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  • Geebo 9:08 am on May 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , monopolies   

    Facebook: Our monopoly keeps you safe 

    Facebook: Our monopoly keeps you safe

    This past Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared before the Parliament of the European Union to address concerns about user privacy among other matters. To the EU Parliament’s credit, they asked much more poignant questions to Zuckerberg than the sometimes clueless US Congress did. However, much like he did with Congress. Mr. Zuckerberg was largely evasive when it came to the big topics raised by the EU?

    One of the major topics that Mr. Zuckerberg seemed to constantly avoid was that of ‘is Facebook a monopoly?’ Zuckerberg would name platforms like Twitter and Google, but as one Parliament member pointed out, that would be like saying a car manufacturer that has a monopoly telling people they could take a plane instead. Mr. Zuckerberg closed his appearance stating that Facebook would respond to many of the EU’s concerns in writing and that they did, sort of. In addressing concerns that it is a monopoly Facebook issued a statement claiming that its dominance in the social media and messaging space keeps its users safe.

    The company answered Wednesday in an online post, saying there are “many consumer benefits” to having Facebook control so much of the world’s communication. “By working together we have been able to improve safety across all these services,” the company wrote. When Facebook sees spam, exploitative images or illegal content, for example, it can obliterate it on all platforms at once.

    Forgive us for beating a dead horse, but this sounds almost exactly like the claim Backpage used to make that they were a leading tool in the fight against human trafficking. A platform cannot be both the cause of and solution to a problem. As far as obliterating harmful content across all of its properties, Facebook can barely handle that as many people who have complained about harmful content are told that the content in question doesn’t meet their vague community standards for deletion.

    The European Union has a history of taking a dim view against corporations that appear to violate their antitrust guidelines and have ruled against companies that ended up having worldwide ramifications, just ask Microsoft. Could we see a similar blow made against Facebook? If history is any indicator, we will.

  • Geebo 10:13 am on January 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , monopolies   

    Should Facebook be broken up? 

    Should Facebook be broken up?

    British media trade magazine Press Gazette recently ran an article where one of the directors of the London School of Economics has called for Facebook and Google to be broken up as virtual monopolies. While the two companies may not be publishers themselves, in today’s digital world these two companies have an enormous influence on what media gets to be shared. While the UK has stricter antitrust laws should Facebook and Google be broken up in the US?

    When we think back to monopolies in the US being broken up we think back to companies like Standard Oil, US Steel and AT&T. While Facebook and Google are not similar companies to these ones from history, they do trade in the currency of our modern age, information, which these two companies do seem to have an inordinate amount of control on the flow of information. Even noted consumer advocate Ralph Nader says these companies release products and policies out onto the world without realizing what the consequences will be.

    Now, some may say that Facebook and Google aren’t monopolies and that there is competition to these platforms, but is there really? While there may be other social networks and other search engines do any of them even compare to the industry leaders? Facebook has 2 billion users. Can anyone even name what the #2 social network is? Even if it is Twitter, their userbase doesn’t even come close to Facebook’s. What is the #2 search engine? Yahoo? Bing? Google is so large that their name has become a verb for looking things up on the internet.

    Due to their undue influence on today’s media, maybe it’s time for Facebook and Google to start thinking smaller before the government does it for them?

  • Geebo 10:19 am on June 30, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: antitrust, , , monopolies   

    What the EU’s fine of Google could mean for the US 

    What the EU's fine of Google could mean for the US

    Google has become a victim of its own success. Its name is so synonymous with web search that its brand has become a verb. When someone has a question you don’t say “Why don’t you Bing that?”. Just on search alone, Google possesses close to 80% of the global search engine market share. Google also boasts the most popular webmail client on the internet with their GMail. It has four times as many users as its next closest competitor, Yahoo Mail. While Google has some minor competition to its popular services, for all intents and purposes it is a virtual monopoly. So when the European Union handed down a $2.7 billion fine for violating EU antitrust regulations, you might think it was just because Google is so much bigger than everyone else and that’s sort of true. What lies deeper than that is it appears Google wants to remain the size they are, at the expense of anyone who may get in their way, no matter how small that anyone might be.

    Google is often chided for having the corporate motto of “Don’t be evil” as it has gobbled up competitive services and shut them down. Now, the EU says Google has committed another evil in trying to favor their own services over the services of other companies. Since its inception the EU has had a hardline stance against large corporations that engage in antitrust practices. They famously fined Microsoft for not offering a competing browser and media player with the Windows platform. At the heart of the matter is the belief Google gave top priority to Google Shopping in search results over competitors offering a similar price comparing service. Yet while promoting its own services Google would also allegedly remove the links of competing services claiming they violated Google’s SEO rules, the same SEO rules that are often vague and can change at a whim. Some might even say they change to however it suits Google and not the sites it indexes.

    While the EU has a reputation of combating antitrust practices, the US does not have the same viewpoint that the EU does. In the US Google is in the catbird’s seat. The US hasn’t broken up a major monopoly since it broke up AT&T into the ‘Baby Bells’ back in the 1980s. Since then the Baby Bells have all since merged back into two separate companies in Verizon and AT&T. Cable companies and Internet service providers, which are often one and the same, often have regional monopolies with no real choice for consumers, yet nothing is ever done about that. While the Federal Trade Commission has prevented some mergers from taking place in order to avoid one company having too much of the market, it hasn’t done much in the way of promoting competition, while a company like Google has basically muscled their way into a monopoly.

    We’re not saying Google doesn’t have a right to do business, it should just do business equitably. Think about it for a moment. If Google came up with a version of your business and promoted their version over your business, how long would it be before your business started feeling the pinch? With the vast resources at Google’s command, that could happen to any number of businesses and industries. Just like the banks in the 2008 financial crisis were deemed ‘too big to fail’, Google is too big to succeed without sacrificing a large number of worthy competitors.

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