The antitrust problem of Google and Facebook is becoming much more serious

In July, when the Federal Trade Commission and Facebook reached a settlement on privacy issues, I wondered whether our strange era of regulation would be anything more than a fine and promises to do better with the technical platforms. Congress has made little progress in adopting the kind of privacy legislation that could extend the FTC's authority, and the Trump government's antitrust questions have been compromised by the perception that they are meant to punish the political enemies of the president instead of leveling the competitive playing field.

But in the weeks that followed, new regulatory threats to technology platforms appeared at a steady pace. On Friday, the New York Attorney General announced that seven other states and the District of Columbia would join her in a new Facebook antitrust investigation. Here are Taylor Telford and Tony Romm in the Washington Post:

James will collaborate with the attorneys general of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and the District of Columbia on a study focusing on & # 39; the dominance of Facebook in the industry and the potential anti-competitive behavior that arises from that dominance, "According to to a news item.

“Even the largest social media platform in the world must follow the law and respect consumers. I am proud to lead a dual coalition of advocates-general in investigating whether Facebook has suppressed competition and endangered users, & James said in a news item. "We will use any research tool at our disposal to determine whether Facebook's actions may have compromised consumer information, reduced the quality of consumer choices, or increased the price of advertising."

An even bigger hammer fell today. No fewer than 50 advocates-general – 48 states plus Puerto Rico and DC – announced that they would join Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in a Google antitrust investigation. (California and Alabama are outside here.) Here is Lauren Feiner at CNBC:

"When there is no free market or competition anymore, it increases prices, even when something is marketed as free, and harms consumers," said Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, a republican. “Is something really free if we increasingly surrender our privacy information? Is something really free if prices for online advertisements increase based on the control of one company? "

The major technical platforms are now confronted with two congress, six provincial and local and eight federal investigations. That is according to a handy new tracker from the New York Times, which I encourage you to make a bookmark. (I did that!) In an accompanying piece, Jack Nicas, Karen Weise and Mike Isaac break down the nature of Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon research. Although the details vary, anti-competitive behavior forms the core of many of the investigations.


How much does all this matter? We don't know today. But the massive arrival of the country's advocates-general is a very serious development. As Romm commented in one piece this weekend, they did that a track record of stimulating real change in different industries:

When Advocates General have united on a broad, two-part basis, they have succeeded in speeding up major changes in other industries. They forced billions of dollars in payments from Big Tobacco to pay for health claims and to finance anti-smoker campaigns in the 1990s. Two decades later, they helped reform unfair mortgage practices. More recently, states have led lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies that they claim to be responsible for opioid crisis.

There are important limits to what state AG's can do here, experts told Feiner a separate piece.

"If people expect antitrust legislation to break the platforms or fundamentally change the way they do business … I bet they will be very disappointed," said Doug Melamed, professor at Stanford Law School.

When states sign up for a federal case against a technology company, "I think it would show that there is a lot of momentum behind the challenge for the technology companies," Carrier said. "But in the end, it's up to a court to apply antitrust law. So if the court thinks it's not an antitrust case, it doesn't matter if the states have signed up."

But their power is real – and for the platforms and their legal teams today means a significant escalation of threats against them. Ashley Gold and Christopher Stern explain some reasons why The information:

The involvement of the states increases the ante for Google alphabet and Facebook in several ways. The companies, which are already being investigated for possible antitrust violations by federal regulators, must now contact authorities in several jurisdictions at the same time. One risk is that at some point the states decide that federal supervisors are not moving fast enough, or are hard enough, and choose to file their own lawsuits with the federal court, which usually conducts antitrust cases.

It is also possible that the advocates-general will eventually go to Facebook and Google at the state level, where companies would have to fight dozens of individual lawsuits instead of solving their legal problems in one federal settlement. However, that result is less likely, experts say.

The final result of this is impossible to predict. But if this summer it seemed like the largest technology platforms could escape American regulators unscathed, today's developments would make that much less likely.

Meet Zoe

As the audience for The Interface has grown, so do our ambitions. Today I am happy to tell you that Zoe Schiffer has joined The Verge to work with me on this project. Zoe worked in the technology industry before embarking on her journalistic career, and recently completed a master's degree at Stanford. She has previously written for Vox, KQED, NPR and the San Francisco Chronicle. I cannot imagine a better background for the kind of work we do here.


Take it away, Zoe!

Hi there! I'm really excited to be here. I came to The interface via Stanford, where I studied the intersection of technology and democracy. Before that, I was a full-time writer at Uber.

On The edgeI will look at the dance between the capacity of big tech to regulate itself and the willingness of the government to intervene. At present, both the Congress and the courts seem unusually interested in privacy, labor and competition issues – but we have to wait and see if this interest will lead to real action. I follow these cases as they continue and critically monitor their likely impact (s).

If you have tips, have scifi recommendations or just want to say hello, send me an email or find me on Twitter at @sweet potato.

The ratio

Today in news that could influence public perception of technology platforms.


Trending up: The BBC cooperates Google, twitterand Facebook for an & # 39; early warning system for incorrect information & # 39; to develop. They also work together on voter education and media literacy projects.

Trending down: There is a lot from & # 39; trending down & # 39; in today's Google news, but 50-as-in-five-zero advocates-general work together for an antitrust investigation probably takes the cake.

Trending down: Messages on private Instagram accounts and Facebook pages & # 39; s can be found and shared via easily discovered URL & # 39; s.


A controversial article presented this summer at the International Society of Political Psychologists argued that & # 39; human brains were not built for self-government & # 39; and that democracy is likely to continue its rapid decline worldwide. A hair-raising story from Rick Shenkman Politico – and I welcome all the thoughts you have about this.

The irony is that more democracy – ushered in by social media and the internet, where information flows more freely than ever – has dismantled our politics and leads us to authoritarianism. Rosenberg claims that the elites have traditionally prevented society from becoming a completely unhindered democracy; their "oligarchic" democratic "authority" or "democratic control" has so far kept the authoritarian impulses of the population under control.

Compared to the harsh demands of democracy, which requires a tolerance for compromise and diversity, right-wing populism is like cotton candy. While democracy requires that we accept the fact that we have to share our country with people who think and look differently than we do, right-wing populism offers a fast sugar high. Forget political correctness. You can feel exactly how you really want about people from other tribes.

President Trump's re-election campaign will launch an app this fall "to encourage supporters to donate like-minded voters, to volunteer – while giving the president more unfiltered access to his followers." (Anita Kumar / Politics)


Immigration and customs enforcement are looking for Apple and Google the "names, phone numbers, and other identifying information of at least 10,000 users of a single gun range app" as part of an investigation into arms sales. (Thomas Brewster / Forbes)

Speaking of weapons, 15 democratic senators have appealed Facebook to do a better job of removing weapons from the Marketplace service. The letter follows a recent one Wall Street Journal report on the subject. (Parmy Olson / Wall Street Journal)

A profile of Rowdy Republican, a Facebook page that provokes partisan outrage to help its audience grow so that it can send its 780,000 followers to buy a misleading book about diabetes. (Judd Legum / Popular information)

About 900 Amazon employees are in danger of running away on 20 September due to the company's inadequate response to climate change, the first time in company history that company employees have participated in a walkoit. (Louise Matsakis / Wired)

After social media messages had mistakenly linked him to a mass shooting, Democratic presidential candidate Beto O & R called on Rourke technical platforms to remove disinformation more effectively. (Makena Kelly / The edge)


How Microsoft this time avoid antitrust research. It's all about the business model. (Steve Lohr / New York Times)


How Apple stacked the App Store with its own products. Crackerjack research by Jack Nicas and Keith Collins at the New York Times in how the App Store promoted Apple's own apps to its competitors through around 700 search terms. It is precisely this type of self-handling that has led to successful antitrust prosecutions from Google in Europe. Apple changed its algorithms after the TimesFindings:

The analysis of the Times of App Store data – including rankings of more than 1800 specific apps for 13 keywords since 2013 – illustrated the influence and coverage of the algorithms that support the platforms of technology companies.

These algorithms can help you decide which apps are installed, which articles are read and which products are purchased. But Apple and other technical giants such as Facebook and Google will not explain in detail how such algorithms work – even if they blame the algorithm for problems.

An internal document shows how Apple changes Siri's answers to questions about feminism and #MeToo. (Alex Hern / The Guardian)

A dozen current and former Google employees told Recode that many employees are rightfully afraid to report problems with the workplace because they are afraid of retribution. "They say the company continues to hide problems rather than confront them, ranging from sexual harassment to security issues, especially when it comes to high-ranking managers or high-stakes projects." (Shirin Ghaffary / Recode)

Google prohibited ads for & # 39; unproven or experimental medical techniques & # 39; including most ads for stem cell and gene therapy, following an increase in ads from bad actors. (William Wan and Laurie McGinley / Washington Post)


Google Maps do not always show the location of abortion clinics. (Carter Sherman and David Uberti / Vice)

YouTube eliminate promised responses to content with minors, but a simple search returns more than 100 videos that have escaped detection. (Joan E. Solsman / CNET)

Popular YouTube creators create successful secondary channels for their podcasts and clips from the shows have become valuable new sources of audience and revenue. (Julia Alexander / The edge)

Period tracking apps seem to share sensitive data Facebook using the software development kit, which is usually used for ad targeting. (Megha Rajagopalan / BuzzFeed)

You can now share the song you are listening to Spotify like a Snapchat story. (Chris Welch / The edge)


How Chinese companies build commerce into chat apps. (Connie Chan / Andreessen Horowitz)

And finally …

The sketchy economy behind the Jeremy Renner app

Many of us are fascinated by the rise and fall of the official Jeremy Renner app, which was closed last week because EscapeX, the development management company, had dramatically invested too little in community management. (Trolls had come forward to speak out death threats against some users, as you would expect in an app for the sole purpose of discussing the life and work of a 48-year-old actor-slash singer.)

But there was something terrible about the whole thing, as Sarah N. Emerson explains OneZero:

There is unmistakably icky, even predatory, about Racer asking his fans to pay money to stimulate their reactions and increase the chance that he will see them. That was the premise of the app's virtual currency or "star system", which allowed users to pay up to $ 99.99 (equivalent to 14,800 stars) for these credits. EscapeX says the currency was a reward "for being in the app" or for creating original content (such as photo-shoped images of Renner). People can gift stars to other users and spend them offers like lunch with Renner. But what it actually came down to was a lottery system: the illusion that throwing more money into the app would increase your chances of winning Renner's attention considerably.

What's even worse is that also users documented years of abuse and harassment on the app, although Shapira said it "didn't happen often."

However, it happened often enough to kill the app. REST IN PEACE.

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