Timing is everything…
When NBC published their background conversation with Google yesterday the media outlet made a big legal mistake. NBC not only outlined the mechanics of a racketeering and antitrust violation, via Google’s power to control on-line ad revenue as a weapon to target NBC’s competition, but NBC outlined the actual collaborative communication.
NBC did the worst thing possible, they published the quotes from Google’s response to them where Google willingly accepted the request from NBC without pause. The collusion was not only clear, it was self admitted. What made the issue more explosive was the NBC article explained the motives of both organizations; the targeting was intentional and specific. The goal was to take-down The Federalist news outlet by removing their revenue. There was no ambiguity of purpose, and Google knowingly agreed with the intent.
Within hours of realizing the consequences of the publication, the legal offices of NBC and Google both activated and attempted damage control. The NBC article was completely rewritten and the communication between them and Google –as quoted– was removed. For its part Google published a statement saying no action had been taken, and later they professed no action would be taken. However, the damage was already done.
NBC’s hubris put both Google and NBC in the sunlight of their own admissions.
Google’s monopoly control of internet ad revenue made their agreement with NBC to target a competitor a transparent, and admitted, antitrust violation. Without question, that stark admission is what triggered the timing of the DOJ public statement today.
The DOJ needs congress to take action, modify the law, and update the outdated immunity for online platforms under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.
There are many aspects to the 230 immunity section regarding the responsibility of a platform provider to ensure no criminal activity (child exploitation, sex trafficking, terrorism organization etc.) is taking place; while 230 simultaneously gives the provider immunity from liability if they do not successfully intercept the action. That was the bulk of intent and purpose of the original law.
Additionally, platform providers have been using the Section 230 immunity to engage in targeted censorship and control over political viewpoints on their services. That’s the part that gets most of our/user attention…. and if the immunity was removed, people could challenge the platform provider, sue them and force them to justify their action in court.
Both of those prior points are important; the first is really important to the DOJ; but they are not the real epicenter of the issue from the perspective of the provider(s).
Big Tech cares about not being held criminally liable, yes; and Big Tech cares about being able to control ideology, yes. However, neither of those two factors are as important to Big Tech as MONEY. Without financial control over the internet, Big Tech collapses.
The heart of the Big Tech’s financial issue for Section 230 immunity surrounds this:
(DOJ) …”A third reform proposal is to clarify that federal antitrust claims are not covered by Section 230 immunity. Over time, the avenues for engaging in both online commerce and speech have concentrated in the hands of a few key players. It makes little sense to enable large online platforms (particularly dominant ones) to invoke Section 230 immunity in antitrust cases, where liability is based on harm to competition, not on third-party speech.”…
As we expected the DOJ wants to target Big Tech for antitrust violations. The issue surrounds commerce, not speech. Demonetization of digital platform content providers, in combination with Google’s control of almost all ad revenue in the digital space, is what has opened the door for DOJ intervention based on antitrust laws.
Antitrust intervention is warranted because the content being generated on these on-line, digital platforms, is being arbitrarily valued by the platform agency GoogleAds and not the free market. When Google devalues content they are ideologically opposed to creates consumer distortions.
The methods, practices and purposeful control of value; through collusion of corporate interest specific to a planned and organized effort to control monetary benefit; is the part of their activity that is quantifiable, discoverable, easily provable, and ultimately unlawful.
The financial distortion of internet commerce is the crack in the Big Tech stranglehold that should afford the DOJ the opportunity to step in.
Democrats in congress will fight to help Big Tech retain the monopoly. It is doubtful any legislative action will take place prior to the November 2020 election. However, if President Trump can win reelection and if Democrats can be defeated in the House and Senate, it’s possible this might finally be addressed…
But remember…. Big Tech will go to the mattresses this year to try and help Democrats. There are trillions at stake.
President Barack Obama joins a toast with Technology Business Leaders at a dinner in Woodside, California, Feb. 17, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)