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Antitrust Pollyannaism: Google Facebook Amazon = New Entrants Not Incumbents

Are Google, Facebook, and Amazon, pro-competitive Internet “new entrants” or anti-competitive enduring monopoly Internet platform incumbents?

Apparently, that critical distinction depends less on evidence, and more on one’s antitrust predilections and prosecutorial presumptions – i.e. does one view the Internet competition glass half-empty (pessimistic) or half-full (optimistic).  

Recent evidence from the Trump DOJ Antitrust Division suggests it’s in the Internet competition optimist camp almost to the point of Internet competition Pollyannaism, despite the evident Internet platform antitrust enforcement drumbeat around the world, in Congress, and the White House, to the contrary over the last 18 months.

Google Facebook Amazon’s Non-Neutral No-Privacy Paid-Prioritization Models

We all have been played.

One of Google, Facebook, and Amazon’s greatest innovations to date may have been deceiving the U.S. government and voters with the narrative that their core Internet business models and practices were only good, innovative, pro-consumer, and worthy of no regulation, when they knew it was untrue, while at the same time lobbying that if an ISP pursued their same Internet business models and practices, that it would be anti-innovation, anti-privacy, and worthy of maximal telephone utility regulation, including a permanent, user-subsidized, price-of-zero for Google, Facebook, and Amazon’s outsized, pure profit,  commercial downstream Internet traffic usage.

Can you say: “winner take all” industrial policy?

Can you say: “regulatory arbitrage” game?

Can you say: “unlevel playing field?”

After this year’s revelations of Google, Facebook, and Amazon’s many bad, unfair, and deceptive practices, it warrants revisiting if their past forceful policy positions that only ISPs are a risk to consumers, privacy, and competition, and only ISPs warrant utility-grade net neutrality, non-discrimination, and maximal privacy regulation, were self-serving, anticompetitive, and deceptive distractions from their own anti-privacy, discriminatory, paid-prioritization practices?

We have all been played like a fiddle.

The Bipartisan Case for Modernizing Net Neutrality & Online Privacy Policy

What is the simple key to passing bipartisan net neutrality and online privacy legislation?

Put consumer interests first with a new Federal consumer-centric law, not last like today, where technology interests come first, in technology-centric law which minimizes responsibility to safeguard consumers’ choices, privacy, and security.

The tell for whether someone supports bipartisan Internet legislation to protect consumers and level the playing field or not, is whether they are focused on what is best overall for the online consumer or focused on special treatment for one technology over another. It is that simple.

Only people vote, bleed, or care. Technologies do not.

The Bipartisan Case

The origin of the term “Internet” is “inter-networking” per Robert Khan, co-inventor of TCP/IP, the Internet protocol that essentially enables and thus defines which networks are interoperable parts of the Internet’s overall network of networks, which now effectively encompasses ISPs, Internet services, Intenet platforms, cloud providers, apps, and others.  

The Bipartisan Politics for More Google Facebook Amazon Accountability

In this post-mid-term election sea of partisanship, expect a political safe harbor for bipartisanship in the next Congress to protect consumers and level the playing field, by bringing more accountability and transparency to the Internet’s unchecked, winner-take-all, biased-brokers, of online supply and demand: Google, Facebook, and Amazon.

This is timely and relevant because conventional wisdom appears to dismiss bipartisanship in this area as a phase and not lasting to conclude that no Internet-related legislation passes next Congress.

This analysis considers the political reasons why a Republican-controlled Senate and Democrat-controlled House could cooperate and pass bipartisan legislation that brings much more accountability and transparency to the unaccountable Internet triad of Google, Facebook and Amazon.

The Reasons Efforts for More Google Facebook Amazon Accountability Will Remain Bipartisan 

First, there are evident high-level lasting concerns from both the right and left about the Internet triad’s unaccountable power.

Google Facebook & Amazon’s Efficient Vortex Traps

Summary

Why do Google, Facebook, and Amazon apparently so befuddle, overwhelm, and run circles around antitrust authorities to date?

Google, Facebook, and Amazon defy normal narrow, static antitrust market definition analysis and understanding, because what is new and most defines them in an antitrust context is their exceptional, wholistic, centripetal-force dynamic, which is vortex effects and efficiencies, i.e. an effective whirlpool dynamic that in encircles, swirls, and sucks everything near, deeper into an increasing vacuum power trap.

Simply what is different and under-appreciated with these companies is the extraordinary and unprecedented nature, purpose, and effect of the efficiencies their platforms generate and proliferate.

To date antitrust authorities myopic mistake has been to narrow their scope to a market segment and miss the big picture of the enterprise’s combinatorial nature, purpose, and effect -- as a whole, because the purposeful whole can be much different and more powerful than the random sum of its parts.

Google Facebook Amazon’s Civil Liability Immunity = A Culture of Un-Ethics?

Why is the techlash cloud following Google, Facebook, Amazon, and others around, like the cloud of dirt that followed Pigpen around in the iconic Peanuts comic strip?

One theory is advanced by Kara Swisher, a New York Times columnist and proven thought leader, who mused in her columnWho Will teach Ethics to Silicon Valley?” because Silicon Valley CEOs have evident ethics and maturity deficiencies.

Her lede was “I think we can all agree that Silicon Valley needs more adult supervision now” and asked: “Is the solution for its companies to hire a chief ethics officer?” 

Ms. Swisher is right in spotlighting that Silicon Valley, and predominantly its Internet platform leaders, need ethics teaching and more maturity.

Google Facebook Amazon’s Non-Neutral, Neutrality Nonsense Harms Competition

What is non-neutral, neutrality nonsense?

When the world’s dominant biased-broker Internet platforms, Google, Facebook, and Amazon, are the biggest funders of network neutrality and utility common carrier regulation for competitive ISPs, and their dominant, increasingly utility-like, network-effect-driven, business models, regularly treat other businesses non-neutrally while misrepresenting to the public that they are neutral platforms.

Google, Facebook, and Amazon demand maximal ISP regulation for network neutrality, transparency, and accountability, when ISPs operate their networks neutrally, transparently and accountably without it, but Google, Facebook, and Amazon fiercely oppose operating their much larger, global, encrypted-networks, with network neutrality, transparency, or accountability.

The “techlash” has exposed Google, Facebook, and Amazon, as the most dominant companies in the U.S. warranting antitrust scrutiny, as inherently biased-broker non-neutral networks, and as privileged platforms who abuse Section 230 immunity from civil liability to operate non-neutral, non-transparent, unaccountable, and anticompetitive Internet platforms.  

This is the non-neutral, neutrality nonsense of Google, Facebook, and Amazon – i.e. their asymmetric regulatory recipe for a winner-take-all, unlevel playing field.

How EU Amazon Antitrust Probe Spotlights Amazon as an Unlevel Playing Field

Consider the ways that the EU’s announced antitrust probe of Amazon is a game changer in spotlighting how Amazon Marketplace’s conflicted-expanse is a de facto unlevel playing field.

First, the ongoing probe will spotlight that Jeff Bezos, Amazon, investors, and U.S. antitrust authorities can no longer dismiss that Amazon faces antitrust risk.

The EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager has launched a preliminary, expert, bulls-eye antitrust probe at by far the most antitrust-vulnerable part of Amazon’s online market-monopsonization model – i.e. the anticompetitive Amazon Marketplace structure where Amazon first commands unchecked, most of its competitors’ most sensitive business confidential information/data and metadata; and second non-transparently and unchecked, determines their competitors’ rank and costs to commercially access Amazon’s monopsonized online consumer demand.

Simply the EU is investigating whether Google’s unchecked dual role as an economy-wide merchant and platform make it an inherently anticompetitive biased-broker?

Google Facebook & Amazon’s Anticompetitive Nontransparent Exchange of Ideas

There can’t be a “free exchange of ideas” without transparent competition for the exchange of ideas.

This is a timely point for three reasons.

First, the DOJ announced: “The Attorney General has convened a meeting with a number of state attorneys general this month to discuss a growing concern that these companies [Google Facebook Twitter] may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms." [Bold added.] This “competition” concern ultimately falls in the lap of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division and State Attorneys General.

What’s the FTC Hearing before their Hearings on the Unlevel Playing Field?

Evidently antitrust non-enforcement can have big consequences.

It can cause big un-ignorable problems that get the attention of the President, all of Congress, and both political parties. That rare feat of collective attention-grabbing can point them collectively in the same rough direction – back to antitrust authorities that could have, or should have, prevented many of the messy Internet platform unaccountability problems that they collectively are wrestling with resolving now.   

Before the FTC has its first retrospective review hearing on its own institutional performance this fall, it has been getting an implicit earful from its governmental superiors that it actions and inactions have apparently created broad and serious negative consequences for competition.

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths