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Antitrust

Google’s ad blocking exposes the company’s hypocrisy on net neutrality

 

Please don’t miss my latest The Hill op-ed:   Google’s ad blocking exposes the company’s hypocrisy on net neutrality” (& copyright).  

 

Google-Russia Antitrust Deal Has Big Implications for EU Cases, Trump DOJ

There are potentially big implications for Google, complainants, and antitrust authorities around the world, from Google’s antitrust settlement with Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS)

FAS previously ruled officially, and was upheld by the Russian Supreme Court, that Google-Android illegally abused its dominance in forcing handset manufacturers to strongly preference Google search and other apps, as a contractual requirement to license Google’s official Android operating system.

In this settlement, Google agrees to a variety of significant Android/Chrome behavior changes that, if they work in practice as represented, will enable other search engines, like Yandex, and app developers to have significantly more competitive opportunities in Russia. The arbitration agreement is for six years and nine months and comes with a fine of ~$7.8m -- the equivalent of 46 minutes of Google’s annual revenues.

What Google gets in return, is big brand protection in that it can claim: a) the settlement was voluntary; b) there is now no more Russian official finding/legal precedent that Google is dominant or a monopoly, or has done anything wrong (even though it officially did before this superseding settlement); and c) a Google-Android antitrust settlement template that Google can shop to other countries, (that is friendly to Google in that Google knows this settlement won’t be as effective elsewhere, because other countries sans China and South Korea, do not have a material competitive mobile search offering to Google like Russia’s Yandex.)

6 Reasons Trump DOJ Will Take Lead from FTC in Google Antitrust Enforcement

The evidence is compelling that the DOJ will replace the FTC as the lead Sherman Act antitrust enforcer on the biggest Google antitrust matters during the Trump Administration.

A huge action forcing event for the Trump DOJ Antitrust Division is coming, most likely this June/July, when EU antitrust authorities most likely will conclude the first of three antitrust cases against Alphabet-Google, and officially rule Google is a 90+% search monopoly that has anticompetitively abused its monopoly position in search, and impose a traditional monopoly nondiscrimination principle remedy that Google treat its shopping comparison competitors as it treats itself.

While conventional wisdom assumes the FTC will continue as the Google antitrust lead, that is very unlikely to continue, because of two Google antitrust gamechangers, the replacement of President Obama with President Trump, and the EU’s coming official antitrust conclusion that Google is in fact a monopoly that acts anticompetitively in over 30% of the world.

Since so much flows from the baseline assumption of which U.S. entity will be the Google antitrust lead, the DOJ or FTC, it warrants closest examination.

Summary of six reasons DOJ will take the Google antitrust lead from FTC

(1) Institutionally, DOJ is the United States’ antitrust lawyer and the official liaison with other countries.

Trump Administration Implications for Google Antitrust in EU, US & Markets

Conclusions:

Most of what we have learned in the five months since the election indicates that the Trump Administration is not going to be Google’s antitrust advocate and protector like the Obama Administration effectively was from 2013-2016, in de facto shutting down any real U.S. antitrust scrutiny of Google, and in turn implicitly discouraging antitrust enforcement of Google in the EU and around the world.  

This antitrust enforcement sea change has three big picture implications: for the EU, for the U.S., and for markets.

Google Antitrust Implications of Makan Delrahim as DOJ Antitrust Chief

President Trump’s impressive nominee to head the DOJ Antitrust Division, Makan Delrahim, enters the global antitrust stage when one company, America’s Alphabet-Google, has been under near constant antitrust investigation around the world for a decade and faces multiple pending antitrust enforcement actions.

What is the global and U.S. antitrust community to glean from this nomination?

Mr. Delrahim’s background speaks volumes, especially if one believes the adage, people are policy.

Overall, Makan Delrahim is a widely-respected, veteran antitrust official, attorney, expert, and professor, with high-level antitrust experience that check all the right boxes, organizationally, functionally, and professionally.

Mr. Delrahim’s antitrust-specific experience is outstanding.

Google out to steal from Australians – My Op-ed in The Australian

Please don’t miss my op-ed on Google in the Australian: “Google out to steal from Australians.

As Googleopoly has done around much of the world for many years, Google is now twisting arms in Australia’s government to provide Google with blanket protection from Australians’ copyright infringement lawsuits against Google for aiding and abetting in the piracy of Australians’ copyrighted content.

The piece makes fun of Google’s claims that without protection, Google won’t have the financial incentive to innovate.

 

Look What’s Happened Since the FTC Stopped Google Antitrust Enforcement

Has a new day dawned for U.S. antitrust scrutiny of Alphabet-Google? 

The evidence is overwhelming that Alphabet-Google has broadly extended its search and search monopolies into several more markets, and that it has done so anti-competitively in the four years since the FTC chaotically shut down its search, search advertising, and Android investigations in January 2013.

The question here is will Google’s many monopolies enjoy no FTC antitrust enforcement over the next four years of the Trump Administration, like Google apparently enjoyed in the last four years of the Obama Administration?   

To set a baseline of what has happened since the FTC apparently stopped enforcing antitrust law against Google, its instructive to remember where Google stood at that time with the FTC, via brief conclusions from the FTC staff investigators and then from the FTC commissioners.

In October 2012, the FTC Staff Report said:    

Twitter Evidence Confirms Goobook Ad Cartel Is Crushing Competition

Summary: The de facto Goobook ad cartel is quickly crushing its only current online social advertising platform competitor, Twitter. Twitter’s failing business is the proverbial canary in the coal mine that should bring attention to the imminent danger of this apparent cartel to the future commercial viability of the broader online content marketplace.

Practically it means U.S. antitrust authorities’ lax antitrust enforcement has facilitated the emergence of twin colluding monopolies in search and social advertising. The result is a de facto and unaccountable new media cartel, the 21st century Google/Facebook Fourth Estate, that is anti-competitively destroying and supplanting the original, old media, Fourth Estate, and that is the central facilitator of algorithmic-automated “fake news.”      

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The Google-Facebook Online Ad Cartel is the Biggest Competition Problem

By far the biggest competition problem facing U.S. antitrust and regulatory authorities is the Goobook Ad Cartel, the unaccountable dominant chokepoint for monetizing most online news, content, products and services.

The evidence is compelling that Google and Facebook have colluded to divide up and corner the online advertising market, and consequently, have deterred competition, devalued property and work, dehumanized privacy, and depressed economic growth and employment.

This unprecedented market power and winner-take-all outcome in such a vital sector of the economy is a direct result of purposeful U.S. non-enforcement of antitrust laws for online platforms, and the lavishment of most every public policy advantage upon them that one could imagine. 

Let’s first examine Google and Facebook’s massive monopolies, then their collusion, and then who is harmed and how.

Google & Facebook’s Massive Monopolies

America’s Indefensible Media Concentration Double Standard

Apparently America does not have “equal justice under law” when it comes to media concentration limits.

Seldom can one find a starker commercial example of unequal legal, law enforcement, and regulatory treatment of very similar commercial activities than that between old media and Internet/new media companies concerning media concentration and antitrust enforcement.

Both legacy old media companies and Internet/new media companies are in the communications business, own and/or produce media of some type, and distribute media in different physical ways, consumption formats, and time/situation dimensions.

Please see this one-page graphic that illustrates how America’s media concentration double standard treats similar old and new media companies completely dissimilarly, and how it results in a predictable stark market share dichotomy.  

Ultimately old media concentration has been limited by the traditional antitrust limits that apply to all industries and companies over the years.

That’s no longer true for Big-Internet companies like Google and Facebook.

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths