Today the US's House Committee on the Judiciary's Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law will hold a long awaited hearing on the market power and dominance of big tech.
Online Platforms and Market Power, Part 6: Examining the Dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google
Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law
Date: Wednesday, July 29, 2020 - 12:00pm
Location: 2141 RHOB
YouTube link here
In advance of this, investigative journalist Mike Cernovich has pulled off another one of his trademark scoops and got hold of a confidential Republican briefing paper. I'll look at this from the point of view of @jpbliberty's Australian Anti-Cartel class action case.
Unfortunately, the full Judiciary Committee under Chairman Nadler is one of the most ridiculously partisan in the increasingly hopeless US system. For this reason I believe it's pretty easy to foresee the main thrust of the questions from both sides to the four companies they're speaking to:
I've watched at least one hearing of the sub committee and, away from huge public scrutiny, that was relatively useful and straight. Because of the very public nature of this sub committee hearing and the high profile of the CEOs who'll be testifying, this is probably going to be more political. However, the Republicans have asked for this to be in front of the full committee, which would make it even less focused and more political.
I'm more focused on Google and Facebook here, Apple and Amazon I'll leave for others.
The political thrust of the Democrats will focus on "hate speech" and removing what they class as objectionable content. The obvious subtext here will be trying to stop the obviously popular Trump related content from dominating online platforms.
Overnight last night it emerged that Brietbart has been scrubbed from Google. It's hard to see this as anything other than partisan meddling.
These partisan politicians firmly believe that Trump only succeeded because he managed to manipulate the public through online platforms. They regard Trump's success in 2016 as an abhorrent aberration which must be prevented from recurrence in 2020.
Their main political thrust will be censorship of conservative voices. Project Veritas has provided enough inside information to show that these tech companies are staffed by far-left leaning social justice warriors and this has guided and manipulated their algorithms and standard policies. The question is whether any of this is illegal.
The platforms all hide behind the famous Section 230 exemption which absolves them of liability for
- user generated content and, most importantly,
- gives them this exemption no matter what choices they make in removing content or users from their platform.
That second part has been their defence in every case brought against them for political bias.
What do we see in the leaked Republican Memo? The bottom line is summed up in this section heading:
EXISTING ANTITRUST LAWS WORK WELL, AND NEED NOT CHANGE FOR DIGITAL MARKETS.
So we can all pack up and go home then. The fact that Google and Facebook together have gobbled up way more than half of all online advertising and even, perhaps, half of all global advertising spending is a matter for enforcement then. The fact that we haven't seen any real enforcement actions or prosecutions in this area is not a failing of the laws, they argue.
This whole section of the document reads like a copy paste from an Ayn Rand essay. "This means that antitrust should not punish successful competitors, or operate out of a simple mentality that "big is bad."
It lays out the case for Congress to do nothing and wait for whatever enforcement and investigatory actions which are underway to play out.
But as they layout elsewhere (in a footnote!) the market took care of dominance before regulatory and legal investications could make much difference:
All through, however, the document presents a slightly optimistic and backward looking view which asserts big tech has grown to the position it is in by being really good at what it does and that consumers have benefited.
What they miss is exactly what we're pursuing them for in our #CryptoClassAction in Australia. These companies are all ferocious at hunting down and destroying any future competitors. That's what they've done up to now. Perhaps they've broken some US laws, perhaps they haven't. Regardless they've spent enough money politically to keep the regulators and lawyers of the DOJ at bay so far.
We know for sure they've broken Australian law. At this point we're pretty sure it's going to turn into an argument over how much this should cost them, and what other non financial demands we can extract from them too. And perhaps America's legislators can take a long, hard look at why two private citizens in Israel can see how to take action while all the Federal and State lawyers in America rush hither and thither with no real output.