Do US Tech Companies Have Too Much Influence?

If you want to review business and political fireworks that will become front-page news, then take a look at the major US-based technology companies: Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter.  These six behemoths control the vast majority of information flow, which results in tremendous influence over our daily lives.

Based on their business models, each of these companies embraces the notion of centralized control being good — i.e., the success of their business is inherently based on the idea that you give up your privacy and control to them for the promise of a “better life” (free software applications, free data storage, etc.).  Since this is very compatible with many of the tenets of Progressivism, all of these companies tend to be supportive of centralized control and a strong administrative state.

Is the momentum of these business giants along with the influence of the large government supporters too much to overcome?  What does this unprecedented influence mean for a Democratic Republic?

The initial reflex from our government is to either regulate these companies or “break-them-up”.  I do not find either of these actions as appropriate.   First, regulation inherently stifles innovation and often results in great reduction of freedoms contrary to our Bill of Rights.  Second, the anti-trust perspective does not take into account the over-sized influence that these technology companies possess.  Thus, a real solution will require the synthesis of a third option.

This cumulative posting started in February 2018, and I will continue posting articles below on this topic for the foreseeable future….

Update

The alliance between big business and big government is continuing to emerge.

Big Tech is now very much in the politics business. Last week, for example, it emerged that Google had threatened to demonetize the Federalist, a tiny, online conservative magazine, because NBC had objected to some of the remarks posted in its comment section…

Politicians can use laws to reward or threaten particular corporations. But some of these corporations are now powerful enough to level equivalent threats against politicians… Suppose that on Election Day, Google changed its doodle, the image on its homepage, to “GO VOTE.” But suppose that it did so only for the 2 million voters whom it knew to be likely to vote for a particular party and to be most in need of a prompt.

 

June 26, 2020

A very interesting position taken by the Attorney General of the United States.  William Barr exclaims that the big tech companies obtained the tremendous level of power  through the “biggest bait and switch in history.”   He said that they gained power by allowing diverse views on their platforms, and later elected to started censoring views that they don’t like.

“We have antitrust investigation of all the major Internet platforms or most of the major Internet platforms, and that’s very much underway. I expect to be making decisions in the next few weeks about actions on that. I think during the summer we’ll see some developments. But this issue of censorship is very troubling because our country was based and the Framers, as you know, believed the thing that would ultimately keep us free and keep a majority from repressing the minority is a lot of diversity of voices out there — a robust marketplace.”

 

June 17, 2020

This situation with the big tech companies is continuing to evolve into an untenable situation.  The dominance of Google in sharing news and the revenue associated with its creation, is placing a heavy burden on the country.   It’s starting to devolve into centralized control over the sharing of ideas, and the Google’s position is rapidly moving the country and the Department of Justice to a position of having to take some drastic measures:

NBC did the worst thing possible, they published the quotes from Google’s response to them where Google willingly accepted the request from NBC without pause.  The collusion was not only clear, it was self admitted.  What made the issue more explosive was the NBC article explained the motives of both organizations; the targeting was intentional and specific.  The goal was to take-down The Federalist news outlet by removing their revenue. There was no ambiguity of purpose, and Google knowingly agreed with the intent.

The methods, practices and purposeful control of value; through collusion of corporate interest specific to a planned and organized effort to control monetary benefit; is the part of their activity that is quantifiable, discoverable, easily provable, and ultimately unlawful.

 

June 5, 2020

If you haven’t been paying attention, the situation with the large technology corporations and their leveraged influence on American society is only getting worse.  In response, we now have influential businessmen calling for the breakup of the big tech monsters.  In this case, it is Elon Musk calling for the breakup of Amazon:

CEO and founder of SpaceX and Tesla, Elon Musk, has taken to Twitter to post his thoughts once again. This time, he’s calling for e-commerce giant Amazon to be “broken up.”

The call comes after Amazon’s publishing service allegedly refused to publish a book by an author who shares his skeptical views of COVID-19, claiming conspiracy theories and falsehoods surrounding the virus’ outbreak.

 

January 20, 2020

A great quote from Dr. Robert Epstein, commenting on the power of Google search algorithms to sway opinion and influence elections:

“Who on Earth gave these private companies the power to make decisions about what everyone in the world is going to see or not see?  These companies shouldn’t have that power, period.”

 

November 11, 2019

Here is another interesting addition to the stories about the nefarious nature of the big tech companies:

A cache of leaked Facebook documents shows how the company’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, oversaw plans to consolidate the social network’s power and control competitors by treating its users’ data as a bargaining chip

Taken together, they show how Zuckerberg, along with his board and management team, found ways to tap Facebook users’ data — including information about friends, relationships and photos — as leverage over the companies it partnered with

All the while, Facebook planned to publicly frame these moves as a way to protect user privacy, the documents show.

Think about that situation.  It sounds like accumulating confidential information about people for the purposes of blackmail…

 

August 15, 2019

Well, there now appears to be a smoking gun.  A Google senior engineer absconded with internal documents that apparently provide evidence that the company institutionalized its strong progressive position on everything large and small:

Among those documents is a file called “news black list site for google now.” The document, according to Vorhies, is a “black list,” which restricts certain websites from appearing on news feeds for an Android Google product. The list includes conservative and progressive websites, such as newsbusters.org and mediamatters.org. The document says that some sites are listed with or because of a “high user block rate.”

“My message to those that are on the fence is I released the documents. They can go in, they can see everything that Google is doing and then they can see the scale of it. Because I think that there’s a lot of engineers that have a hint that things are wrong, but they don’t understand the colossal scale that it’s at. And so for those people, I say, look at the documents, take the pulse of America, see what’s happening and come and tell the world you know what you already know to be true.”

 

August 6, 2019

There are many former Google engineers that are going public with their insider views.  In particular, they recently shared stories about how news sites pander to Google to ensure that they stay in their good graces:

As Silicon Valley seeks to enhance its control over the news consumers are able to view in the lead-up to 2020, experts say many publications are actively shaping their coverage to stay in “Big Tech’s” good graces… “When is the last time you saw an op-ed in The Washington Post that was deeply critical of Facebook or Google? When is the last time you saw Axios or Politico quote a tech whistleblower in a favorable light?” one industry insider asked.

If Google employees look at anything other than “approved” news outlets — or if they even fix a bug for a conservative-leaning outlet — it can cause problems in the workplace, according to a source who worked for Google who wished to remain anonymous.

 

July 29, 2019

Let’s talk about fake Russian conspiracies until we’re blue in the face.  In the meantime, credible sources explain matter-of-factly about the political influence of the big tech companies… and it’s crickets:

Google’s “Go Vote” reminder on Election Day in 2018 gave Democrats at least 800,000 more votes than it gave Republicans; that bias in Google search results may have shifted upwards of 78.2 million votes (spread across hundreds of state and regional races) to Democrats in the 2018 election

 

Any solution that involves Government censorship is not a good idea:

Senator Josh Hawley’s Social Media Addiction Reduction (“SMART”) Act puts the government squarely in the middle of American citizens private business. Government censorship is the Missouri Republican’s answer to the very real issues and flaws with social media. He’s wrong.

 

July 24, 2019

Given the common operating philosphy of big technology companies and Democrats, we certainly should not be surprised by these stealthy manipulations.   The natural entropy of large organizations is toward corruption, and the big US tech companies have the upper-hand like never before.

Greg Coppola, a senior software engineer who works on artificial intelligence at Google’s New York office, said he contacted Project Veritas out of concern that Big Tech and the media have merged with the Democrat party to sway political elections. “…I just know how algorithms are. They don’t write themselves. We write them to do what we want them to do,” he explained. “I look at search and I look at Google News, and I see what it’s doing.”

The whistleblower lamented that the tech industry is not interested in free thinking, questioning and debate, but rather in “calling people names to get them to toe a certain line.” …Robert Epstein, a computer expert (and Democrat) who testified before congress last week, said that the political bias of Google, Twitter, Facebook and other platforms could manipulate up to 15 million middle-of-the-road voters “without leaving a paper trail for authorities to trace.”

As mentioned numerous times in this posting, the big US tech companies have unprecedented influence over American citizens, and it’s power that has to be restrained.

 

July 23, 2019

As noted 18 months ago with the genesis of this posting, these are going to be interesting times.  It is now getting even more interesting: the US Department of Justice is opening a broad-based anti-trust review to determine whether the big tech companies are stifling competition in violation of federal law:

The Antitrust Division will work to determine whether companies such as Facebook, Google, and Apple have “reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers” as they’ve grown dramatically in recent years and begun expanding into various industries by acquiring smaller potential competitors. The Federal Trade Commission is conducting a separate, more limited investigation into potential monopolistic abuses by Facebook and Amazon.

 

July 21, 2019

A great summary observation  from Joel Kotkin:

John D. Rockefeller tried to control energy distribution through his Standard Oil. Later, the Big Three ran the automobile businesses. These were powerful firms, but they could not, like Google, create algorithms that determined what people see, tilted not only toward their own commercial interest but their political predilections as well. In this way, what the techies are doing is oddly reminiscent of China’s efforts to control and monitor thoughts, sometimes assisted by these same U.S. tech firms.

 

July 16, 2019

The hearings have started.  Executives from Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google testified before Congress today in a hearing examining the effect that their size has had on small businesses and their ability to innovate.   Each executive insisted that their platforms help smaller businesses reach customers and that they face stiff competition.

[Congressional representatives] criticized U.S. antitrust enforcers — specifically the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission — for not challenging the tech giants during their years of explosive growth. “In the two decades since the Justice Department filed its landmark monopolization case against Microsoft, there has not been a single complaint filed by either agency alleging anti-competitive conduct in this market,” he said. “Together, these enforcement decisions have created a de facto immunity for online platforms.

 

June 26, 2019

Many folks that are just now discovering the power that the big tech companies possess are focused on punishing these internet enterprises.  This is not the proper direction for our country.   Indeed, I’ve mentioned about a third option for controlling the power of the big tech companies and I think that Mike Masnick at Techdirt has the right idea when he advocates for requiring open protocols (i.e., enabling users to avoid lock-in to any big tech provider):

A simple “punish big tech because big tech is bad” may get people riled up, but the chances for negative consequences are too great to ignore

…an even better solution is not just about forced interoperability, but moving to a world of protocols instead of platforms. In such a world, interoperability would be standard, but would also be just one piece of the puzzle for making the world more dynamic and competitive. If we relied on more open platforms, then third parties could build all sorts of new services, from better front ends, to better features and tools, and users could choose which implementation(s) they wanted to use, making switching from any particular service provider much easier — especially if that provider did anything to hurt user trust.

This concept may be a little difficult for the average Congressman, but it’s similar to the idea of advocating for 120-volt alternating current (AC) as the standard for electricity in the home (even after Edison killed the circus elephant with AC power).  This led to tremendous business growth for electric tools, fixtures, and appliances based on a standard of interoperability.

 

June 25, 2019

I suppose many people are not surprised by the overt political agendas that have been hidden by the big tech companies.  These are now becoming exposed.  For example, it appears that Project Veritas has uncovered documentation about Google’s plans to control the political process in the United States:

The Project Veritas video reveals that instead of merely doing its job as the world’s leading Internet search and archiving tool, Google is using its power over what Americans see on the Internet as a partisan political weapon to force extreme, un-American leftism on all of us.

Meanwhile, Apple is now playing God by defining acceptable apps in their store based on “social media membership”:

Apple threatened to kick Parler off its App Store if the social media website did not ban content they deemed inappropriate… Matze said they were told they had to change their community guidelines so they reflected Apple’s. They were also told to remove certain kinds of individuals.

 

June 17, 2019

Instead of regulation or anti-trust, I’ve talked about a “third-way” to enable an internet grounded more in free speech.  This proposal by Alec Sears is a decent start for some potential innovative approaches:

Here’s one simple solution to hit tech companies where it hurts. Any person who is banned from a platform must be paid whatever money that platform made from their activity, and the banned user must also be provided with a list of places their data was sold.

If these social media companies are banning people out of some moral “indignation,” then they should have no problem giving back the money they made off of them.

This legislation would circumvent any terms document and give users more insight into the money-making aspect of social media. It would also allow companies to continue banning users but at a tangible cost.

This policy is inherently bipartisan. Anyone who is banned would be entitled to compensation.

 

June 9, 2019

This topic on the oversized influence of Big Tech in the US started on this blog almost 18 months ago.  If you read the many postings here in chronological order, you will get the impression that there has been a rapid evolution and discovery about the pernicious nature of these companies.

Well, now the US government has decided to intervene.  The House Judiciary Committee is launching an antitrust investigation into big technology companies and the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also appear to be joining in the investigations.

 

June 3, 2019

Here is the latest video from Prager University on selective censorship by the  Big Tech platforms (ironically it’s on YouTube in restricted status).  It’s narrated by Brent Bozell and titled “Big Tech is Big Brother” and focuses on how Google, Twitter, Facebook, etc., behave in a manner akin to Big Brother in the Orwell novel “1984”:

 

May 19, 2019

This issue concerning the power and influence of the major US tech companies continues to grow.  It’s the top topic for many folks pondering the economic and political future of our country.  At the Points and Figures web site, Mr. Carter clearly identifies that most pundits are in one of two camps (illustrated by the many postings on this topic here):

I would tread lightly and wade into the regulatory/antitrust water slowly.  It’s pretty clear there is a problem.  It’s very unclear how big it is and what we should do about it.

 

May 3, 2019

It appears that the pressure on the technology companies is starting to make a mark.  Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post urging governments to regulate Facebook and other technology companies. Naturally, Zuckerberg is promoting this action in his own self-interest, which is to avoid the inevitable — that is, the forced breakup of Facebook.

Well, today the co-founder of Facebook, Chris Hughes, has his own editorial.  This time in the New York Times.  Mr. Hughes indicates that it’s time to break up Facebook.

 

April 9, 2019

An interesting article in the New Republic that details how Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are starting to compete with one another (does this throw cold water on the anti-trust angle?):

The tech giants were once content to stay in their own lanes. Facebook had social media, Google had search, Amazon had e-commerce, and Apple had hardware… Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook want to make it unable for users to live without them.

We created antitrust laws out of concern that monopoly corporations could rewrite laws, hoard profits, squeeze suppliers, and dictate the structures of daily life from their lofty perch. It may seem positive that these companies are taking on one another, with consumers poised to enjoy a surplus in any war for their attention. But when it concludes, the outcome could be a kind of digital tyranny, where participation in society demands signing up with a giant corporate overlord. At stake isn’t simply market competition, but the very notion of freedom.

 

March 30, 2019

Does the appointment of a new Attorney General usher-in a more aggressive approach in dealing with the technology behemoths?  There is a good chance that William Barr will pursue the antitrust route:

Big Tech is on a “lobbying spree,” spending money on influence peddlers in a manner that has shocked many veteran DC insiders. Big Tech’s money will be going head-to head-against Barr, who bluntly stated at his confirmation hearing that, “people wonder how such huge behemoths that now exist in Silicon Valley have taken shape under the nose of the antitrust enforcers.”

De-Platforming, discrimination, and improper data collection continue unabated by the nation’s biggest tech giants as their influence gets more significant than ever before.

 

March 3, 2019

Republican Senator Josh Hawley has taken a position:

“We need to end the sweetheart deal between big tech and big government…

Hawley is starting to brew thoughts that technology companies are controlling information, and the government is actively encouraging it.

 

February 10, 2019

You know freedom and liberty are going in the wrong direction when the lines between tyrannical government and big tech companies start to blur:

Google has reportedly started censoring its search results in Russia, in order to comply with the country’s laws. Russia’s media regulator, Roskomnadzor, publishes a blacklist of banned websites that cover illegal topics such as drugs and suicide, and that publicize corruption investigations conducted by the opposition. Google has apparently now deleted links to around 70% of the sites on that blacklist.

 

January, 25, 2019

A good article at Wired that furthers the discussion about the evolving symbiosis between Big Government and Big Tech Businesses.  The author contends that they both benefit from one another:

If anything, measuring the flood of tech dollars pouring into Washington, DC, law firms, lobbying outfits, and think tanks radically understates Big Tech’s influence inside the Beltway. By buying The Washington Post, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos took direct control of Washington’s hometown newspaper. In locating one of Amazon’s two new headquarters in nearby Northern Virginia, Bezos made the company a major employer in the area—with 25,000 jobs to offer.

The 2008 election of Barack Obama, a well-credentialed technocrat who identified very strongly with the character of Spock from Star Trek, gave the old-time scientistic-progressive religion new currency on the left and ushered in a cozy relationship between the Democratic Party and billionaire techno-monopolists who had formerly fashioned themselves as government-skeptical libertarians.

A national or global surveillance network that uses beneficent algorithms to reshape human thoughts and actions in ways that elites believe to be just or beneficial to all mankind is hardly the road to a new Eden. It’s the road to a prison camp. The question now—as in previous such moments—is how long it will take before we admit that the riddle of human existence is not the answer to an equation.

 

January 9, 2019

A great article at Red State that starts to put a new perspective on the relationship between Big Government and Big Business, and how it’s starting to align both the Left and Right against the big tech companies:

The old political paradigm into which DC has spent the last many decades cramming the country – is coming apart at the seams… the Left has all along the way loathed business of any size or kind.  Unless it’s really Big Business – and really Big Business is giving the Left massive amounts of money.  At which point the Left becomes the political arm of – and shock troops for – Big Business.

As government’s power shot through the stratosphere and beyond – so too did the allure for Big Business to bribe Big Government to bend the latter to the former’s will… That’s $6 trillion per annum of just federal government muscle.  Flexed over a nation of 320 million people – whose entire economic output is $18 trillion.

Big Businesses saw what a powerful crony Big Government could be – and started bribing their way in.  Creating an unholy alliance between two massive forces – the old DC paradigm pigeonholed as enemies.

Bezos [Amazon] has been using his Big Business’ massive money – to buy Big Government.  And utterly unsurprisingly – it has worked like a charm.  Over and over and over again… What’s interesting is, the accumulation of Big Government-Big Business Amazon cronyism is piled so high – the Left is now protesting too.

 

Click the ‘more’ text below to see additional postings on this topic

December 6, 2018

There is definitely a major uptick in the quantity of stories revealing the insidious nature of the major technology companies.  It starts with Amazon bulking up with politicians and lobbyists as part of ensuring that they stay on good terms with the Democrats in the House of Representatives:

Amazon is getting ready for the new Democratic House — and building a wall of protection against any potential focus on its growth and influence.  In the last month the tech, commerce, and media giant has hired three key Democratic aides, who will help with legislation and diversity issues.

This is followed by a story describing how most of the behemoth technology companies are working side-by-side with various political regimes throughout the world:

The Straits Times reports that “Facebook will allow French regulators to ’embed’ inside the company to examine how it combats online hate speech, the first time the wary tech giant has opened its doors in such a way, President Emmanuel Macron said.”

And you couldn’t miss the recent articles about Facebook internal communications manifesting the false claims about its behavior:

Facebook documents show, irrefutably, that the company did indeed whitelist a number of lucrative business partners, including Netflix, Lyft, and Airbnb, allowing them continued and unfettered access to the accounts of Facebook users and their friends after the company claimed that it had stopped the practice. 

 

November 3, 2018

This cumulative post has previously asserted that the large US tech companies and the Democrat party have a similar agenda.   As proof of that claim, you can examine recent data revealing how the workers at these companies contributed to the US political parties:

Netflix employees gave $321,000 to candidates, 99.6 percent of that to Democrats. Twitter workers gave $228,000 to candidates, 98.7 percent to Democrats. Apple employees gave $1,218,000 to candidates, 97.5 percent to Democrats… Workers at Facebook gave more than $1 million, 94.5 percent to Democrats. Amazon employees gave $971,000, 89.3 percent to Democrats.

 

November 1, 2018

Even ‘Mr. world-wide-web’, Tim Berners-Lee has come out sharing his concern that the major internet technology companies have too much control:

Silicon Valley technology giants such as Facebook and Google have grown so dominant they may need to be broken up, unless challengers or changes in taste reduce their clout, the inventor of the World Wide Web told Reuters.

“I am disappointed with the current state of the Web,” he said. “We have lost the feeling of individual empowerment and to a certain extent also I think the optimism has cracked.”

 

October 21, 2018

An new documentary (“The Creepy Line”) that illustrates the level in which our society is able to be manipulated by Google and Facebook.

 

October 19, 2018

Even the left-leaning Washington Post recognizes the hypocrisy of large technology companies such as Google:

Google announced last week that it would not compete for a $10 billion cloud-computing contract with the Pentagon, claiming the work would conflict with its corporate values. Yet somehow that ethical high-mindedness does not seem to come into play as the company plans to launch a censored search engine in China… This lack of transparency further weakens Google’s claim to the moral high ground.

 

October 7, 2018

An example of how the major US tech companies strongly support the large government worldview fostered by the Democrats:

According to a new GovPredict study released Thursday, Apple employees heavily favored Democrats in their contributions for local, state, and federal elections. In all, 91 percent of their political giving went to Democrats, with only 9 percent going to Republicans between 2004 and 2018.

Since 2006, Amazon employees donated 90 percent to Democratic political action committees (PACs) and a measly 10 percent to Republican PACs.

 

September 28, 2018

I think Google’s company credo was really “Do Maximum Harm…”  Here’s a recent story about Google kowtowing to the Chinese authoritarianism in helping the Chinese Communist leaders to control their citizens:

Google left China in 2010 after realizing that there was no end to the demands and intrusions the government would make, no matter how the tech firm tried to comply. But now the company appears willing to do almost anything asked to win access to the vast market. And what’s being asked of the company is that it help the government control its people.

Google’s leadership obviously sees an advantage in reentering the vast Chinese market after years of exclusion, even if reentry is on terms dictated by and advantageous to an authoritarian regime. If that’s really the path the company’s leaders wants to take, they will have to accept that they’ve become part of the problem, and that they’re legitimate targets for anybody who opposes the regimes they serve.

 

September 23, 2018

A new movie coming out about the findings of Dr. Robert Epstein, where he explains the undue influence that Google had on the 2016 election:

“This is not a problem for conservatives. This is a problem for humanity,” the psychologist told PJ Media. “Who gave a handful of executives in Silicon Valley the right to decide what billions of people around the world can see and cannot see? Who gave them that power?”

At the same time, there are other moves afoot to start investigating the behavior of the tech companies in much greater detail:

The site will explore three broad investigative categories: how profiling software discriminates against the poor and other vulnerable groups; internet health and infections like bots, scams and misinformation; and the awesome power of the tech companies.

 

September 21, 2018

Uh oh, this is adding fuel to the fire…  We are now starting to hear more about how the major tech companies, such as Google, have been planning to manipulate search results to support their political agenda:

Google employees suggested ways to “leverage” the search engine to combat what the tech giant staffers considered anti-immigration rhetoric and news…The emails show Google staffers chatting about methods to alter the company’s algorithm to point users to pro-immigration organizations, lawmakers and agencies that fit the staffers’ political beliefs. Google didn’t deny the validity of the emails…

 

September 16, 2018

There is an inexorable move towards the use of antitrust laws to break-up the tech behemoths:

Google also has clear and committed enemies, with Microsoft, Oracle, Yelp, and even the Motion Picture Association of America calling for restrictions on the company’s power… Some of those restrictions are already starting to take shape in Europe, as Google faces a $5 billion fine for alleged anti-competitive Android bundling and a separate $4 billion GDPR case that alleges stingy opt-out provisions. Last week, Sen. Orrin Hatch called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate anti-competitive effects from Google’s dominance in online ads and search, hinting that similar regulatory pressure may not be far off in the US…  That might sound tame compared to Europe’s billion-dollar fines, but it cuts to the core of how Google is organized. The company has acquired more than 200 startups since it was founded, including central products like YouTube, Android, and DoubleClick.

 

September 9, 2018

Tim Wu, the influential strategic technology and economic prognosticator, is coming out with a new book entitled The Curse of Bigness in the Gilded Age.

We live in an age of extreme corporate concentration, in which global industries are controlled by just a few giant firms — big banks, big pharma, and big tech, just to name a few. But concern over what Louis Brandeis called the “curse of bigness” can no longer remain the province of specialist lawyers and economists, for it has spilled over into policy and politics, even threatening democracy itself. History suggests that tolerance of inequality and failing to control excessive corporate power may prompt the rise of populism, nationalism, extremist politicians, and fascist regimes. In short, as Wu warns, we are in grave danger of repeating the signature errors of the twentieth century.

I believe that Wu is making a case that breaking up Facebook, Google, and Amazon could be simple under the current law, and very beneficial for our economy and political system.

 

September 2, 2018

Well, here is some pertinent news about the gang of US tech companies:

Amazon has become the second U.S. company, 1 month after Apple, to hit a market capitalization of $1 trillion, after its share price briefly edged past the $2,050 mark this morning.

I’m relatively comfortable concluding that these behemoths — with more cash than most countries — have too much influence on our conversations and perspectives about what’s happening in the world.  I’m certainly not for introducing more government regulations, but perhaps a more free-market approach is a proper path to consider.

 

August 25, 2018

A recent editorial from Daniel Greenfield on the topic of Silicon Valley influence in the United States:

The internet was born through universities, hobbyists and neglected labs. It was experimentally libertarian. Two generations later it’s controlled by a handful of monopolistic tech firms whose leaders and employees are dogmatically leftist.

The media and political elites applied external pressure. And Google, Facebook and Twitter began erratically censoring, shadowbanning and deplatforming their targets…. The media was trying to survive economically by creating a political crisis. Big Tech was fighting to survive politically by defusing the crisis to prevent the media and its lefty allies from regulating it…. The media is afraid that its industry won’t survive the internet. And Silicon Valley is afraid of what every industry, once it becomes established, fears, the great hand of government regulations.

Centralized control over speech by any organization inevitably leads to government censorship. The only way to protect freedom of speech on the internet is to decentralize the control of big tech companies. As long as Google, Facebook and Amazon can choke off freedom of speech at a moment’s notice, it’s not a question of whether speech on the internet will be censored, but when it will be censored and why.

The only way to protect freedom of speech is to break up the centralized power of Big Tech.

 

August 16, 2018

A recent article claiming that some of the tech companies have created a cartel to manage dissenters:

Recently, Apple, Spotify, Facebook, and YouTube almost simultaneously tried to erase Infowars from existence (so-called deplatforming)… The fact is that these internet companies created a cartel to get rid of dissenters... Some results of the cartel are awe-inspiring.  For example, Facebook’s removal of links it doesn’t agree with has resulted in a 93% decrease in web traffic from this social network to leading conservative sites since the 2016 elections.

As a result of these manipulations, Google shows links to leftist political sites at the top of the results page, and links to conservative sites are artificially moved beyond the first hundred links.  Google knows that people, as a rule, scan just the first ten to twenty links.  Consequently, Google creates an impression that the whole world is full of leftist ideas only.

 

August 7, 2018

We now have the major US tech companies starting to censor various content sources…  Are we ready to have Facebook, Apple, Google, et al., become the arbiters of our society and culture?  Here is Roger L. Simon commenting on some recent actions by the tech giants to remove InfoWars from the web:

…the group censorship of Mr. Jones, led by our friends in Cupertino, the makers of the ubiquitous iPhone is one of the scarier developments of our time, if not potentially the scariest. Apple is one hypocritical organization banning the puny Jones.  They — the first trillion-dollar company — are the people who are genuflecting to the Chinese, kowtowing (that is definitely the proper word) to Xi Jinping and Co., and making all kinds of accommodations to that totalitarian regime for access to their giant market.

So what Apple is doing picking on the basically irrelevant Jones is a form of corporate virtual signaling, a particularly dangerous form if you believe in the Bill of Rights.

I’m the last person to argue for government intervention, but something has to be done before this goes any further.

 

July 22, 2018

A recent opinion in Bloomberg News, makes a strong recommendation about not breaking-up Facebook

As preeminent as Facebook is, breaking it up would do little to stimulate competition, while causing plenty of harm. Far better to remedy its specific abuses, while taking care not to wreck a thriving American company in the process.

More broadly, lawmakers should consider ways to discourage any company from using its data trove to deter new competitors. One might be to offer a “fiduciary” standard that would encourage companies to compete on how responsibly they handle personal information. Another could be ensuring that a user’s data is “portable,” as Europe’s new privacy regulations require, which could help ensure that startups aren’t stymied by the inherent data advantages that come with scale.

 

July 9, 2018

Well, it’s starting to look like the federal troops are being assembled to challenge the technology company monopolies:

Lina Khan, a prominent critic of Amazon.com Inc.’s business practices, is joining the office of Federal Trade Commissioner Rohit Chopra as the agency prepares to increase antitrust scrutiny of technology firms.

Khan joins the FTC as Chairman Joe Simons said that the agency will host a series of public hearings this year on competition policy, including examining the online economy and whether technology firms are undermining competition.

 

June 16, 2018

The saga continues as now the Boston Globe comes out with a major editorial calling for the breakup of Google:

Never in the history of the world has a single company had so much control over what people know and think. Yet Washington has been slow to recognize that Google’s power is a problem, much less embrace the obvious solution: breaking the company up… Google’s power is bound to grow still more. Last year, it spent more on federal lobbying than any other company. By tweaking the way information appears on search pages, Google can already promote its own websites and banish competitors to digital oblivion.

Google is a monopoly because we’ve allowed it to become one. We’ve allowed it to grow at the expense of copyright holders. At the expense of rival search and advertising ventures. At the expense of startups that might someday challenge the giants. At the expense of a narrowing of the way a society acquires information. Today, the act of searching for an answer is synonymous with Googling. And the first answer for how to rein in this digital giant is also the best: break it up.

 

April 11, 2018

An interesting analysis in the Orange County Register about the ‘oligarchs’ running the major technology companies:

What’s an oligarch to do? The putative tech masters of the universe now face unprecedented criticism from both left and right. The reasons extend from wanton privacy invasions of the people once described by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg as “dumb f***ks” to President Trump’s typically hyperbolic assaults on Amazon’s success at tax avoidance.

Our current crop of moguls also has an ideology — the politics of gentry liberalism. This includes promotion of dense urbanism (although not usually for themselves), open borders and a heaping portion of identity politics. But they, like their forebears, want to keep their money, embracing a quasi-libertarian refusal to address the dangers posed by the concentration of wealth and power, notably their own.

Ultimately the tech moguls are following the approach described by the late radical social thinker C. Wright Mills: “power elites” remain so by constraining debate in ways that do not threaten their core interests. The oligarchs’ unprecedented wealth, married to new technologies, could help shape the nation’s thinking in ways that represent a direct assault on pluralism and independent journalism.

 

March 29, 2018

The stock market is responding in anticipation of changes with the oversight of these tech companies.  We’re starting to see higher trading volumes in Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc.

Facebook and Google-parent Alphabet, both of which have been directly linked with privacy concerns, now trade at valuations near 52-week lows…. The overhang of increased government oversight has sunk the fortunes of large technology companies in the past. Microsoft Corp reached a settlement in an antitrust case with the Department of Justice in 2002 that lasted until 2011, contributing to a long period of under performance that kept the stock below the high it reached in 1999 until 2016.

 

March 27, 2018

Up until now, the Leftists have ‘carried water’ for the major US technology companies.  It wasn’t until Cambridge Analytics provided services to the Right Wingers that the media and Government took notice.  A recent article in the National Review has a good summary:

Silicon Valley is working with its media and governmental critics to limit the damage to the center-Left going forward. You can see the dynamic in the way that the media generates a moral panic out of stories about how Brexit and the Trump election happened, and the way Silicon Valley responds. Fake news becomes a problem, and Silicon Valley responds by hiring progressive journalists as censors. I mean “fact-checkers.” You can see it in the demonetization of YouTube videos. Or in the new sets of regulation being imposed in European countries that deputize the social-media networks themselves as an all seeing social censor.

The national media (which now includes the US tech companies) has a tremendous influence on people and opinions.  If we US citizens didn’t have the television and Internet, what would be the source of reality in our world?  In my case, I could look out my window, walk outside and feel the weather and observe that it’s relatively warm and there are no leaves on the trees so it must be early Spring or late Autumn.  That’s all I would know within my immediate purview.  The rest of my perspective on the world is shaped by gossip I hear form others or the sources of ‘news’ that I choose to read… More from the National Review:

At the macro level, mass broadcast media was a boon to the Left and center-Left. It allowed a new class of people to shape public opinion as never before. But the appearance of social media represented the return of the repressed. It allowed common conservatives and populists to broadcast their own views, and in some sense legitimate them within their social circle. The efforts to criminalize conservative groups who use social media, and legally suppress citizens’ openly sharing unapproved views, are an attempt to put the new class filter back on.

To the center-Left, it doesn’t matter how much Silicon Valley’s tools enable extremists in the Third World, or how much wealth they extract from the public treasuries through their tax-sheltering arrangements. All that matters is that the new tools continue to keep the center-Left in power, and make them look glamorous and smart. This is a deal that Silicon Valley will take.

 

March 25, 2018

Well, that didn’t take long.  I started this post in early February when I postulated the potential for “business and political fireworks that are likely in our country’s future”.  Now we have the New York Times exclaiming that it’s time to break-up and regulate the major technology companies:

We must demand that legislators and regulators get tougher.  They should go after Facebook on antitrust grounds… The Department of Justice should consider severing WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger from Facebook, much as it broke up AT&T in 1982.

At the same time, there is now a State Attorney General that is starting to pursue antitrust investigation against Google:

A single company holding such an awesome amount of power deserves scrutiny, says Hawley, who served in private practice and as a law clerk at the US Supreme Court before becoming AG.

So, in November of last year, the father of two launched an investigation to find out if Google is violating antitrust laws to crush its competitors.

 

March 22, 2018

Victor Davis Hanson has something to say about the large technology companies and the elitists that are running them:

The robber barons of the nineteenth century are disparaged today for their greed and power. But Amazon, Facebook and Google operate virtual monopolies, the influence of which exceeds the oil, rail, steel, and banking trusts of the Gilded Age. The chief difference is that companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook, or Apple are worth more in inflation-adjusted dollars than were Standard Oil or U.S. Steel, and their global reach now affects 6 billion people, not a continent of 60 million. Yet because their leaders wear the costume of the ordinary man, they seek an informality to help exempt them from old-style trust-busting and product liability suits from which their Gilded Age predecessors—with their top hats and gold-tipped canes—were not immune.

And here comes the first mention of the ‘R-word‘ from the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg:

“I’m actually am not sure we shouldn’t be regulated,” Zuckerberg said. “I think in general technology is an increasingly important trend in the world. I think the question is more ‘what is the right regulation’ rather than ‘yes or no should it be regulated.'”

 

March 19, 2018

Some interesting observations from Ben Shapiro about the major internet platform companies:

We’re in the midst of a radical re-shifting in social media. Ironically, the people who have stumped against regulation — conservatives — are those being targeted by social media companies. If companies like Facebook, YouTube, Google and Twitter don’t start acting like platforms again rather than like motivated left-wing outlets, Republicans likely won’t let principle outweigh practicality for long.

It’s very good commentary but one important element that he is overlooking is the fact that the ‘Deep State’ (i.e., lifetime employees in the federal government), Leftists/Progressives, and the major technology platforms (i.e., Facebook, Apple, Google, Amazon) have a very strong worldview in common. Namely, they believe in strong centralized control by a select few; they further believe that they represent those elite selected ones; and finally, they operate with the principle that being ethical is not important because the ends justify the means.

A simplified summary is that the interests of a Facebook and a Google are highly aligned with the Democrats’ interest in reducing individual liberties.  You don’t have to take my word for it, you can read it from the lips of one of Obama’s campaign Directors:

“They [Facebook] came to office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side.

As a result, these technology platform companies are inherently supportive of the Leftist large government mandate, and many of their actions will continue to reflect that self-interest.

 

February 11, 2018

There are strong biases among the Silicon Valley and Seattle companies:

“The public thinks they’re getting an objective look, not so much that Google is picking and choosing and hiding and deleting anyone who disagrees with their point of view.  This is far from the first time Google — and Silicon Valley in general — has shown anti-conservative bias.”

 

You know that the notion of breaking-up the major tech companies is gaining momentum when even Esquire claims that it makes sense:

Four companies dominate our daily lives unlike any other in human history: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. We love our nifty phones and just-a-click-away services, but these behemoths enjoy unfettered economic domination and hoard riches on a scale not seen since the monopolies of the gilded age. The only logical conclusion? We must bust up big tech.

Note: I tend to include Microsoft, which owns Bing, LinkedIn, and Cortana in that ‘Group of Five’ super-dominating tech companies.

One may ask, what influence do these major tech companies really wield?  Well, one example is Google’s YouTube, which has become the de facto standard video source on the Internet.  As a result, the owner/moderator of this video sharing site has tremendous power and influence.  The video below (ironically, a YouTube link) provides a real-life example of what is starting to happen with Google’s politicized censorship.

What happens when Google doesn’t like your political position on common issues.  Take a look at this video:

Of course, it’s not just Google.  There are also strong cases against Amazon and Mr. Bezos’ purchase of a major player in the mainstream media:

In the background, but very much part of the conversation, is Amazon’s engorgement on the The Washington Post company, a once-honored (Watergate!) news organization that Amazon boss Jeff Bezos essentially bought for parts — the main part being the still-influential newspaper in the Imperial City of Washington, D.C. This isn’t so much of a financial investment as a form of protection money — although  Bezos had the chutzpah recently to whine about the deleterious effect of Google and Facebook on print’s advertising base, and to make a pitch to the U.S. government for anti-trust protection.

 

February 5, 2018

How are the US technology companies working with the politicians in Washington:

In 2017 Google outdid itself (and all other companies) in its efforts to influence Washington, spending more on lobbying than any other company that year.

[…]

When a government has a lot of money and power, individuals, businesses and interest groups will expend their money and effort to get a piece of it — or simply to be left in peace.

Source: Big business and the thin line between lobbying and corruption

 

February 4, 2018

If you want to ponder some business and political fireworks that are likely in our country’s future, then take a look at the major US-based technology companies: Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft.  These five behemoths have tremendous influence over our daily lives.

Each of these companies embraces the notion of centralized control being good — i.e., the success of their business is inherently based on the idea that you give up some of your privacy to them for the promise of a better life.  Since this is very compatible with many of the tenets of Progressivism, all of these companies tend to be supportive of a growing administrative state…

Is the momentum of these business giants along with the influence of the large government supporters too much to overcome;  Or are major anti-trust suits (similar to those against IBM and AT&T) in our future?

Essentially, the former corporate darlings of America are now the punching bag. Yet, there haven’t been many suggestions of what should be done to bring these companies down a peg, besides some ambiguous calls to enforce antitrust rules on the books.

Source: How The Left Views Silicon Valley, Amazon

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