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U.S. lawmakers, wary of Big Tech, propose antitrust overhaul

7 Comments
By Michael Mathes

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This is government 'taking back control' from the corporates. It is risky.

For the last quarter century tech has driven global growth, and the dominance of US tech has maintained the position of America, despite domestic issues - the poverty gap, homelessness, drugs, racial disharmony, gun violence, crumbling infrastructure and partisan politics.

In taking down GAFA, the USG may be hollowing out the core of US power and opening the door to alternatives from other nations.

The only tools they have to prevent this are ever increasing sanctions, restrictions and censorship. That is not a recipe for a healthy future.

The USG's first major foray into 'taking back control' of tech was to ban Chinese companies, specifically Huawei. This increased the pace of domestic R&D as Huawei was forced to speed up the development of their Harmony OS. This could see the tech of Chinese-allied nations become much harder for the USG/NSA to 'access', than if it were running Android, Windows and iOS. So a bit of an own goal.

Politicians don't do tech well. They don't understand it. Hence the endless catalogue of Government tech project failures around the world, often financed by public money.

This won't end well for those involved. Governments will get what they want - a sack of cash, control of the internet and technology within their borders. But the cost may be a lot higher than they expect.

The tax recovery to support public finances is long overdue, but ordinary people will end up paying for it (20 cents an e-mail? Annual subs for social media?) without any tangible benefits, as it gets sucked into government funds.

The big winners will be any companies that can replace GAFA, but are in countries that won't be sanctioned by the US. India? South Korea? Japan? We certainly need to go back to the future to a search engine that actually works well, as Google once did. And we are on the cusp of a whole new range of technologies, from distributed software/networking to permissive WiFi. This could usher in a new 'wild west' and a new tech bubble, as nations emerge from Covid. GAFA has become lazy and forgotten how to innovate. USG intervention may spark a new globalised push to develop better versions of the basic goods and services that we currently use, replacing America as tech central. Which is perhaps not what the USG were hoping for.

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This could see the tech of Chinese-allied nations become much harder for the USG/NSA to 'access', than if it were running Android, Windows and iOS. So a bit of an own goal.

Why? There is nothing stopping a US government employee from buying this tech while on "vacation" abroad and bringing it home for his co-workers to exploit.

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This won't end well for those involved.

Did you read the text of the proposed law? I suspect you did not. The law makes it considerably harder for firms to merge. Mergers and acquisitions are how these firms became monopolies or oligopolies in the first place. Instead of competing they have been buying up competitors. Every time a new technology begins to catch on Macroshaft or Apple or Amazon would buy it up and eliminate possible competition. This new law will curtail that greatly. The burden of proof will be on the merging firms to prove their merger does not reduce competition. Good luck with that.

It will prevent firms like Apple or Macroshaft from excluding other firm's products from their sites. It will also prohibit companies like Amazon from owning the companies which make the products sold through their site. It will also prevent software companies from favoring their products over those of competitors. The Apple Store will be changed for the better with more choices and lower prices.

I am an economist by training with undergraduate and post graduate degrees in the subject. Lack of competition across the board due to the prevalence of monopolies and oligopolies is one of the things I have been discussing here regularly. One of the reasons Americans pay so much for cell phone service, internet service, anything related to tech or software is the glaring lack of effective competition in too many large consumer markets and the ability of a few big firms to restrict the ability of competitors to gain access to their clients. It is a huge barrier to entry for a large number of smaller firms. This is, as far as I can see, a very good and necessary law. It is a case of the government understanding the market and how firms manipulate it and addresses some of the concerns quite effectively. More needs to be done but this is a good start.

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No mention of Section 230, both Trump and Biden support it's removal.

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No mention of Section 230, both Trump and Biden support it's removal.

I think calmer heads are prevailing. If Section 230 is repealed then the internet as we know it today ends. Currently Section 230 protects Japan Today for example or the owner of any other on-line commenting site from liability of someone posts something libelous on a discussion, or incites violence, threatens someone, etc. If that protection is removed then on-line comments, consumer rating sites, etc. will either be closed or their owners will require every single comment to be moderated before it is posted, meaning heavy commercial censorship. Those agitating most for Section 230s removal want to be able to say anything they want on the internet yet at the same time they want to let these site be sued by others for the very things they might say. There is no way it can work. Repealing Section 230 will end on line discussion entirely and probably result in the removal of a great deal of current on-line content. What will be left will be as innocuous and non-controversial as possible with everyone living in fear of being sued.

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No mention of Section 230

Gotta love republican dog whistles like "section 230".

They all know what it means, and they get indignant that the rest of us don't keep up on their conspiracy theories.

Yes, all fear the dreaded "section 230". Or love it. Whichever one they're proselytizing in their bubble.

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both Trump and Biden support it's removal.

I am extremely skeptical of this claim you've made. Whatever they've both professed to support, I'd bet a dollar to a donut it's not the same thing. Right-wingers have a tendency to use rhetoric to twist what was actually said into some weird distortion to push their bias. This is why no links are provided to support the assertion.

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