“Once again technology has outpaced and legal thought, and social awareness. But the acceptable restore public order while respecting the important social freedoms always start somewhere. So shake that will receive not-very-natural digital monopoly in the investigation of the American government, all will benefit. An indirect result of this investigation may be, in particular, understanding how truly sovereign digital environment of our country. And this is a great thing.”
American antitrust laws — harsh thing. All companies that have experienced his hand of vengeance at best seriously fork out, were forced to sell or give away under external management part of the business. At worst, they just disappeared from the face of the earth.
Of course, not on any monopoly to take US seriously. On the “art” of many industrial titans often overlooked. But if the state machine of the United States is targeting someone seriously — expect trouble.
It seems that this time trouble came in the digital industry. This week it became known that the Ministry of justice and the Federal trade Commission (FTC) to begin a large-scale antitrust investigation against four IT giants — Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google. Precisely speaking, the object of the proceedings was not Google, and its parent company Google, who is also the owner of several other software and telecommunications corporations. But for clarity I will say Google because this brand is the most recognizable.
The Federal government agreed to a kind of division of labour between the agencies. Trade Commission do Amazon and Facebook, and the Ministry of justice will start to investigate Apple and Google. Digital mehaignerie suspect that they are abusing their enormous influence on the market, suppressing competition and impeding the rights of users.
About the same wording was used in the sensational case against Microsoft, initiated in 1998. Then the world was still standing on the threshold of a big Internet, so the brainchild of bill gates was chosen as a subject of investigation by and large by accident. The U.S. justice Department punish the software giant is likely to frighten. And the decision, according to market analysts, was made “vegetarian”. The company was ordered to reorganize the business and to modify their products to encourage competition in the market of operating systems and Internet browsers. However, the surveillance was withdrawn by Microsoft in may 2011.
In 2013 the pencil first came Google. Two years the FTC conducted, as we have said, preliminary examination. Then the Corporation got off a few prescriptions from the authorities. But now it is much more serious. Worldwide, growing discontent with the IT giants. You can even talk about a certain phobia before those mega-corporations that in the United States called BigTech. In fact, four of the defendant in the investigation monopolized the Internet and social media. Given that two of them also produce operating systems for the most common mobile gadgets, the situation is out of the ordinary. It’s as if the Boeing was not only the factories producing aircraft but also airports, dispatch around the globe and services for the sale of tickets, and, say, Airbus has bought up two-thirds of the world’s airlines.
Will not be superfluous to remind that the most popular YouTube owned by Google. Service Instagram belongs to Facebook. Amazon was not limited to the control of trading platforms and market digital books. In 2013, its owner Jeff Bezos purchased the newspaper The Washington Post.
American BigTech is pumping through the huge traffic and stores data about hundreds of millions of people (the number of active smartphones in the world well over 1 billion). In this regard, there are three main problems. First, the market for online advertising and digital Commerce is tied to a small number of corporations and their shareholders. Second, IT giants have virtually monopolized the exchange of information on the world wide web.
Thirdly, according to their capabilities (and, importantly, the degree of opacity) digital sector, controlled by a limited circle of persons who have outgrown the state “big brother”.
Providing access to user data (including daily activity) and closing process of the most search queries of the inhabitants of the Earth, BigTech has got unfettered power. This power is absolute in the sense that to date, no reliable mechanisms of its control. There are no checks and balances. All companies falling under the cap of the Ministry of justice and the FTC act only on the basis of its internal rules, which are developed by them.
Smaller Internet companies and advertisers were enthusiastic about the initiative of the American authorities. At least a dozen firms have expressed their desire to help the US government to build a case against Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google. The Congress also supported the initiative by opening its own investigation in respect of the industry giants. However, legislators not so much interested in the advertising market and trading platform, how much monopoly in the field of dissemination of information.
Politicians and public figures have long suspected (and rightly so) digital megacorporations of political engagement and the implementation of a new type of censorship. Network company for a long time deftly evaded responsibility for the content of publications distributed through their resources. They argued that only provide a platform for exchange of information. That is, they cannot be blamed for the fake news or extremist statements, as it is impossible to place the responsibility on the manufacturers of paper over the text printed on the. But if so, then information management must not be carried out by bumagodelatelnaja, and state institutions. Can not paper factory to withdraw from sale copies of Newspapers that do not like its leadership! And social networks can’t ban users and erase posts that “do not meet the policies and regulations” of the company.
In fact, as everyone knows, everything goes wrong. On the proposal of the authorities removed the absolute minimum publications. Most of the “unwanted” content is withdrawn from the market by the networks. Sometimes it’s really unacceptable posts. But more often we are talking about political censorship, not public, and corporate. The users of this Facebook censorship is well known. And not only in our country. Many conservative activists and experts from America and Europe was just removed from the main social networks (for example, the founder of the portal Infowars Alex Jones). Against others are more subtle — the scope of their positions is strongly suppressed, apply temporary bans, difficult to access and organize their groups.
More “creative” are the search engines. Despite the fact that the company BigTech has long denied the fact of manipulating the results of search queries, they were “caught on hot”. So, in the course of the race in 2016 in the US found that when you enter a search string of certain key words (e.g., hot news or discussing the topic) references to the publications of conservative publications has always been below the references to publications that are liberal. Republican congressmen even conducted an experiment in the Capitol building. They are different devices with different operating systems searched the Internet for information on trump. To their astonishment, the first 20-30 results contain negative information about the President.
And Google when you start writing advised users requests Trump racist, Trump Russian spy, etc. Like “digital miracles” happened on the eve of breccia and parliamentary elections in Austria (2017) and Italy (2018).
However, these small dirty tricks IT-corporations are not limited. They seem to have seriously imagined themselves saviors of liberal democracy. The owner of the network Facebook, mark Zuckerberg personally announced the launch of a program called “clean elections Initiative” on the eve of universal suffrage in Canada. “A neutral platform for the exchange of information” now sets its own standards of political advertising, deciding which information reaches its audience, and what is not. However, and without any Declaration programs staff Facebook online “defended” the recent elections to the European Parliament. Politico called — neither more nor less dedicated office in Dublin “combat headquarters” and complained that the “wrong” political advertising and “misinformation” was still available to users.
By the way, paid content distribution networks also raises many questions. First, because in the pursuit of profit BigTech, in fact, indirectly selling our personal data, whose integrity they committed to protect. Second, because political partisanship makes absolutely opaque market of paid services on the network.
If the money is paid “right”, the advertiser, the network operator “bring” it to the target audience, and with the “wrong” conversation short — “battle staff” would deprive him of access to the consumer. Well, when it comes to gadgets and stuff! In this case, the actions of the Internet-monopoly illegal, but not so dangerous. What if we are talking about the dissemination of the program of a political party? Or the treatment of public organizations, on the sensitive social issue? Then an informed public opinion is replaced by the tyranny of digital tycoon.
Do not forget about the more subtle ways of manipulating the flow of information. So, Amazon, based on statistics of consumer preferences of a particular user, so much to tell about the way his character, the type of its activity, and even political beliefs. Well, if this user still and books acquired through the network, know about him almost everything. And how this knowledge will be used, known only to a few billionaires from BigTech.
Of course, the knowledge we have and other structures. Intelligence, for example. Doctors. Lawyers. Bank employees. Even employees of the housing sector know about us a lot. But their work is in the legal field. It is possible (and quite easy) to imagine how all these people can hurt us for their benefit. But it would be a violation of the law. And state at least in principle, guarantees us protection from malicious acts. The IT giants are not constrained by these frameworks.
So initially I thought. The Internet was supposed to be a field if not absolute, that a very great freedom. What national state would not allow, for whatever reasons, the world wide web would have absorbed and distributed.
There is nothing to hide and did not shut up. Well, in this scheme, missed something very important. Namely, the corporations that own the infrastructure of data exchange and dispose of it at own discretion.
It is as if the state law regulates only rail and air transport. And then there were private cars but the roads were in private hands. Buying a car, would have to sign a user agreement as long and confusing as Google and Facebook, and the roads would be deprived of the rights of “internal rules” private the DMV.
Of course, the greatest temptation for an American (not only American) legislators today is the recognition of the BigTech companies, providers of important public infrastructure services. What is electricity and water supply, cleaning of streets and public transport. Some logic in this. After all, the founders of digital monopolies talked about the fact that the building “vital environment” for users. And then, if you are building in city sidewalks or paving in the city water supply, you are obliged to provide equal right to the enjoyment of all citizens. And cheating in favor of left-handed and blonde is not allowed.
However, this turn of events will strengthen Bessom, Zuckerberg and others like them the status of owners of “natural” transnational digital monopolies. In the present state of international relations it is no good will not result.
Once again technology has outpaced and legal thought, and social awareness. But the acceptable restore public order while respecting the important social freedoms always start somewhere. So shake that will receive not-very-natural digital monopoly in the investigation of the American government, all will benefit. An indirect result of this investigation may be, in particular, understanding how truly sovereign digital environment of our country. And this is a big deal.
The point of view of the author do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher.
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