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June 03, 2019

DOJ Weighing Anti-Monopoly Probe Into Google

This was announced just after midnight Friday night.

Though WSJ didn't specify which aspects of Google's business might come under the microscope, a string of multi-billion-euro fines recently levied by the EU might offer some guidance. The bloc's anti-trust authority, which has been far more eager to take on American tech giants than its American counterpart (for reasons that should be obvious to all), has fined Google over its practice of bundling software with its standard Android license, the way its search engine rankings favor its own product listings, and ways it has harmed competition in the digital advertising market.

During the height of the controversy over big tech's abuses of sensitive user data last year, the Verge published a story speculating about how the monopolistic tendencies of each of the dominant Silicon Valley tech giants could be remedied. For Google, the Verge argued, the best remedy would be a ban on acquisitions - a strategy that has been bandied about in Congress.

The Verge article mentioned discusses the possibility of treating Google as Microsoft was treated in the 90s, stopping the practice of "leveraging" a dominant/monopoly position in one area (Google has many, but the most important are the search function and ad placement (itself based on, "Leveraged" from, its near-monopoly position on search)), into market dominance in a different area of the economy.

In the case of Microsoft, they were accused of leveraging their dominant/monopoly position in operating systems for non-Apple computers into making it difficult to use any browser on their systems besides the Microsoft-owned Internet Explorer. Netscape sued, claiming Microsoft was using a dominant position in one area to secure a privileged position in another area, in order to squelch competition in that other area.

Verge proposes that Google would be forbidden to purchase any new companies, so it can't just buy out its competitors -- its competitors would have to provide actual competition to Google.

This sort of a theory is somewhat modest -- it basically says, "We will allow you the fruits of your luck and labor in making this current monopoly, and we will let that sit undisturbed, but we won't let you take the next steps and use your current monopoly power in one area to leverage yourself new monopolies in other areas."


In other words, this much diminishment of competition, but no further.

As a commenter pointed out, tech stocks are taking a beating, now that they have to price in the costs of a possible resurrection of anti-monopoly laws that remain on the books, but have been largely ignored since Clinton.

Alphabet stock (GOOGL) was down 6.1% in Monday morning trading, to $1039.42 per share. Shares of U.S. tech giants Facebook (FB) and Microsoft (MSFT) were also down. Apple stock (AAPL) was up slightly as the S&P 500 was mostly flat and the Nasdaq Composite was down 0.5%. Amazon.com (AMZN), which the Washington Post reported "could face heightened antitrust scrutiny" from the Federal Trade Commission, was down 3.7%.

The Federal Trade Commission also considered an anti-trust probe into Google in 2013, but declined.

Did the DOJ time its news to help publicize Glenn Reynolds new book making the case for anti-trust investigations into Monster Tech? The timing -- I question it!

But seriously, Roger Simon partly reviews that book and partly discusses the evil of the Tech Monopolies in an article worth reading.


In the midst of all this, not entirely surprisingly, IQs have been going down steadily across the Western world. In other words, social media is turning us into idiots with ADD. To be honest, I have seen this in myself -- and it's scary. Others too have told me they have experienced a dumbing down. Reynolds notes that this has been little reported. (No surprise there.) Thanks, Mssrs. Zuckerberg, Dorsey, Bezos, Page, Brin, etc., etc.

On top of all this is that little matter of political bias -- the leftward tilt of the tech giants that is leading us to a monolithic society straight out of Orwell and Huxley that no one has as yet figured out how to counter...

Reynolds compares the rupture we are undergoing to the agricultural revolution when, after the hunter-gatherer period, humanity first banded together in villages to tend the land and instantly began to contract plague-like diseases that didn't disappear for centuries.

That comparison sounds apocalyptic, but, unfortunately, there's some truth to it. It's that bad. Maybe we weren't born for this. But what it is to be done?

The "plague-like diseases" Reynolds is talking about, I would imagine, are psychological -- loneliness, neuroticism, outright sociopathy, all encouraged/nutured by our Dumb New World -- as well as a general lowering of IQ as we descend into social-media Idiocracy.

I should pick the book up. I think I will.

Update: Several commenters propose that the silver bullet would just be to regulate -- or ban -- the collection of data on users. Perhaps a soft ban, requiring actual cash-money payments to people who agree, with full disclosure and understanding, to permit Google to create gigantic databases about them and their personal habits.

Here's one example:

19 End mass information gathering and brokering. No more collecting data, even "anonymized" (what a lie!), except as specifically required for a transaction. No more selling of personal data, even "anonymized", PERIOD. (Once I might have entertained exceptions. No longer.) ABSOLUTELY NO DISCLOSURE OF PERSONAL INFORMATION WITHOUT EXPRESS SPECIFIC CONSENT.

This is the heart of the beast. It's what feeds and funds it.
Posted by: Brother Cavil

A short exchange on this point:

>>>29 I will note that if [selling]-you-as-the-product becomes illegal, a lot of free stuff isn't going to be free anymore. For good or ill. Posted by: Grump928(C)

It's better that a price should be advertised, rather than it be extracted from you secretly (in the form of all your personal data and secrets).

Posted by: ace

Corrected: I wrongly stated that Microsoft's browser was netscape. It wasn't; it was IE. Netscape was the competing product that alleged Microsoft was using its OS dominance to fence it out of the browser market.

Thanks to Yudhishthira's Dice.

I knew all this a lot better before the internet began killing my brain like a kind of electrically-transmitted dementia.


digg this
posted by Ace of Spades at 03:06 PM

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