Big tech CEOs testify before Congress

The Vergecast


So, this hearing just going to say it, it was six hours of chaos. So. So many things like individual moments of pure chaos happened this hearing. But because every member of Congress was only given five minutes to ask the questions in and they moved on, no one could process the moments of cash. So here are some things that happened during this hearing. Jeff. bezos just started eating nuts on his call. That was just a thing that you started snacking for the first ninety minutes. It appears that basis had tech issues was operating in some kind of delay. So we didn't hear from him. They just answer any questions and they'd take a ten minute break Jeff. bezos could fix his computer. Amazing. Jim Jordan, who McKenna pointed out. On the show last week is always sort of chaos element. Try to talk over several members of Congress got yelled to put his mass back on floated. Just elaborate conspiracy theories. was when I say was chaos I. Don't know if there's any other way to describe it. I. Think that led a lot of people to think the hearing itself didn't accomplish its goals, but I think in many ways it did. But Kennedy you WanNa Kinda go through what the committee was trying to accomplish the themes they were pointed at in. How hearing played out, right. So okay. First off. Harkening back to last week I mentioned Jim. Jordan's mountain dew obsession. Definitely drink a handful those throughout the hearing I took notes in screen shots. So, I, called it. But regardless of their pores soda choices, there were a lot of lawmakers who definitely did their homework and I think that was really apparent throughout the entire hearing and when I look at. The picture that they tried to paint I think that became really clear in chairman Sicily's opening statements. So this is the guy who liked. And spearheaded the entire investigation from the beginning, and in those opening statements, he pointed out that yeah Apple Amazon Google facebook. There are different in a lot of ways and they exhibit anticompetitive behaviors potentially allegedly and a lot of different ways. But what they tried to pull together and was a story, and it's really hard to tell a story and five minute fragments. But what happened yesterday was Sicily. Ni, and a lot of the Democrats on the Committee wanted to point out that these companies they become bottlenecks for distribution whether that's information or just like APP stores marketplace's they control what gets distributed in how what was really key to the investigation was how? How they survey competitors. If you have so much control dominance over a market or a specific part of the tech industry, you have a lot of insight into your competitors and you can do a lot of dangerous things with that, and then lastly, after that dominance has gained, it's how they abuse it. Right? How they abuse it to make harder for small businesses in competitors and I think that's exactly what Cellini pointed out in the beginning and I think they did a poor job that storytelling throughout the process. But I think that's also our job. Right is to pull that evidence together and tell that story for them in a way that isn't like. Yes, no yelling at CEOS and like stopping them and I think by getting that in the evidentiary record doing all this questioning, I think they really did achieve their goal in the end. Yeah. I mean, I think the thing that happened sort of next to the hearing was that they released a bunch of documents from these one point, three, million documents of clutch. Over the past year, they released pretty targeted selection documents for every company showing some of this stuff, Casey, I wrote a story about. facebook. INSTAGRAM. My I'm going to frame this email or mark Zuckerberg. Literally one sentence, no period. The Andrew says I need to figure out. I'M GONNA buy instagram like I would love to just be in a place were sending that email like super casually like I got this thing to figure out and it's not like am I gonNa buy the model of the car. It's like instagram. I've been thinking of the text messages where so and so says that Mark Zuckerberg's didn't go destroy mode on instagram ever since they got that up. Case she this to Kevin and right that text was. Yes. Well, it was Kevin. System was talking to an investor and Kevin said to the investor. If we don't sell well, mark, go into destroy mode on us and the investor side probably. Of course, stray casual. So there's just a lot of documents and I think one of the functions of hearing was to get those documents into the official congressional record to make the CEO's account for them. That did not seem very successful to me. Is like a takeaway people should have from this hearing, right? No. I think a lot of people that go into these hearings are expecting like these big Gotcha moments and expecting like a lot of news and all this stuff. But it really, it wasn't oversight hearing. You know it wasn't. They didn't come. They came at this like in a report last earlier this week that they came out at as investigators. They didn't come at it to make a big show horse and pony show out of it, and yet I think the CEO's didn't. The record well enough to the extent that they could have. But there was definitely, I was expecting them to do a lot less evasion and I expected a lot less room probation with the documents, but it's just the process of a Congressional hearing. It's. It's hard to do that in a congressional hearing. But if you put those documents out there, you get the CEO's on the record a little bit who does excite this excites the FTC. J, and that's who can take this next and then it's also congress. You know they can't break up a tech company, but they can regulate going forward and it's those three key themes that I pointed out earlier that they could regulate. You know what I mean. They could legislate to forbid companies from surveying competitors and things like that, and that's where this goes. So the format of the hearing, every member and five minute chunks, it seemed very clear that the Democrats had some sort of coordinated evidentiary strategy, they would start and. And they would say, I, want to read this email to you. What did you mean by this email and then Jeff bezos would say something like I have. No idea is on works. I. Was real pattern that developed was basis really not doing or claiming he definitely knows claiming not really no way Wayne is under the thing they did or they would ask sooner Pichai about the very granular add deal google made by an ad product, and soon I, would say I'll get back to you, which is basically all responses. So the Democrats seemed like they were coordinated to move through their documents. The Republicans seem to be doing something else that also seem coordinated intentional, but what was their focus because that seemed clear split my takeaway from Jim Jordan who? We got into earlier, he he was interviewing. As if they were all Jack Dorsey. And as we talked about like, yeah, he invited Jack Dorsey to testify, but he doesn't sit on the antidote subcommittees. Anything. He says, it just doesn't matter. So it sounded to me as if he prepared questions Jack Dorsey and then it was like, oh, he's not coming I'll ask Tim Cook the same questions. Another completely crazy moment that happened just seen by and five minute chunks is that. Represented Sensenbrenner from Wisconsin Dear Sweet Wisconsin. Definitely. Asked Mark Zuckerberg why the Donald Junior was banned from twitter and mark. Zuckerberg was happening on twitter facebook and there was just like a moment of confused silence, and then he tried to move on and that just sort of floated by in the river of chaos to tell you how much chaos there was kneeling. When you started to tell that story, I thought you were going to tell the story about when Jim Jordan asked him cook if the famous one, thousand, nine, hundred, four, Apple Super Bowl, AD was actually about twenty twenty cancel culture, which is another thing that really happened. I think that's out of context. He didn't ask him. He said clearly, this is. That's definitely what Steve Jobs was thinking IBM is canceled culture and Apple's going to break it with hammer and Jeff. Bezos said that social media is a nuance destruction machine and all this crazy stuff from that. It was a wild will that that particular question when Jim Jordan asked, do you support the cancel culture mov, you could see the CEOS like. 'cause they went in order. He asks them all in order. So First Tim Cook just like basically muttered nothing. Here's like I don't. I support speech whatever. The iphone a keyboard like that was his answer. Sooner per child also, just like muttered, right? He's like Google has always supported free expression Zuckerberg like saw the opportunity and took it and the forces of liberalism I rising I, and then basis was like I cannot. I cannot do in like went for it, and that was just totally insane moment. But it also seems like the Republicans were intentional to try to create their own moments where they were yelling at CEOS about bias on platforms is obviously something cover a. At. You were paying a lot of attention that case you're paying a lot of attention to it. Do you think that was effective in creating because you know there's like a parallel conservative Universe Jim? Jordan was on Tucker. Carlson. Last night like was that effective or d think that the CEO's were able to sort of tamp down on interesting the Tucker Carlson pointed out that Google and other companies are all big donors to Jim Jordan another folks. So that is a weird side, but I think it was actually besides the moment where they mixed up twitter with facebook I. Think this was much more effective off. Off Topic yelling about technology than we usually see like are genuinely issues that like they are upset about that, they could point to largely around like cove nineteen misinformation and they could at least like pick those topics and stick to them rather than kind of asking vague questions about like, why is my phone listening to me? Well, they're definitely asked questions about why are my campaign emails getting filtered by G mail? Yes. I should. I should mention that they have really and they have all of these cases where they ask about extremely specific one off incidents that anyone who has used social media knows happens constantly. And, then turn them into a sinister pattern. But I think they managed to come off as sounding more like they understood what they were talking about the unusual. I think that was a real theme of the hearing, Casey. What did you think of this sort of bias side show that occurred? Well, I mean the the idea that conservative voices are being suppressed is foundational to the conservative movement and is behind the rise of conservative talk radio. It was behind the rise of Fox News. Now that social media exists, we have seen it in this new form, but it is sort of being presented as extra, sinister and worthy of. Some sort of legislative intervention what frustrates me about it is that much more than newspapers or or cable news like Mark Zuckerberg Dorsey. These people benefit hugely from having all possible voices on their platform. None of them is incentivized to drive conservatives off their platform. What they are incentivized to do is have rules that make the place safe and welcoming. So that people want to hang out there and so to the extent that there are issues on the platform, they've largely come because these platforms have rules. And you know you would think that a bunch of free marketeers would realize that the alternative to the system that they're so mad about would be creating a new system, but they don't seem at all interested in doing that. So I just sort of dismissed all of them as charlatans I actually thought it was interesting that the opposite track came up, which was the Stop Hey for profit campaign I kind of wasn't expecting that. The representative Raskin I believe asked facebook. Basically, why aren't you kicking more hate speech off. I forget who else asked like look is the point that you're so big. You don't care about advertiser boycotts I. Mean, you know it will here. Here is a fact that the number one complaint that facebook gets from its users, the thing that users. About. FACEBOOK is that it removes too much content and so if you're running the place, you do have to take these complaints seriously in a way. Right? It might not be you know that you shadow band conservative whatever that even means on social network in twenty twenty. But the fact that you're removing content is really upsetting people. So you can't dismiss that idea entirely, but I still don't feel like we're having that intellectually honest conversation about it. So this was definitely I feel like you can connect the you control distribution. We're GONNA show the abuses of power narrative. We got other. Democrats. With the you control distribution. You're banning conservatives right like I. Think what's Sensenbrenner Again, cups and conservatives are consumers to is that people don't realize that like fifty percent of the population in many ways. But facebook has like famous conservatives working its highest levels Kevin. We last week, we're talking about Kevin Roose keeps sharing the list. List of the most engaged content from crowd tangle. It's all conservative content, and that's so problematic for facebook that they're. They're pushing back with other metrics and graphs of their own, making the facts just aren't there, but it doesn't seem to be convincing. Brett Kevin is being asked to recuse himself from facebook case because he's like best friends with facebook I, AP I wrote a column almost two years ago. Now, arguing that conservatives were trying to redefine. Any conservative identified person having any unwanted outcome on a social network, right? So bias is your name was higher than mine in search results. Bias is used suggested that I follow a Democrat and not a Republican right, and if you take action on your policies that apply to everyone against me a conservative that is biased against conservatives, right. So and by the way I have to say this has been hugely successful because we've talked about it. How many minutes now and the longer that these discussions. Discussions. Go on. They just sort of refi people's minds. The idea that there really is a vast conspiracy to silence conservative speech because he's networks are so big millions of conservatives are having experiences like this every day, and now there is an ideology that is basically a religion for them to attach to, which is although Silicon Valley liberals are out to get. Reason I wanted to talk about the conservative side show, which in many ways was a circus is it feels like the notion that we should be punitive to the companies or mad at the company's. Bipartisan, right we were. We were not looking at a hearing where the Democrats were on the attack. Republicans are saying we love. Apple. We're looking at hearing where they were. Everyone was mad. There are a couple of exceptions to that. There were a couple of I think sensenbrenner and a few other folks were like look we want to be clear. Big is not bad. We just WANNA make sure we're not punishing you for your success, but you were like almost entirely, right? Yeah. I. Mean I. think that's it's important to. To capture that mood like Jeff Bezos Mark Zuckerberg, Tim, Cook soon. Darpa, try they usually get to finish whatever sentence they start saying. Right. They're not used to being interrupted. Their thoughts are usually like you know they get to live in complete sentences and people take them seriously here in five in intervals, they were interrupted almost every time they started speaking to be told that they were wrong that they were filibuster at one point Sicily said stop thinking is for the questions. We can just assume they're all good questions. They. Were getting yelled at and they're going yell that about a variety of things that were pretty specific. So you kind of in your kind of structure here. The first one was controlling distribution. What did you hear as a hearing went on the indicated to that? The committee had a case here? I think the apple's APP store is one thing you know charging thirty percent cuts on certain things is just controlling an APP store. It's the same thing with Amazon's marketplace. They can inherently in control what gets placed and what gets sold and you know if they want to play with search results on Amazon, they can do that, and then on facebook and Google, it's not just like products and software that's information. And it could be information when it's like Google. Google. Stealing yelps, texture views right in putting those in its little info boxes in search queries in facebook if facebook is just like an. Mation, distribution platform and. It can decide Algorithm Mickley. Knowingly. What people get to see this bution was very keen to the committee's hearing yesterday and they pointed out different aspects in which you know each company exhibited that kind of behavior. So the one that will you bring up apple? We wrote about this, say there's much emails. Apples document production is just one hundred and thirty pages of unrelated emails and whatever order see it's like scan through it. So there's a lot of little stories in there. There's one about right to repair and apple realizing it needed to repair. By watching PR people operate by reading their emails journalists. Very entertaining. They're like we had a break like here's our strategy. Here's we're GONNA. That's all in there. You can look at it, but there's a lot about the APP store itself and how they're going to use the mechanics of the APP store to control their platform, and it started at the beginning like the first emails in this production from twenty, ten there. From Phil, Schiller Steve Jobs saying, are we GONNA? Let Amazon Sell Books in the kindle store. Store, it felt like I saw an Amazon ad was hard to watch this hard to watch this ad where a person's reading a book on an iphone in the kindle APP in the pick up an android phone keep reading. He's like literally like it was hard to watch like Schiller's at home like pain what a customer is having an experience that good it really just. Heart and so he's like it was hard to watch. You fours Steve Jobs. They're like we gotta shut it down jobs is the bookstore will be the only bookstore on the APP. Store. That's the way it's going to be everyone's gotta used to it. We know that restricting payments will hurt other things, but that's what we're doing and they started there in two thousand ten and they pulled it out, and then that ladders up into everything that we've seen with, hey, ladders up into the analysis group showing up to. Apple, can pay them to say that there's independent study has revealed. Everybody has a thirty percent cut. It has landed up into Tim Cook, forwarding. He gets a letters from developers that are in this direction. It's like apples breaking my heart and he just like Ford's it. Tim, Cook forwards that email to filter credit eighty, just as thoughts like amazing like they are constantly thinking about the APP store as a mechanism of control for the platform in the leverage and other deals. So the other one was apple is this Amazon one which I have very mixed feelings on saying that this is bad or legal I'm curious for all of your thoughts famously. Did, not have the prime video APP on the Apple TV and all these other places apple, Amazon came to a deal. There's an entire presentation in this production like the slide deck of how the deal is going to work. Apple got to be the preferred seller of its own product. So third parties cancel. Apple. Products, Amazon pages, they got. They have a custom by flow. They've custom product pages, all the stuff in return. Amazon got a lower commission on the APP store and gets to Selatan products which no. No like you can rent a movie from the Amazon APP on the Apple TV, no one else gets to it in one world. This is just pure platform collision, right? Apple cut VIP deal for big companies because it wanted something and you could say this is legal in another world. It's like this is how deals work apple something valuable. Amazon s something valuable and they came to a conclusion wherever made more money and quite frankly the consumer experience platform has got better. How do you read that? Casey? That is good and fair analysis of it. I. Think I did read slightly more scandalous. Tones into it in part because apple would never acknowledge that some developers are more important to it than others even though if you assume that that's true, I think maybe one of the things that's frustrating about it is there is no transparency accountability around which developers get sweetheart deals is that once you hit a certain threshold of revenue will cut your price. Why couldn't they extend that deal to everyone right? Or is it just if we withhold something that seems particularly valuable, we can eventually drag you to the table. Table, which is sort of what seems like happened here. I think in all cases, what I'm always looking for is the accountability, right like and some sense of of equitable treatment of developers and I understand the guys are always going to get the best treatment, but it can that be publicly visible. Can it be acknowledged and there'd be routes for others to achieve that same level of success and treatment, and that I'll just seems missing here. Did you buy Tim Co? He said it twice. It was obviously A. Glimmer, of sympathy for all four CEOS. There is a lot of reporting that they had spent months preparing for this hearing like being grilled there, they'd hire outside law firms. They. Practiced they all clearly had soundbites memorized in none of them. Got To say him because it kept getting interrupted. Tim Cook had this one where he is like if we're the gatekeepers, the gates are open wider than ever. We've gone from five hundred. APPS to one point seven, he said like. A whole speech. and. The thing is there's fierce competition for developers. They don't like our store can do for android the windows. For xbox and PS. Four. Which I was like the idea that adobe is going to be like we don't want to be on the IPAD. Here's PS. Four Photoshop is insanity to me. I'm going to build a spreadsheet. APP. For the five. That's how frustrated with Tim Cook. To that ring. True to you I. Mean, there's no, it does not ring true. There is a, there is a duopoly. In the United States when it comes to smartphones, iphones have majority share in the United States and you can't say, well, you know there's there's a rogue fork of android in Malaysia that you could go develop for if you really wanted to and have that come across as a credible argument to Americans. Right it is. Natural for any monopolist to spend most of its time, arguing that it is much smaller and much less consequential as as you think it is and they're essentially always asking you to ignore what is in front of your face, which is that they are the giant. They are in control. What they say goes, and it doesn't matter which small businesses get hurt along the. The. Way I would point out that the contact and we're gonNA talk about earnings eventually. But the context for that is apple had its biggest third quarter ever this month, their revenues went up eleven percent year over year, they're making obviously making billions of dollars in their services revenue, which is a lot of the narrative around the APP stores increasing that services line. Also went up. I think it was thirteen billion. So you're right. They're very big in their earnings the day after the hearing did nothing. To reduce that impression. I want to switch to Amazon a little bit McKenna. You really focused Amazon was basis first time up there. They came at him a lot about marketplace. How did you think that went I think it went pretty good. I. Think. John Paul specifically was just like killer her questions with breakout star. Yeah. She was just like killer and she's the representative for. SEATTLE. So this is where Amazon is right. So she just like killed it and. And I think there were a couple of instances in the documents and in questioning yesterday that really pulled important things out there was like testimony from one bookseller who was like, yeah. We just can't sell a category of books and we don't know why Amazon doesn't let us do that just like testimony like that or even when it comes to like acquisitions, the ring acquisition especially, I wrote about that today through the documents and how. They said, this is for market position. This is a for technology, your talent or anything. We just bought this and that's something that base said again, yesterday he was just very clear. It's like, yeah, we do buy things market position, which is like so insane just here like the richest person in the world. But like, yeah, we're buying market position. It's just what happens. That's another one I have mixed feelings right, and by the way, people should read McKenna story because those documents have just a very funny breakdown like the pros and cons of buying. Buying ring in many of the cons like what if this turns into nest, which if you're just the verge cast listeners like it's just like the Keyword Bingo, but it's fine to say, we're buying market position like this isn't the best product out there, but it's the category of video. doorbells is not huge, right? So to by the the market leader in video doorbells is maybe the most rational use of the money. What is the problem that you think the committee was trying to show an address sense of we're just going to market position. Pointing out, they can just do whatever they want and how casual it is, and there really isn't. It's really funny to read an email like that, and we could buy it or we could just copy it or are. We could just watch. You know that was one of the emails that base from someone. Those are just three options you know and it's like just pick and choose you know. Pointed out like a lot. Just that email itself really pointed out just how easy it is for them. They used a lot of that time history to talk about copycat behaviors and to talk about just like you know buying up competitors and it just seeing that all in one little e mail having to do with the ring was like really i. think it was really kind of I opening and especially like useful for the committee. So Amazon got hit a lot for the data collection side of it of copying competitors. bezos did not seem to have great answers there. Right. So that's the. The thing they got in trouble with this. There is that Wall Street. Journal article from like April where employees were literally like, yeah. We dip into data and we use that to guide our own private label products and everybody was like Whoa and Amazon basins. Yesterday said, well, we do have a policy that bans that but giant pointed out yesterday. It's like, okay. So what's your enforcement look like you can have the policy, but like if you don't enforce it, then it's like meaningless. And then yesterday I. Think Paul was like, can you give me a yes or no answer? Do you dip into data and he's like I can't I can't give you. Yes or no, and we're just like we're looking into it. The story had anonymous sources. So that isn't very helpful to us. You know what I mean. So that was one of the main things and that Wall Street Journal article and I think it's the same kind of examples in the committee's documents. They point out specific examples like car trunk, organizers of all things. It's like weird little products like Amazon's like this is a little hot. Maybe we should do that. So I, I think. I, think they made a good case yesterday. Yesterday on that. Yeah. I mean bezos brought up that Wall Street Journal, Article himself twice, and he was like, well, your policy against it. But I can't guarantee never happened. Then there is a strange just didn't come across clear I. Think I know what the committee was trying to get at their like US aggregate seller data when there's only three sellers and then only to sellers? Yes, I. Think what they're getting at is when you're down to the aggregate data of two companies, you heard effectively looking at individual data. What is the problem? They're like the I get what you're doing. You're just reducing the denominator to get to one, but like it, why is that particular problem? Right? Well, none of these. Dipping into individual seller data and looking at aggregate data. That's not a legal. There is no law. This is all voluntary of Amazon. So they have a voluntary policy where like we can't do individual seller data, but they say nothing against aggregate and aggregate what you're getting at eight. Here you is. Does the same thing if it's just like some goofy little product they. They bring up pop stock. It's all the time before pop tops in a moment. Right? There's only like one pop. So company like you know pop soggy, it was kind of an innovative product. It's like well, if there's only two of them and use the aggregate data, you you you have everything you need to know you know about that product line looking aggregate. If that's what you decide to qualify as do you as you're looking through the other Amazon documents and other stuff. So anything jump out at you is something the committee was trying to prove or get at. The questioning seemed very focused on. Like are you using the state at a copy products? Are you buying things? You shouldn't buy. There's one question which I did not understand why came up about DMC. Take downs on twitch and Jeff as just had this look of panic in his eyes. He's like I don't know man I bought Wedge because my kids want to. Do something like that was like the side show stuff, but the real focus here, it just seemed like it was definitely in the marketplace, right? Amazon, everyone came at Amazon for the marketplace. That's what everybody knows him as like they have all these little sides. They got rain. They got Alexa Alexa was one thing too. That was kind of interesting. It's like. Are you buying things like ring to put Alexa into and dislike expand your like Titan Ism as like an Internet Internet connected home. Thing and make that more closed off and walled gardening. That was one thing. But no, it was just focusing on how much power they have to kind of change. What happens in the marketplace to kind of decide what companies in what products are able to come up on the first page of results. You know that's also something that they dug into Google and in something that one of those like themes that kind of ties everything together. We should say they all spend a lot of time talking about counterfeit goods, and why is it Amazon removed? Fake stuff from the platform and how much is it profiting off of you know selling pick rolexes? Is it surprising? The whole foods didn't show up at all they're. Like that is a really massive thing. Amazon owns that. Is it moving into a huge new product category? I think whole foods is not an online marketplace, which was the title of the hearing, not that that restricted anybody from doing anything except that, one of the things Amazon says is we have lots of competition from offline marketplaces, right? Brought up kroger a lot I mean, this is the case he's point. They all made. It seem like they were beset at any moment. They could be crushed by the likes of stop and Shop Right? Like I think the point though was really on the. Digital. Experience Consumers have and like I, don't know Ho-. Foods fits. Into that narrative, especially, because it is itself not dominant like they bought it because you needed to grow in their. Good at that at my question for you on the Amazon stuff was when you think about, we talk about two thirty a lot right like you and I in particular spent a lot time to thirty, which regulates with the platform can do with content. There's not really an equivalent of two thirty for goods on store. Right like there's some case is out there saying like you're liable for what what happens on your online store page, but Amazon doesn't have that like second order of like Messi nece around it that twitter and facebook to with two thirty, I. Mean, it gets invoked a lot for marketplace's, but it's way messier. Well, I just wanted to like this question at counterfeits question about ranking the store like they are even more free than any twitter is to to sort tweets algorithm. Algorithm clear to modern like it just their store. Do you think that they're like that Algorithm transparency? Your wire things ranked. Did you catch a sense that that's where the regulation is GonNa go. So much of the conversation around Amazon really felt like it was individuals sellers being wronged for reasons of Amazon being unresponsive or stealing. It's data. So I don't know it didn't. It didn't seem like a really big focus of the hearing, but it is a huge deal. Yeah. The, digital marketplace frame of this, which is where we have talked to. Cellini. That's where he's going right like facebook and Google very digital. They have like they don't do physical goods. Really. Apple is the APP store. It's all digital goods. Amazon is the one where it's. Front to a lot of physical things, and that is the only place where I can see this regulation needing to make some sort of like major meaningful distinction in I. Didn't see it in the hearing, but I was curious of you caught a glimmer of it. I'm not positive that they have to make a huge distinction there like depending on what they come up with because. So much of this is about their companies and whatever product they produced. The issue is more or less whether or not they're being surveilled and unfairly by targeted and crushed by that data surveillance. All right. We have gone for forty minutes. We should take a quick break. I said I wasn't going to go by company and it happens. So we should come back and talk with facebook Ango. We'll be right back. This is advertiser content. When I say utopia what comes to mind. Birds Chirping lush natural beauty dialed up and vibrant technicolor. Is it within reach. Your world world. World. explained. You are an essential part of the perfect social body. Every Body Matt Place. Everybody happy now while the peacock original series, brave new world takes place in a scientific futuristic utopia. A concept is nothing new Sir Thomas more. I introduced the theory five hundred years ago. 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These are really difficult crazy stressful times, and if you're trying to sort of cope, it could be helpful to find something that gets beyond like doom scrolling and like obsessive worried. But digs into what is really going on underneath the surface, and that's what the weeds is all about I. Matthew Yglesias. Weeds podcast here on the box meeting podcast network. This is podcast for people who really want to understand the policy debates and policy issues that shaping our world. We've seen now more than ever like how relevant policy is to our actual lives, but so much in the news isn't focused on really understanding and explaining detail way if that sounds good to you, join us for the weeds, every Tuesday and Friday to find out what's going on why matters and what we can do about it. You could download the weeds on apple spotify or wherever else you get your podcasts. Tracy. When it comes to facebook I turn to you. FACEBOOK is patience consumer of startups as what we've learned. Yeah. But you said something to me yesterday was interesting, which is everyone else's problems are forward looking and it feels like facebook's problems are actually in the past break for people explain what you mean. Yeah. So when Congress is looking at any trust with respect to these four companies for three of them, it's It's sort of about the marketplaces that their operating right now with facebook, the question is much more about should we have allowed it to buy serum? Should we have allowed it to buy WHATSAPP and most of the antitrust conversation that was around facebook yesterday was all about that. What did Mark Zuckerberg know about Instagram, and when did he know it? We wrote a story based on some documents that the house released yesterday. In which facebook has clearly identified instagram as a competitor. In at least some ways and wants to go after it and knock it off the table, and so that's kind of where the focuses their facebook and Burke did get a lot of other questions yesterday, but it tended to be much more about content moderation and things that don't have a lot to do with antitrust. So there was weird section where they asked the face. Face Research APP in the novel, Vpn? Any kind of got lost well, explain what happened and I'm curious reactions. Yeah. So facebook has a bunch of nifty tech tools to figure out what's trending which APPs or the kids using, and so that can essentially have an early warning system if it needs to consider acquiring something or more likely in these days, go out clone it. and. So Zuckerberg was asked about the way that the company uses these systems and if they are anti competitive I, think you know traditional antitrust law probably would not say copying an APP feature is anti competitive, but could lobby written in the future about it shirt I. Think the one that caught me was I mean, this is what I'm. McKenna's points from earlier is like one of the themes here is, are you so dominant that you can collect data that's unfair and then use that to crush or killer competitors, and definitely bought the Inaba VPN to do it. That's true. Now, when I've asked executives at facebook about this, what they'll say is they don't get surprised anymore. When you have three point, one billion people using your apps around the world. You know what links they're sharing, you know what they're talking about. And so you're not going to need some kind of specialized tool to know that WHATSAPP is really taking off. Right. So they would argue that, yes, these tools were useful to them, but you know at their scale, they know what's popular now, which doesn't really seem like addresses, the problem is reached. The fact that we're so big that we're all knowing is maybe not the defense that they sometimes presented as so here's what I didn't get. I thought, Zuckerberg I want to the instagram. What's about who's issues, but on the facebook research front, the data front, they him about this APP facebook research, which you were giving to teens. They were deploying with an enterprise certificate that story broke apple revoke the certificate, and all of facebook's internal APPs went dark, and this is a scandal story after story about it, they went on for two days. So I can I, don't recall that APP? Just how he you know, he remembers the day that all facebook's internal APPS went down and people couldn't go to the cafeteria. I would agree I found that answer. Extremely, ed? Persuasive. that. Do you think that was like actually strategic for him to be like, I, don't know and then come back later and correct the record I do remember when that happened I. Mean. I really don't know I mean also you know during a six hour hearing, it's also possible that you just you get flustered or you miss here something or or something because. Yeah. As as you say, I'm sure he remembers the day that apple turned off their internal APPS I mean. Honestly. Seems like an opportunity to talk about apple's market power, and the fact that you know a day of work canceled at facebook because apple got mad. But I think most of the CEO's didn't go into yesterday a wanted to pick fights with each other. It was kind of sad that they didn't. I was Kinda hoping that Tim Cook take a shot at soccer burger. Point that the other two APP platforms I was expecting it. It was there. It was. There was all there. So cellini ended and he ended the whole meeting with closing statement. He said, some of these companies didn't get broken out. They all need to get regulated in the off too much power that some of them I. don't these breaking up apple. What sort of break. Right like. The division get sent into the corner thing about what it's done. Right. Does should spin out the finder team I've always wanted to. A clean is always that they want to. They want the APP store to be separate from the IPHONE. Basically, that's the thing I always hear. Can't break I. Think you can write some strong regulations but not playing you're on store, right. But like Elizabeth Warren's point was it's cleaner if it's two companies, but it's still a gigantic remedy that I don't think there's a lot of like like consumer or public opinion is going to walk into an Apple Cup I think you'll radio at marketplace. It seems very clear that we says some of them she broken up he is talking about facebook. I have a twenty percent conference level. He might be talking with Google and Youtube as well. But if he's going to say some of the need to get broken up like it's facebook, did you hear anything yesterday that supported that conclusion or Saudi stocks I? MEAN HE I don't remember which Republican it was, but he was like the Obama FTC looked at this and they said it was minding love. Obama. Right. Like. Why would we go back in time to relook at I? Mean, there is a belief and I mean. Somebody who thinks there could be a lot of benefit in instagram and WHATSAPP being different companies from facebook. And the reason you ask. So many questions about that acquisition as you're making the case that it never should have been approved in the first place, and so now you need to remedy it. So that was actually like the entire thrust of the argument against facebook yesterday. I think, you could probably make just as good a case that Amazon after spin out aws, but lawmakers chose not to make that case. Yeah. I think that also gets into. Politics of the acquisition of the time. To his credit is like nobody knew instagram would actually be a success like we made it a success. It didn't happen by itself. I, don't know if the lawmakers. By award, these guys said, but I don't know that he actually made that case very persuasively. and. Who knows I mean? That's like anything could have happened. Right? Cram could've stayed independent and rapidly grown and overtaken facebook like that's something that could have happened. It could have kind settled into a middle zone like snapchat or twitter seems more likely to me although I think probably would have been bigger than those two but. You're never going to know I mean it is true that facebook gave Mike and Kevin it instagram enormous resources. A lot of the reasons why Mike and Kevin sold was because running tiny startup that's blowing up is absolutely exhausting Mike. Krieger. was dragging his laptop all around San. Francisco. Because the servers were melting at all times of the day whenever Justin Bieber. Posted like the site stopped working and they really we need help. Finding a person who can quickly fix this? So we don't have to like that is the reason that they were entertaining these offers and wanted to sell it. So that is also thing that happened. Do you think that that same kind of argument or approach can apply to what's up? What's up basically did not come up yesterday and all the focus on Instagram, but that's the other one, right? Yeah, and we know weirdly a lot less about that acquisition I. Think it's because people in America just have so much less love for what's APP generally. That, it's never seemed as important. What happened to WHATSAPP as what happens to instagram even though WHATSAPP, is used, you know way more, it probably has way more engagement even than instagram does so I don't know why that didn't come up as often. We know there was a competitive bidding war for that as well. Goule. Wanted it as well. You know Mark Zuckerberg made them an offer, they can't refuse. Do you think everyday Google's we should've spent more money on what's whatsapp like this could have been solved. Should have, but Google has been placed under an ancient curse that prevents them from ever making the right decision about any social product. So it was doomed never to happen. It's fun looking through the documents and watching them casually say they should buy facebook dot com. Yeah, that. Point. That is how they talk like the window into these executives just casually being like we should just this thing or maybe not, or we should just copied ourselves and kill it before it gets any traction like it's repeated over and over again last facebook question. This one is like harder to parse because I. There's a chance, it's October is just joking around but. But. He's in many of these emails. He's like the thing about startups, as you can always buy them, which I think the committee thinks is a smoking gun, right? Like facebook's entire plan is to buy the competition to get the data from wherever they get it to say, oh, man, this apps popping, we just buy it and kill it before it competes with us. I. Think he actually said at one point. That's a joke. Yes, he did and I believe that you know it was two thousand, twelve, right? He was probably still in his mid twenties. At that point, the company was a lot smaller like people were joking around like there's more loose talk when companies are younger and I do think. It was it was part of that. I think the more interesting question becomes. Let's say facebook is telling the truth about everything. Let's say they thought it was going to be a successful acquisition, but they never knew it was gonna big as it became today and they invested in it and it got super big. Okay. Well, now, it's as big as it is. Should they be allowed to keep? Keep it or should they be forced to spend it out and if you're GONNA force them to spin it out. What's the argument that you'RE GONNA. Make about why one question that I have a lot is clearly the referral they're gonNa make, and it seems like if you don't have some other reason, we've heard hints that there's some other reason, the FTC scrutinize this that will eventually be revealed. But what you're saying is the antitrust standard at the time, the Consumer Hartman stand, which is still our standard. Says, you have to prove prices will go up both products for free. You're screwed. Right? There's nothing to review because you're not gonNA prove prove that free products are gonNA get more expensive. I think it's pretty unfair if you change the standard and you go back in time and say you missed that standard. So I think there has to be something else there. Well, what was the standard by which at and T. was broken up? Right? Like presumably at and T. didn't used to be that big, and then it just got really big and then they broke it up at least. That's the thumbnail understanding I have of that break-up. Well, yeah. But then reformed itself. Right. But because of lax antitrust regulation, right? Like it wasn't a naturally occurring phenomenon that all those APPS got back to the other or was that just sort of like inattention to capitalism It's like in the seventies and eighties. This is Tim moves book the cursive bigness in the seventies and eighties Robert Bork I can't talk about Robert on this podcast. Are we doing this right now. Robert was very influential judge Appellate Judge Federal Appellate? Judge. And basically moved the antitrust law to the consumer harm standard as part of a movement called and economics. A whole thing Robert. Bork. Mostly famous because he was not appointed. He was nominated Supreme Court by Reagan but they leaked video tape rental history, and then he didn't get nominated and that is where the expression getting bork's comes from. This is all true Netflix's still has to abide by videotape data privacy act is a whole. This is all true when facebook and Netflix had some partners, Nansen? Partnership. To. Automatically share your net flicks, watch history to facebook. They're like pending the change of this law which we are working on Robert Bork. He haunts us all. I'm sorry, I can't believe this much. Yeah I. think that's just like the law changed in the in the seventies and eighties, the standard change. The conversation right now is a very much about changing it back months and months ago, pre pandemic, we had an economist from I. Think it was Nyu Thomas Philippon came on the show, and he was like look you have this natural ab test going on in the world where the European Union when it formed was like, how do we get an economy like America's? So, we'll just take their competition policies pretty good, and at the same time we changed consumer harm standard. So everything you're seeing the EU is basically our old competition antitrust standard in. You can see how active they are in everything. Here's a new consumer welfare standard. Whether you believe, this is actually a functional Ab test given. The state of both governments is up for debate, but that was his point I thought. It was spare can say.

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