternative paradigm for sustainable business on the Internet emerges it would make them easier to displace.

Breaking up these companies would also vastly increase the surface area exposed via surveillance. Instead of two or three companies spying on us we'd suddenly have dozens of former divisions of these companies.

Edit: lastly I must echo others in their lack of trust for this justice department. I think this is likely to be a political cudgel deployed to force these companies to stop filtering out or de-prioritizing extreme far right propaganda.

The paper the FTC did back in 2012 around Google is an interesting read. http://graphics.wsj.com/google-ftc-report/

So what's the remedy, separate companies for Search, Ads, Youtube, Cloud/Firebase, GSuite, Android/Chrome, Pixel, Maps?

The best divide is actually far less aggressive: Platforms should be split from services. Android and Chrome are IMHO the primary things Google should be forced to divest.

I am not sure you could (or even should) split Search and Ads, but there may need to be some significant rules laid down on Google's ability to tie their other products and services to search. Strict rules should be laid down on allowing ads to sell placement above trademark holders for their own trademark, as that kind of shakedown is insane.

The best move would be to revert the Doubleclick acquisition and spin out the AdTech part as its own separate entity.

But also make Google Search an open auction system (like it sort of is on Display) where other players can integrate with and Google (search) takes a fixed % for each click. Pipe dream I suppose but best way to avoid Google from being able to be truly dominant.

How does bidding for search result position not make the results anything but an add auction?

If I'm Result Source X, why would I ever bid on answering an unprofitable search, even if I know the answer?

Bidding on trademarks has nothing to do with antitrust. If I can place a billboard for BMW next to a Lexus dealership, there is no reason I should not be able to show a BMW ad to somebody searching for Lexus or visiting a Lexus blog.

This is a great idea.

That would never work because only one of those things is profitable, the Ads. I guess also Cloud can be profitable.

Many of these products already carry ads or would be a convenient place to put ads, even if they'd have to be bought for each product individually. Also the Pixel stuff is very pricy for hardware that isn't top of the line.

This blatant bias against the "coastal elite" (let's be real, there's definitely a political bias to this entire thing) scares me.

Then again, I'm working at Google this summer, so maybe I'm biased ...

The leaders of Chinese companies like Alibaba, TenCent, and SenseTime must be following these stories with glee. I get the Western position that values will win in the long run, but someone should consider the possibility that some of these Western companies employ Western employees who represent those Western values and actually are being responsible.


Parent here, I proudly have employees and collaborators of Chinese descent. It has nothing to do with racism. It is the stated position of the self-subscribed group of Western democracies that privacy is a priority, and the leaders of those groups cast their position in opposition to that of the Chinese Communist Party.

One simple and effective policy change could be to forbid bidding on keywords which are names of a competitors company or brand. A lot of marketing expenses are wasted on these types of keywords and only benefit Google but neither the user nor the advertiser.

How large is this problem? I just googled the trade name of everything I own from cars down to pencils and did not see anybody taking out ads on competitors' trademarks. What's an example?

Why is that a waste? If you make Foo brand razors and I, making Bar brand razors, think I have a better product, why shouldn't I be able to bid on "Foo" do that I can educate the public about my product? Whence this idea that product or company names deserve special protection from competitors? Competition makes the world go round.

How often does that happen though? You search for a specific brand of razors and then you see an ad for Bar razors and you just change your mind? Most of the people will click the first link in the results expecting it to be a link to the Foo razor shop. It really doubt these ads are educating customers - Google is just in a position where their interface is the shortcut to a lot of online sales and if you want to keep these online distribution channels working you have to spend the money to be in the first spot. Which is fine in my opinion as long as you don't bid up the prices for your competitors.

> You search for a specific brand of razors and then you see an ad for Bar razors and you just change your mind?

If the ads don't work, companies will stop buying them.

It's an anti-user practice. As a user, if I google for "x", I'm looking for "x", and it is annoying that someone gets to pay to "educate" me about some alternative that I never said I wanted.

The whole point of advertising is to show people things they wouldn't otherwise see. Yes, some people are against advertising generally. That's a naive perspective. But if you're okay with ads generally, you should be okay with brand keyword ads.

Hey, I'm OK with ads generally. But being OK with a thing generally doesn't mean being OK with every specific instance of that general class.

Google is a tool, the user is trying to do something specific with the tool, and Google is deciding to not honor the intention of the user. It's clearly not something good for the user (whereas other uses of ads arguable are). Google can get away with it because they are a monopoly and, shrug, what are you going to do?

Google is free to run their business as they please, but let's not pretend that this practice is somehow enriching the user's experience.

Why not go to x.com? It is a direct handle for what you want, a one-to-one, a uniform resource locator.

I'm OK to go to x.com. Some surprisingly large amount of people will type the domain name into google, and go there. Sometimes, I don't remember the exact domain name, like I want to go to pocket, but it is getpocket.com.

Anyway, I'm totally not against ads. I worked in ads. Ads are important because it lets companies reach new markets and grow. But ads are not all the same, and there is a certain time and place for them. When you have a tool, like google does, and it is clear that the user has a very specific thing in mind for the tool, and you circumvent that, then that seems like the wrong time / place for an ad.

Maybe we shall find out the fate of the Fitbit deal soon (from the North American side). FYI, the merger arb on that deal is pricing significant risk of failure: Pricing at 6.53 now vs 7.35 all cash offer from GOOG.

I like the trade, but it isnt for the faint hearted.

Google is a slight red herring here, they need to be going after Facebook.

What if there was some rule where any company over lets say 10 million users are treated differently (or a public utility)? I am not sure if this is the right solution or not but I think a lot of the monopolistic and anti-trust behavior comes because of the network effect of these products.

Normally I would say that investigating Google for antitrust violations would be a good idea, but I do not trust this administration and it's Justice Department to do it without having nefarious ulterior motives. It isn't hard to imagine what they may be: using the threat of a DOJ investigation to extort either money or political favors from the enormously powerful multinational technology conglomerate that is Google. The people who run the current administration have demonstrated countless times that they are not afraid to use the powers of the federal government for personal benefit and enrichment, so it has become impossible to trust any legal action they may undertake.

Previous administration had a rotating door with Google executives. It's as if Google was running the WH. This is how they managed to avoid all of the FTC investigations. [2][3][4]

This is usually what 3rd world type "banana republic" corruption looks like.

[1] https://theintercept.com/2016/04/22/googles-remarkably-close...

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

[3] https://www.wsj.com/articles/google-avoided-ftc-probe-but-ot...

[4] http://graphics.wsj.com/google-ftc-report/

I was always under the impression though that it was Obama who was courting Google, rather than Google trying to court Obama. Although the end result is perhaps the same.

Regardless of the truth of your accusations or validity of the fears presented by OP, it constantly amazes me that so many people genuinely react to these stories with "the other side does it too". Someone else doing something wrong is not a justification for you also doing something wrong. It is the type of excuse you expect from an elementary school child.

It's relevant in this case because the premise of the first comment is that this administration is particularly and uniquely unqualified to perform an investigation. It's comparative by nature, and therefore information about the disposition and behavior of other administrations is the relevant basis to determine whether the initial proposition is applicable.

I would like to clarify that my comment was actually not explicitly comparative in nature. It did not mention a past or future administration. It did not mention the administration of a different country. If you disagree, please quote the part of my comment that makes a comparison to, well, anything.

What bothers me about this line of thinking is its suggestion that because corruption is common, observers and interested parties should do nothing about it and remain uncritical towards abuses of power.

In particular, it discourages criticism in partisan ways: "Your politicians did it so our politicians should be able to do it. Everyone is corrupt so what are you complaining about?" When partisan ideology normalizes corruption all you end up with is more corruption.

‘Normally I would say A, but I do not trust X so I will say B’

Is an implicit comparison between X & an unstated Y

The comparison is implicit. However the definition of Y is not. Assuming that Y must represent Democrats just because X represents Republicans is viewing the world in a binary and unnecessarily partisan way. Y could just as easy be some neutral, nonpartisan, or completely imaginary option dreamt up solely for the sake of comparison.

I agree with the sentiment. The delivery suffers:

1. Linguistically speaking, humans tend to save energy. Every utterance is designed to provide new information, to describe what is different from the norm. Going on a rant on how this administration suffers of problems a, b, and c, weakly implies that other administrations suffer much less of problems a, b, and c. Otherwise it would be common knowledge that all administrations suffers of problems a, b, and c roughly in the same degree, and why bother wasting time repeating common knowledge?

2. Arguments that focus specifically on one administration, carefully avoiding anything that could be construed as a negative reflecting onto opposing party administrations, come across as partisan. It is the hallmark of the USA media environment that most what we hear in the political news is technically true, but carefully curated to further one of the major two narratives. Also known as "information bubble". "Democrats: saviors, Republicans: evil" OR "Democrats: corrupt, Republicans: straightshooters".

If we truly are to move past partisan criticism, it is on us to fairly depict deplorable behavior on both side of the aisle, regardless of our own political leanings. Otherwise, we risk engaging in the usual half-blind partisan discourse that is tearing this country apart.

I would argue there is some nuance to this - justifying your favorite politician(s) behavior by claiming the other side does it as well is an excuse you'd expect from a child.

However, when you claim that your own party is the bastion of righteousness and the only possible solution because the other party does bad things that you do as well, it undermines your argument.

That's because having the rule of law in the modern world usually means that you're playing by the same rule book. If you allow one powerful player to do things the other can't, that's simply corruption. And our ex-socialist states have proven that that's fundamentally damaging to the country.

People fundamentally want government that's fair.

Anti-trust hasn't changed much legislatively in the past few decades. While the laws haven’t changed much on paper, what’s changed is simply the level of enforcement. We still have the same laws that barred IBM from dominating personal computers (creating the opening for Microsoft) but we simply don’t pursue as much enforcement.

One problem with diminishing enforcement is that whenever you DO pursue enforcement action, it will inevitably look extremely political.

Corruption on "both sides" however is not fair, that's just more corruption. So the whataboutism present in the reply isn't an answer to a question about whether the current DOJ and Administration will act properly.

However, allowing corruption from only 1 side is vastly unfair especially through the lens of public perception.

I can't believe this is even up for discussion on HN.

Corruption is bad, period. There's no "someone else did it" get-out-of-jail card.

Also, why didn't we hear all these accusations of corruption against Obama during this presidency? I heard tons about Benghazi, and Fast and Furious, both of which were epic screw-ups that deserved a strong response, but nothing about this supposed corruption. I find it hard to believe that the GOP Congress was willing to let a little corruption go during the Obama presidency.

I am willing to agree. Corruption is bad for the population at large.

I even agree with the assessment that GOP during Obama years would certainly cry foul if there was even a perception of inapproriety. Frankly, it kinda was their job to be a check ( though I would argue that they failed then as well ).

There is a but coming. But, Obama had a decent team, which kept unapproved leaks from surfacing, had a cover from friendly media so even if there was something there, it was tightly held under wraps.

Now compare it to current administration where everyone is out to leverage their current position for something better in the future ( book deal, friendly energy company or just extra business for your daughter ).

I guess what I am saying is, Obama, HRC, Biden et al are just waaaaay better at covering their tracks.

The allegation was all out in the open then! The ouster of a Ukrainian Prosecutor General, the appointment of his son to a board of a Ukrainian company, all of it was public knowledge then!

>so many people genuinely react to these stories with "the other side does it too".

As an outsider (I'm Canadian), it seems to me that the left-wing of America invented "whataboutism" because their hypocrisy is off the charts.

>It is the type of excuse you expect from an elementary school child.

The idea that you criticize someone for something you yourself are doing is something I'd expect of a child.

Who is "you yourself" in this analogy? The Obama administration?

>Who is "you yourself" in this analogy?

Anyone crying "that's whataboutism!" in the face of their blatant hypocrisy.

I'm not talking about justifying corruption because the other guys do it. But I am talking about things like holding up bills, or filibusters, or whipping the vote, or leaking information, or any other of a multitude of things that one party always seems to lose their mind when it happens like it's never happened before.

One party uses something as a political strategy one year, then the next year cries foul like the Union is coming undone when the other side does the same thing. It's stupid.

And now those were replaced with Trump taking pictures inside Apple plant with Tim Cook [1]. It seems that the game stayed the same, except that now another ultra-rich corp seems to be buying favor from the government.

It seems that pretty much all of the FAANG corps would require serious invesigation into their walled garden and anti-competitive practices to allow for smaller players to again enter the market and compete. Having a single search provider is extremely dangerous. As dangerous as having an OS where no 3rd party browsers can exist and no software without Tim's approval can run.

Edit: downvoters, mind explaining the reasoning?

[1]: https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamjeakle/2019/11/25/how-ap...

Making this another polar political discussion would be shameful and unproductive for hacker news.

Tech and politics cannot always be separated. This appears to be one of those cases.

For sure they can't—but discussions don't need to degenerate into predictable partisan sniping. That stuff is always the same, so though it may be intense and exciting (to some), it's not intellectually interesting.


This is an inherently political topic.

It is. The interesting part of the politics, though, is not how it intersects with the current president. There are much more interesting topics: Should Google be under investigation? For antitrust, I presume (and the article mentions), but anything else? What's the relation between the state AGs and the US DOJ in this?

It's even less hard to imagine when you consider Trump's own words from 2018:

> Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good. They are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!


Trump promised he'd take action against Google. Now action is being taken against Google. Maybe there's no connection, but Trump has given everyone a very good reason to suspect that there might be one.

Do we really trust that a politician who finds them helpful is not going to overlook certain misconduct that is politically beneficial (e.g., suppressing the statements of their major opponents)?

It's certainly not a forgone conclusion that investigations led by "friendlier" administrations are necessarily fairer. I doubt there's any way to have a purely unbiased investigation into an entity as prominent and influential as Google.

I don't think the threats of regulatory capture are unique to this administration.

Previous administrations have clearly abused their power with the DOJ, just look at how DACA was passed. Just because the large media outlets did PR for previous administrations or you agreed with their politics doesn't mean that abuses did not occur.

DACA was a Presidential memorandum. What DOJ connection are you referring to?

Other comments have explained why DACA isn't an example of DOJ overreach. I'd like to take a magnifying glass to the underlying reason to bringing up DACA in this context.

It's an Obama-era policy that has been shown to have wide, bi-partisan support across the country. Bringing it up here is a means to say "Look, Obama also did bad stuff. You can't call Trump out on his bad stuff" which is an asinine way to frame anything.

It reminds me of an old conservative response to progressive/leftist ideas about American foreign policy.

Leftist: "... and that's why the current administration should be considered as war criminals" Conservative: "By that logic every administration since World War 2 were war criminals" Leftist: "Yes"

Whether or not the argument posed by the above comment is even valid is, for the purposes of this comment, irrelevant. What is more interesting is knowing why the supposed crimes/overreach of the Obama administration excuses the overreaches of the Trump administration.

But in your war criminals dialogue, the “Yes” from the leftist provides cover to compress all administrations on the dimension of war crimes, dismissing LBJ/Nixon/GWB by saying “Carter was a war criminal too.”

He didn't say previous abuses didn't occur, he said he doesn't trust this administration to not have ulterior selfish political motives.

Edit: Also, poor form or not, I see the same patterns here as I do on threads about china and the people that took over bitcoin - votes up in increments, then all comments are downvoted multiple times in batches. That and lots of whataboutism.

The classic "But what about...look over there...this is normal...nothing to see here...move along now. "

Yes, that's whataboutism and what I was replying to. Instead of saying why the current administration can be trusted to not have ulterior motives, someone says 'other people also abused their position'. This isn't about comparison, it's about the motives of this move.

I think I feel the opposite. To me, Barr (and Durham) represent really good news for legal reform in the FISA courts. The fact that these courts, non-adversarial by design, can spy the way they have is really troubling, let alone on an incoming and present administration. I hope there's strong reform here. Transparency is the only way forward.

When secret FISA courts were first introduced, I'm sure many people wondered how long it would take before they're used illegally, for political purposes...

I guess it's just the sign of the times that two people, probably relatively similar in most regards, can have precisely opposite feelings.

Your belief about Barr is fundamentally incompatible with Barr's belief about Barr. The real Attorney General, in words and in deeds, favors a unitary executive who, by dint of national security argument, has almost unlimited power including the ability to spy on anyone they please.

While you may believe he is taking on the FISA court, and there are abuses there to fix, by Barr's own admission he doesn't seem to think there are any restraints on an Executive's power in the realms of national security or foreign policy. It seems to me the motivation around FISA is strongly motivated not by sincere belief in the limitations of executive authority, but because of a sense that they (read: the President) were wronged.

When Attorney General William Barr spoke to the Federalist Society in a memorial lecture just a few months ago[1] he lamented the transparency Congress has forced upon the Executive, "There is no FOIA for Congress or the Courts. Yet Congress has happily created a regime that allows the public to seek whatever documents it wants from the Executive Branch at the same time that individual congressional committees spend their days trying to publicize the Executive’s internal decisional process. That process cannot function properly if it is public, nor is it productive to have our government devoting enormous resources to squabbling about what becomes public and when, rather than doing the work of the people."

Barr then attacked the judicial branch directly, claiming they are "encroaching on Executive responsibilities in a way that has substantially undercut the functioning of the Presidency" and in particular, those darned judges keep finding that they can review the acts of the Executive! Isn't that frustrating?

He writes in such an example: "Courts are now willing, under the banner of judicial review, to substitute their judgment for the President’s on matters that only a few decades ago would have been unimaginable – such as matters involving national security or foreign affairs.

"The Travel Ban case is a good example. There the President made a decision under an explicit legislative grant of authority, as well has his Constitutional national security role, to temporarily suspend entry to aliens coming from a half dozen countries pending adoption of more effective vetting processes."

Do you think that a surveillance state reformed by Barr would really rein in the courts, or simply remove them from the picture?

[1] - https://www.justice.gov/opa/speech/attorney-general-william-...

Whatever problems I have with Google pales with what problems I'd have with whatever the US would want to carve Google into.

How would you even know that?

Because right now Google has enormous value because people trust it. I believe they won't do something horrible with my data because if they did, it would potentially erase billions of dollars of value from their share price.

Yet. If I start feeling like Google operates as a compromise with the Trump administration, it super freaks me out. Kind of like what happened with Facebook?

At the risk of sounding overly snarky, what exactly has google done to secure or gain, rather than piss away trust at every conceivable turn?

Maintain solid products? Google kills more products than they run.

Stewardship of customer information? They're the biggest advertiser and have had multiple scandals.

Good customer service? Not in this universe.

Clear rules? Ask anyone that's lost their entire google account, email included, for a BS accusation of click fraud.

I think I trust my phone company more than I trust Google.

I'll bite.

> Maintain solid products? Google kills more products than they run.

Google Search, Youtube, Gmail, Google Maps are all amazing free products that have immensely benefited the world. Yeah, they kill a bunch of products, but that doesn't mean they don't maintain solid, if not amazing, products.

> Stewardship of customer information? They're the biggest advertiser and have had multiple scandals.

Do you have any evidence that Google sells non-anonymized customer data to advertisers? Can you cite a Google scandal about selling your data? Complying with subpoenas or government authority notwithstanding.

> Good customer service? Not in this universe.

Yeah, I agree with this one lol.

> Clear rules? Ask anyone that's lost their entire google account, email included, for a BS accusation of click fraud.

Yeah, I agree on the rules being opaque.

> I think I trust my phone company more than I trust Google.

I don't know what country you live in, but if you're in the US, do you mean the people making your phone (Huawei, Xiaomi, ... or you know Google) or the carriers who have been selling your location data [0]?

[0] https://techcrunch.com/2020/01/31/carriers-violated-federal-...

Gmail can't be trusted to actually deliver messages to the recipient's inbox (one of the reasons I left them), YouTube is in the process of imploding with insane content restrictions and copyright claim abuse. Maps is actually really good, I'll give you that.

By carriers, I meant the mobile carriers. I can at least avoid them. Avoiding Google is significantly more difficult.

>Do you have any evidence that Google sells non-anonymized customer data to advertisers?

That's a rather specific subset of "multiple scandals" that I didn't say or imply. As to what they've been doing wrong, we could start with the recently uncovered uniquely generated tracking ID in Chrome (currently on the front page), or the Google+ data leak that led to the service being shut down, or the email scanning for ad targeting that was happening as late as 2017, or when they had to fire an engineer for snooping through people's gmail accounts. All of these tell me that their internal controls are not that great.

What puts the topping on the shit sundae for me is that they're an advertising company at the end of the day. Their user's privacy interests and their own interests will be perpetually at odds. That by itself makes them unworthy of trust in my eyes.

In 12 years of using Gmail, I have never had a problem with it delivering my mail.

Perhaps I was just lucky?

No, they have enormous value because people have limited choice.

For which Google products do people have limited choice in alternatives?

AdSense, Search, and YouTube

All of those have alternatives. Bing? DuckDuckGo? Qwant? Vimeo? DailyMotion? MetaCafe? Even Facebook Video. As for ads, there are so many I don’t even know what their relative ordering is.

You've made my point for me. Incredibly limited offerings for alternatives.

What is incredibly limited about Bing, DuckDuckGo, Qwant, Vimeo, DailyMotion, MetaCafe, and Facebook Video?

And this is Google’s fault, how? How many options do you need? There are more options for each than I have Internet providers but no one is talking anti-trust there.

Options existing doesn't make them viable. Excluding Google in favor of advertising on also-ran search engines like Bing or DDG loses you a huge amount of visibility, for example.

Searching? Again, Google in clear first place, everyone else tied for last.

Video? Nobody uses Vimeo, and their content rules are even more strict than YouTube's.

A couple of those names I've never even heard of before.

You lose visibility? That sucks. Sounds like Google provides a lot of value with ads, doesn't it?

And why does it matter what place Google is if you're searching on Bing? Do you use products only because they're popular? Bing will find all the same stuff, I promise. Give it a try.

If Vimeo sucks and their rules are even more strict, why aren't you complaining about that too? If YouTube sucks and the competition is even worse, what exactly are you comparing it to? Why aren't you petitioning the competition to pick up the slack? The alternatives are just fine and plentiful, you just don't want to have a worse experience and yet you are quick to criticize the option that provides the best one. I don't get it.

>Bing will find all the same stuff, I promise.

I use Google search to this day, despite trying to avoid Google as much as possible, precisely because Bing/DDG doggone well does not find all the same stuff.

>why aren't you complaining about that too

I mean.. I just got done complaining about how trash most of the alternatives are, so I'm not sure what you're getting at here.

This goes back to my original point. Just because these "other options" technically exist does not make them viable options for use.

The USA's history on this hasn't been stellar. The breakup of AT&T is testament to that.

So, the Standard Oil and Bell breakups didn't work out? Do you still have to pay to rent your telephone handset hardware each month?

Also I don't think in this case that the determination that something requires action to mitigate anti-competitive behavior means that the government declares what happens. Not a lawyer, and have not read any precedent but I'd imagine a first step would be to ask these companies about a structure that would work best if business units were separated, with some guidance, rather than some declaratory thing.

The Bell breakups absolutely didn't work out. All the baby bell's have now remerged into almost the same situation. Telecom is not competitive. People rent their phones, modems, and even routers to this day.

Quality of calls has dropped through the floor, instead of a well-regulated, government-enforced monopoly, we now have poorly-regulated, government-enforced triopolies on a variety of services (telephony, networking, television, the physical routing thereof, et cetera), most of the aforementioned triopolies partially or entirely consisting of Baby Bells that purchased other Baby Bells...

Yeah, I'd definitely say it didn't work out.

The Standard Oil breakup was mostly useless, their monopoly power had mostly dissolved as they weren't anywhere near a monopoly by the time it happened, and for that matter, it rewarded Rockefeller by making his wealth skyrocket.

AT&T was broken up in 1982. Call quality is quite a bit better since then.

In the country, we had a party line up to that point. Same location today is still rural but has digital telephony, high speed Internet, and multiple cellular providers.

Basically everyone agrees that both latency and audio quality has decreased, and that can be measured (without sophistication) simply by checking radio & television call-ins over the past fifty years. It was slightly reduced with the introduction of wideband audio (not the latency problem, though), but has mostly gotten worse over time.

This is a great answer on Quora from a few years back to a question on why call audio hadn't improved, where the author explains that it hadn't just not improved, it had actually declined over time:


There was also a great IEEE Spectrum post from a bit before the takeover of VoLTE and wideband audio as to why the decline had happened (and was probably going to accelerate as providers moved to switch from the PSTN to VoIP internally):


Typo: "both latency [has increased] and audio quality decreased"

It's common in the US to rent your DOCSIS modem.

But importantly, not required. Cable ISPs just make it easy to give them more money, which is the normal incentive for any business. You don't have to rent a modem to buy internet service.

> You don't have to rent a modem to buy internet service.

As required by law[1], though, definitely not by choice[2].

[1] https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECFR?gp=&SID=0083f0a8d5...

[2] https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2016/05/chart...

Can you elaborate on that?


Most of the RBOCs were purchased...by other RBOCs, or AT&T itself. The research output of AT&T halved. The well-regulated monopoly was sacrificed for what is now more or less unregulated yet governmentally-defended triopolies in every area AT&T was touching, and then some. The quality of the service has dropped dramatically, even if there was cost reduction (which arguably is tied to said decline in quality).

There was a great book written by two engineers working on the Bell System a few decades ago with a rather rotten title, but a subtitle that'll allow you to find the book just the same: The Criminal Wrecking of the Best Telephone System in the World. I found it really fascinating in many ways, although I'll admit that it served to justify my own beliefs, rather than making me change them, so I could be biased.

Perhaps it's a reference to:


That's ... interesting. How old are you, and how much do you know about how the US telephone system used to work, and how much it cost to use?

well, when you lack all trust in the current government to do anything that doesn't directly benefit them, that's how.

I would be more worried about giving up market share to overseas competitors and the US losing strategic advantage.

I work for Google, opinions are my own.

In theory, breaking up monopolies increases competition which allows better companies/products to spring up that would otherwise be crushed by anti competitive practices. If you agree with that theory, then the act of breaking up monopolies actually makes the US more competitive.


All: please don't take HN threads into partisan weeds. Nothing new or good will emerge from there.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22229806.

He may not need it ( for a given definition of need ), but he certainly does not have a problem with milking his presidency for all it is worth by forcing stays at his various real estate locations instead sticking to WH.

How that is not a more of an impeachable offensense is beyond me. But no, he can milk taxpayers money. The redline is if he dares to cross another power center..

Source that Trump doesn’t need the money?

Sources on previous administration's engaging in antitrust litigation for "personal benefit"?

you mean using powers of the federal government for personal benefit, that is what the person you are responding to said.


Source of this administration's engaging in antitrust litigation for "personal benefit"? The OP doesn't single out antitrust litigation specifically.

>At least Trump doesn't need money.

What does that even mean? If you're implying that he was rich before becoming president (which is already on shaky ground), are you saying that rich people aren't looking for more money?


His assets may not give a full picture of his wealth after he's spent years fighting to hide his liabilities.


If he'd actually release some tax returns then we wouldn't have to speculate. Until then, we have to rely on investigative journalism to try and reveal the truth: https://www.propublica.org/article/trump-inc-podcast-never-b...

Edit for clarification: For all we know, he's just keeping the lie running long enough that it hasn't caught up to him yet. Just because I have lines of credit worth thousands of dollars doesn't mean I have thousands of dollars.

>If he'd actually release some tax returns then we wouldn't have to speculate.

It's pretty clear, to me, the reason that Trump might want to hide his tax returns: because there is shady stuff in them.

Regardless, tax returns are not in indication of wealth; they measure income.

>For all we know, he's just keeping the lie running long enough that it hasn't caught up to him yet.

For 40+ years of continuing to amass global assets? DJT took over Trump Org in the 1970s.

>because I have lines of credit worth thousands of dollars doesn't mean I have thousands of dollars.

What banks are handing out massive lines of credits with no assets support them? He isn't buying hundred-million dollar real-estate with an unsecured credit card...

You've unfortunately been continuing to post unsubstantive comments, flamebait, and personal swipes to HN. If you keep doing it we're going to have to ban you again, so please stop.


>You've unfortunately been continuing to post unsubstantive comments, flamebait

I'm replying to someone calling Donald Trump's wealth "shaky ground". How is the original comment not the "flamebait" here?

This is the second time you've used the word "unsubstantive" to refer to a comment I make, yet I don't see it in the guidelines. I can't for the life of me understand how calling Donald Trump "poor" (obviously wrong) is substantive, but calling him "not poor" is unsubstantive and flamebait?

>personal swipes to HN

I don't believe this is true upon perusal of my comment history, which is pretty benign.

>have to ban you again

It's become clear that some opinions are not tolerated by the userbase, so this is not surprising.

Running for president to get "more money" would be an extremely dumb strategy for someone who's already a multibillionaire. Dumb people do not win presidential elections, especially not with half the funds and with the entire propaganda machine shitting on them non-stop for months. He could have just kicked back and enjoyed his fame, like he did before he announced he's running.

A lot of liberties here, but:

> for someone who's already a multibillionaire

> Dumb people do not win presidential elections

in particular stand out as quite dubious.

The money is in the book deals and speeches and what not after the fact. Even the Obamas are getting into making stuff for Netflix.

That said, four or eight years is still quite Lot of opportunity cost.

So many misconceptions and mistruths all at once.

Using the most powerful office in the world to grift and enhance personal wealth sounds like the exact type of thing a billionaire would do.

Bloomberg did it and he was only Mayor of NYC.

> Dumb people do not win presidential elections

Reagan won in 84 when his mind was already mostly gone, and it's debatable how smart he was to begin with.

How does you assertion work with President Trump saying the exact opposite?

"It's very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it," Trump said...

He ran because he got free press, which meant free marketing for his books, which meant free money. Also campaign donations are basically free gifts of money to someone like this. He even called his transition team money 'my money' to Chris Christy (Michael Lewis' book which is a very good read).

His inauguration party alone rented out his own $5k ballroom for $150k. He rented his own offices for triple their cost to his campaign. The list goes on and on until you realize it isn't here or there, but all the time, non stop that these grifts are happening.

The bill for golf playing is over $100 million. His super bowl party alone was $3.5 million and even though it was on the official schedule a reporter asking about it was berated for implying 'that the president wasn't always working'.

Once he leaves office the rest of his life will be lived in court.

You can't rent out "just" a ballroom for an inauguration, or anything or anywhere ab president does or goes... The amount of security and extra amenities that go into an event that big certainly add on. I don't know whether it balances or not, but this strikes me as absurd.

That wouldn't be payed for by the campaign though. No one said he rented 'just a ballroom', you came up with that on your own. The hotel charged his campaign $150k for the ballroom that they usually charge $5k for.

The security extra is where the $100 million in golf comes from. Local police security is also why his campaign owes millions to the cities he has used to hold rallies and refused to pay.

Of all the Big Tech antitrust scrutiny, this one seems like the most straightforward case.

Is it? Where would you make the cut, and which anti-customer behaviour (Which seems to drive anti-trust legislature in the US) would it combat?

It is always a good time to shatter a megacorp.

The true innovation in this field was all defense spending in the first place. Not going to shed a tear over a setback to a bunch of grifters who cashed in on the public's investment.

Google has too much power and influence over what people see when they search for things.

That, combined with having a massive ad network and the most browser marketshare, Google has the ability to unduly influence the opinions of millions of people, if they so chose.

Too much power for a single corporation...

I trust them far less than I trust the Trump administration. Google is proven themselves to be pretty evil. They're so much worse than Facebook or Microsoft.

So, let them be broken up. I'll feel a little safer.

m0zg 14 days ago [flagged]

HN, after years of blaming Google for everything that's wrong with the world: "WTF, I love Google now!"

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