Facebook and Antitrust
Beginning to look a lot. Like sherman. Senator john sherman. That is who in one thousand nine hundred ninety sponsored the antitrust law that bears his name one hundred thirty years ago he pronounced quote if we will not endure a king as a political power. We should not into her king over the production transportation and sale of any of the necessities of life on february. Eighteenth one thousand nine hundred to without any warning. The president ordered his justice department to file suit against one of the trust. In which j. p. morgan had major interest the northern securities company. Its goal was the monopolistic control of all of the railroads between the great lakes and the pacific ocean. Since then other powerful repressive kings have been dethroned from standard oil to eastman kodak to at and t. and t.'s. Dogwoods as good as gold. It was independent on our currency. It was gold. Now it's gone. That was one thousand nine hundred eighty four. This is now twenty years into the digital century. Big tech remains supreme. All but unchecked by law and regulation the so-called duopoly of google and facebook valued at just under two trillion dollars between them control thirty five percent of the six hundred billion dollar global advertising market. Not to mention evermore of our personal lives. This is harvard. Professor emeritus shoshana zubov in the documentary. The social dilemma. Facebook discover that they were able to affect real world behavior and emotions without ever triggering. The users awareness. They are completely clueless in the past. Ten days came a storm first week before last. Forty eight states and territories along with the federal trade commission filed suit against facebook that suit alleges that facebook bought up rivals with the explicit intention of stifling competition legal filings include an email from mark zuckerberg in two thousand eight in which he allegedly said quote. Better to buy than to compete. And then this past week. A second thunderclap. When texas's attorney general announced new antitrust charges against google the suit claims that google in a conspiracy with facebook abused its market power to chip away at consumer privacy protections and rig the advertising market. But if you think they trust busting senator. Sherman has come out from decades of hiding. That's not quite the case for decades. Antitrust doctrine has been fixated to the exclusion of everything else on harm to the consumer as measured by out of pocket costs social media mind control and the erosion of democracy do not fit into that calculation that sort of the traditional metric that we've used to bring antitrust cases and to really understand and measure consumer harm. It's been those price hikes that really hit consumers pockets Vossen author of the twenty two thousand nine paper. The antitrust case against facebook and illegal consultant in texas suit is on the leading edge of an evolved antitrust doctrine based on harms not necessarily inflicted at the cash register for example invasion of privacy on a grand scale. I just found it so interesting. You know why is it that the communications utility in the twenty first century that all consumers use essentially conduct something similar to surveillance. You sign up for facebook and facebook not only monitors your communications on facebook but even when i go to for example the new york times in the morning facebook is making a record of that and it is extracting from consumers the permission to basically track them across the internet. And it didn't seem obvious to that. Consumers would sign up for that proposition is something that they really liked. It's also a bit ironic. Because as i understand it. In the beginning. Facebook was favorably compared to. Let's say my space in early social network where your personal profile was at least one point. Public and facebook was theoretically an antidote to that. That's right if you go back in history you see how. Facebook entered the market with very firm. Privacy promises it got users to choose facebook over other competitors in the market and only after it gained market power and competitors exited the market. Was it finally able to extract this sort of surveillance term from consumers a large and you contract that facebook's growth goes up privacy protections straight down that's right and the fascinating thing about the new york attorney general's suit last week. Is that internal communications. Confirm that that's indeed. How facebook internally was considering strategic moves about decreasing users privacy. I don't remember another case that has been brought in a market where the price is zero and the government is deciding to defend the people based on things like a lack of innovation in the market. A lack of choice. Everybody uses facebook to stay in contact with their friends and family. And then just privacy harms.