Lack of 'creativity and enthusiasm' prevented big tech antitrust law overhaul

Posted:
in General Discussion edited June 21
The CEOs of big tech companies like Apple have been "allowed to do whatever they want," according to Representative David Cicilline in an interview over a series of antitrust bills taking aim at the tech giants.




In early June, a collection of five bills were introduced by U.S. House lawmakers, aimed at introducing changes to antitrust legislation. The bills cover a range of topics that have received antitrust attention, including affecting how Apple could operate the App Store and even what apps it bundles with iPhones in iOS.

During an interview for the New York Times' "Sway" podcast Congressman David Cicilline (Dem-RI) outlined the aims of each bill, as well as why the U.S. government is moving to make major changes in antitrust law. The bills are set to start being reviewed by late June.

"Congress really has not done its job over the last decade or more in the area of antitrust," said Cicilline. "There's not a good explanation, other than I think what happened is these were American companies that were viewed as great innovators that were providing interesting goods and services. And I think the attitude was sort of leave them alone and just let them flourish."

Cicilline doesn't think many lawmakers "understood the implications of the kind of market power, the monopoly power that these companies were developing over time." A lack of "deep understanding" of tech may have been one of the issues that caused the stagnation, meanwhile the high economic power "translates to significant political power."

Antitrust agencies weren't "sufficiently creative or enthusiastic about the work," he offers, while the country didn't have a "Congress that provided enough funding to those agencies." What's changed thinking is that "people are beginning to experience and understand more directly what the consequences are."

The strategy in providing five bills in tech was because it was the area with the greatest level of bipartisanship, while using five smaller bills was to "diffuse some of the attack rather than having everything in one single bill that all the opponents can point to."

Accquisitions and arrogance

In covering the five bills, the Platform Competition and Opportunity Act received a lot of attention, a bill that could prevent tech giants from acquiring other platforms that pose a "competitive threat."

In responding to an email from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg talking about the "landgrab strategy" about copying, killing, and acquiring companies, the congressman was unapologetic for the bill's existence.

"These are companies and CEOs that have been allowed to do whatever they want" said Cicilline. "They've engaged in business practices that have been completely unregulated. They've been allowed to acquire competitors, destroy competitors, favor their own goods and services, engage in very anti-competitive conduct without any consequence."

On the Zuckerberg comments themselves, he adds "It didn't surprise me that some of that arrogance would be reflected in emails."

The Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act would update filing fees for the first time since 2001, and could raise an extra $135 million in its first year. The reason for it is to ensure the antitrust enforcers "have the resources they need to do this enforcement work."

When pressed on how the enforcers are seemingly outmatched, Cicilline mentions the size of the companies and their interest in defending a lucrative ecosystem. "They're competing against a government agency that has very, very limited resources," he admits.

Facebook's $5 billion fine is raised, with interviewer Kara Swisher revealing an FTC staff member told her the settlement was because the FTC didn't have the resources to fight and push for a higher fine.

Cicilline called it "appalling, but we have a responsibility to make sure that excuse is never used again, by providing the resources that are necessary."

User data subpoenas

At the end of the interview, the subject of subpoenas for Apple user data was raised. Along with insisting there to be "a complete investigation by the Inspector General," he offered that Apple could have done more to fight the subpoenas in the first place.

"But the question is do they contest that, did they have a responsibility to contest on behalf of their users? That's the problem of a company having this much power, this much data. And did they bother to contest or object in any way, or look closer, or did they just do it to facilitate what they knew the president's administration wanted?"

He adds tech companies presumably have a view on whether they should submit to subpoenas for user data as freely as it seemed. On whether tech companies should testify, Cicilline said it would be "very helpful to hear from them,"

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18
    Headline: “Lawmakers weren't 'creative or enthusiastic' enough to fix big tech antitrust laws”

    Body of the article: “
     Antitrust agencies weren't ‘sufficiently creative or enthusiastic about the work’ ”

    So which is it? Was it lawmakers or agencies that weren’t creative or enthusiastic? And were they not creative or enthusiastic about antitrust laws or the work of regulating?  And how does a person write an article that so completely disagrees with itself?


  • Reply 2 of 18
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,556member
    I think it's more lawmakers couldn't get enough bribes from big tech so they're going after them. This is simply another diversion by Congress making it look like they're actually doing something. They aren't, we all know it, and wish they'd start by cleaning out their house of corruption and leave happy consumers alone.

    I'm all for legitimate oversight of actual laws but please quit making up laws to protect people bribing you. For all the iPhone users in Congress. If what you're proposing happens, you'll need to actually learn how to do technical things like loading software instead of using the software Apple provides for free!

    I have a suggestion for members of Congress. Why don't you spend your time doing something that actually helps the people of the US like forcing the IRS to actually do their job of auditing billionaires instead of poor people. You could pay the salaries of everyone in the IRS by forcing one billionaire to actually pay what the law says they owe. Don't stop there Congress. Change the tax laws so billionaires can't buy their way out of paying taxes and get rid of all those bogus tax losses. 

    disclaimer: I know app developers don't agree with me but remember who pays your salaries, it's consumers not other developers. 
    genovelleBeatsDogpersonbaconstangfred1byronlmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 3 of 18
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,270member
    None of this will make it through to a signed bill. Assholes like Cicilline are always grandstanding with preposterous legislation like his. It’s all about pandering to the base, just like Trump does. 
    baconstangFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 4 of 18
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 724member
    Headline: “Lawmakers weren't 'creative or enthusiastic' enough to fix big tech antitrust laws”

    Body of the article: “ Antitrust agencies weren't ‘sufficiently creative or enthusiastic about the work’ ”

    So which is it? Was it lawmakers or agencies that weren’t creative or enthusiastic? And were they not creative or enthusiastic about antitrust laws or the work of regulating?  And how does a person write an article that so completely disagrees with itself?


    Yup. I think maybe the UK writers should focus on Parliament and leave the reporting of Washington to the Americans. Not to get all provincial, or whatever…but how would the Brits react if some Yank came around trying to explain their own government to them? The quality of reporting has been slipping perceptively around here lately. Sorry, not sorry. 
  • Reply 5 of 18
    physguyphysguy Posts: 919member
    It would be nice the the interviewee actually said something substantive. “ They've been allowed to acquire competitors, destroy competitors, favor their own goods and services, engage in very anti-competitive conduct”. Every company in the world does that. It’s called competition and running a business, successfully. It’s only deigned to be a problem when one company has a monopolistic position in a given market. No where in this article, and presumably in the interviewee’s responses do they address why any of these companies are monopolies, and in what market. I believe a good argument can be made that Google is a monopoly in search, that FB is in social media. Beyond that I don’t see it for the tech companies. Amazon certainly isn’t in online retail as there are numerous competitors large and small. Walmart is a significantly bigger company in retail than Amazon. Apple certainly is not a monopoly in phones or apps as they remain the smaller player in both markets. They just provide such service that they get the profitable sectors of those markets. AWS might be in web services,  but I doubt it given google, Microsoft, Salesforce, Rackspace, etc. 
    Dogperson
  • Reply 6 of 18
    physguy said:
    It would be nice the the interviewee actually said something substantive. “ They've been allowed to acquire competitors, destroy competitors, favor their own goods and services, engage in very anti-competitive conduct”. Every company in the world does that. It’s called competition and running a business, successfully. It’s only deigned to be a problem when one company has a monopolistic position in a given market. No where in this article, and presumably in the interviewee’s responses do they address why any of these companies are monopolies, and in what market. I believe a good argument can be made that Google is a monopoly in search, that FB is in social media. Beyond that I don’t see it for the tech companies. Amazon certainly isn’t in online retail as there are numerous competitors large and small. Walmart is a significantly bigger company in retail than Amazon. Apple certainly is not a monopoly in phones or apps as they remain the smaller player in both markets. They just provide such service that they get the profitable sectors of those markets. AWS might be in web services,  but I doubt it given google, Microsoft, Salesforce, Rackspace, etc. 
    This is a fairly common misconception. Abusing a monopoly is only one type of anti-competitive behavior that is illegal in the United States. For example Apple and book publishes ran afoul of antitrust regulations for collusion which had nothing to do with any of them having a monopoly. The Sherman Act, Clayton Act and FTC Act are the primary pieces of legislation that govern antitrust and are worth reading about. Anyway, the long and the short is everything she mentioned (mergers, predatory pricing, product bundling) are all governed under those laws and can be anticompetitive behavior. 
  • Reply 7 of 18
    physguy said:
    It would be nice the the interviewee actually said something substantive. “ They've been allowed to acquire competitors, destroy competitors, favor their own goods and services, engage in very anti-competitive conduct”. Every company in the world does that. It’s called competition and running a business, successfully. It’s only deigned to be a problem when one company has a monopolistic position in a given market. No where in this article, and presumably in the interviewee’s responses do they address why any of these companies are monopolies, and in what market. I believe a good argument can be made that Google is a monopoly in search, that FB is in social media. Beyond that I don’t see it for the tech companies. Amazon certainly isn’t in online retail as there are numerous competitors large and small. Walmart is a significantly bigger company in retail than Amazon. Apple certainly is not a monopoly in phones or apps as they remain the smaller player in both markets. They just provide such service that they get the profitable sectors of those markets. AWS might be in web services,  but I doubt it given google, Microsoft, Salesforce, Rackspace, etc. 
    I think you are wrong about Google being a monopoly in search. There are a large number of search engines and I don’t think it’s Google’s fault that everyone gravitates to Google. I use Bing myself and no one is forced against their will to use Google. I believe Facebook almost needs to be a monopoly. I tried Google+ for a while but it doesn’t work if you are the only one you know that uses it. I kind of feel like it would be similar to AT&T having their own telephones that only work with other AT&T telephones and Sony telephones that only work with other Sony telephones etc. It wouldn’t work. At first MySpace was dominate and then Facebook took over because I guess everyone thought Facebook was better. Then for a while Google+ was an alternative to Facebook but it never caught on. I don’t see how it would work very well to have alternatives to Facebook. Maybe if there was a way to post something on Google+ and everyone on Facebook could see your post or if you posted something on Facebook and everyone using MySpace would automatically see that same post. But that is probably not possible.
    fred1williamlondon
  • Reply 8 of 18
    The thing I keep contemplating is the amount of data being hoarded in the corporate servers. Even if companies like Apple pledge to secure and anonymize for the sake of 'privacy' (how defined?), could AI mean the end of work if all this anonymized data is put to use, one way or another ?  The tantalizing concept of end of work has been suggested by idealistic and altruistic futurists for some time, yet how does that work in for profit corporate (if social capitalist) shareholder value world seemingly blindingly in pursuit of continued 'growth' on a planet of finite resources already under (extreme by science) stress ? Does Warren's suggestion of replacing 'shareholder' with 'stakeholder' merit deserve examination...?
    williamlondon
  • Reply 9 of 18
    fred1fred1 Posts: 804member
    It’s the Golden Rule: the ones who have the gold make the rules. 
  • Reply 10 of 18
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 5,808member
    physguy said:
    It would be nice the the interviewee actually said something substantive. “ They've been allowed to acquire competitors, destroy competitors, favor their own goods and services, engage in very anti-competitive conduct”. Every company in the world does that. It’s called competition and running a business, successfully. It’s only deigned to be a problem when one company has a monopolistic position in a given market. No where in this article, and presumably in the interviewee’s responses do they address why any of these companies are monopolies, and in what market. I believe a good argument can be made that Google is a monopoly in search, that FB is in social media. Beyond that I don’t see it for the tech companies. Amazon certainly isn’t in online retail as there are numerous competitors large and small. Walmart is a significantly bigger company in retail than Amazon. Apple certainly is not a monopoly in phones or apps as they remain the smaller player in both markets. They just provide such service that they get the profitable sectors of those markets. AWS might be in web services,  but I doubt it given google, Microsoft, Salesforce, Rackspace, etc. 
    The context here is de-facto monopolies, their abuse of them and lax control which helped cement them.


    Facebook was didn't just buy WhatsApp. It was a massive deal that had the potential to harm competition by eliminating a direct competitor, reinforcing Facebook's position and making it harder for new entrants to reach a similar scale.

    It was subject to regulatory scrutiny but was ultimately approved. In hindsight, people are probably regretting allowing these kinds of deals to go through. 
    StrangeDaysapplguy
  • Reply 11 of 18
    fred1fred1 Posts: 804member
    Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp may have eliminated one competitor, but others have taken its place. I still don’t understand why FB paid $19 billion for it. 
  • Reply 12 of 18
    Japhey said:
    Headline: “Lawmakers weren't 'creative or enthusiastic' enough to fix big tech antitrust laws”

    Body of the article: “ Antitrust agencies weren't ‘sufficiently creative or enthusiastic about the work’ ”

    So which is it? Was it lawmakers or agencies that weren’t creative or enthusiastic? And were they not creative or enthusiastic about antitrust laws or the work of regulating?  And how does a person write an article that so completely disagrees with itself?


    Yup. I think maybe the UK writers should focus on Parliament and leave the reporting of Washington to the Americans. Not to get all provincial, or whatever…but how would the Brits react if some Yank came around trying to explain their own government to them? The quality of reporting has been slipping perceptively around here lately. Sorry, not sorry. 
    I don’t think the nationality of the writer is an issue. Journalists regularly cover governments that aren’t their own. It’s just really bad writing. 

    I noticed they changed the headline and dropped quotation marks. I guess that means AI now has an official opinion on the subject rather than reporting what someone said. That’s a pretty substantial shift form the initial headline. It also still has the problem where the content of the article is pretty much unrelated. 
  • Reply 13 of 18
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 1,613member
    lkrupp said:
    None of this will make it through to a signed bill. Assholes like Cicilline are always grandstanding with preposterous legislation like his. It’s all about pandering to the base, just like Trump does. 
    Agreed. Anyone that remembers Schoolhouse Rock should remember the one about the Bill. These have to go through a lot of committees, then the full House, then the Senate, then committees to iron out the differences between House and Senate versions. All the way they are going to get sliced, diced, and amended until the final results, assuming they don't die somewhere, will have little resemblance to the original. If past history is any guide they will come out vastly weaker and less effective than first intended. Then if signed into law, they have to be enforced by various departments, which also adds another level of deviation from original intent. 
    williamlondon
  • Reply 14 of 18
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,319member

    Accquisitions needs only one c.

    I’m surprised that Safari doesn’t show misspelled words in the middle of webpages like it does in editing/wiping windows.   I guess it’s because with a capital A, it could be a name.  

  • Reply 15 of 18
    crowleycrowley Posts: 8,176member
    Japhey said:

    but how would the Brits react if some Yank came around trying to explain their own government to them? 
    That's happened to me multiple times on this forum.  It's usually quite entertaining.

    Anyway, the issues in the article you point out aren't issues of nationality, they're just bad writing.
    FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 16 of 18
    vvswarupvvswarup Posts: 333member
    physguy said:
    It would be nice the the interviewee actually said something substantive. “ They've been allowed to acquire competitors, destroy competitors, favor their own goods and services, engage in very anti-competitive conduct”. Every company in the world does that. It’s called competition and running a business, successfully. It’s only deigned to be a problem when one company has a monopolistic position in a given market. No where in this article, and presumably in the interviewee’s responses do they address why any of these companies are monopolies, and in what market. I believe a good argument can be made that Google is a monopoly in search, that FB is in social media. Beyond that I don’t see it for the tech companies. Amazon certainly isn’t in online retail as there are numerous competitors large and small. Walmart is a significantly bigger company in retail than Amazon. Apple certainly is not a monopoly in phones or apps as they remain the smaller player in both markets. They just provide such service that they get the profitable sectors of those markets. AWS might be in web services,  but I doubt it given google, Microsoft, Salesforce, Rackspace, etc. 

    When politicians say this stuff, they're not looking to make a substantive argument. For that matter, there isn't a lick of proof that Apple or other tech companies acquired competitors simply for the purpose of destroying competition. But that doesn't matter to them. They're trying to appeal to emotion-in this case, anger. They are trying to get people like you and me to get angry at tech companies. They're trying to arouse the inner bloodlust in us. An informed populace that exercises critical thinking and understands business is their worst enemy.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 17 of 18
    "Congress really has not done its job over the last decade or more in the area of antitrust," said Cicilline. "There's not a good explanation, other than I think what happened is these were American companies that were viewed as great innovators that were providing interesting goods and services. And I think the attitude was sort of leave them alone and just let them flourish."

    Cicilline doesn't think many lawmakers "understood the implications of the kind of market power, the monopoly power that these companies were developing over time." A lack of "deep understanding" of tech may have been one of the issues that caused the stagnation, meanwhile the high economic power "translates to significant political power."
    Here's another explanation: the Democrats allowed Republicans to throw a tantrum about anything and conceded where they should have stood firm.

    And it's not economic power translating into political power, it's the control of the information flow that represents the political power. And yes, these dimwits were slow to recognise the Internet tsunami as it swept away the existing "media" companies, and now they're panicking because they've realised just how much trouble they're in.

    Perhaps if you don't have a "deep understanding" of tech you shouldn't be in charge of passing laws?
  • Reply 18 of 18
    larryjwlarryjw Posts: 807member
    Some some in hi tech and low tech misused (to put it mildly) their platforms. None of those problems stemmed from "antitrust issues" and will not be solved by modifying antitrust legislation.

    Look at global economics. Global mean big. It takes mass amount of money and focused dedication to accomplish many tasks. Preventing bigness will prevent solving big problems or accomplishing big solutions. 

    There is no way to organize and fund little organizations to accomplish big things. 
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