Department of Justice Sues Google over Digital Ads Practices

Google is facing its second antitrust lawsuit from the Department of Justice in two years, over its dominance in the digital ads market, which has seen the tech giant operate in both the buying and selling of ads in addition to running its ad exchange.

The DOJ is joined in its latest lawsuit by the states of California, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai

Google CEO Sundar Pichai (pool/Getty)

The new lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, alleges that Google has unfairly tried to control all sides of the digital ads market, operating on both the buying side and the selling side. Google, says the DOJ, sought to be “the be-all, and end-all location for all ad serving.”

“Website creators earn less, and advertisers pay more, than they would in a market where unfettered competitive pressure could discipline prices and lead to more innovative ad tech tools that would ultimately result in higher quality and lower cost transactions for market participants,” says the DOJ lawsuit.

Google’s strategy to dominate digital ads includes acquiring rival ad exchanges and servers, notably its 2008 purchase of DoubleClick. It also included the acquisition of yield management platforms, which allowed publishers to seek better prices outside of Google’s system. Google also changed the terms of its AdX platform to prevent participating publishers from using such tools.

A Google spokesperson defended the tech giant, arguing the DOJ is attempting to “pick winners and losers in the highly competitive advertising technology sector.”

The lawsuit comes amid tough times for Google. Last week, the tech giant announced plans to lay off 12,000 employees as the wider economic downturn in the tech industry. Morale is low among Google employees, who are complaining that their “psychological safety” is at risk.

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.


Can Republicans Ever Fight Big Tech? Last Week Gave Us Our First Clue

Can Republicans Ever Fight Big Tech? Last Week Gave Us Our First Clue

Something unusual happened on Capitol Hill last week: The Big Tech companies, their hundreds of lobbyists, and their well-funded network of policy groups took a loss. The House of Representatives successfully passed a small package of antitrust reform bills designed, in part, to limit gamesmanship and increase scrutiny on the largest, most powerful corporations in world history.

Now, they didn’t save the world or anything; the bills the House just passed are small, procedural, and bureaucratic in the grand scheme of things. Nevertheless, they are very important.

One bill requires firms undergoing a merger to disclose whether they receive funding from the Chinese government. (Sounds smart enough.)

The second bill makes it easier for state antitrust enforcers to oversee the corporate giants among them by letting states have their antitrust cases heard in local courts, rather than forcing cases to be moved to distant jurisdictions. (A deeply American idea.)

The third bill increases the fees billion-dollar companies must pay to have their mergers reviewed by antitrust enforcers at the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission.

Those second and third bills have already passed the Senate. It’s nearly certain all three of these will become law.

For years, we’ve heard tough-sounding rhetoric from both parties about challenging our biggest tech megacorporations. Both sides have been saying “break ’em up” since before Donald Trump even entered office. Now, Congress is finally rumbling into action.

Seriously: This is the first step they’ve taken. Google went public 18 years ago; Facebook hit a billion users 10 years ago; Apple became the world’s first trillion-dollar company in 2018, and its first $3 trillion company a few months ago, but this package of bills we just told you about represents the first affirmative acknowledgment by Congress that the power of the tech platforms must be reckoned with.

Yet in spite of the general agreement among Republicans that Big Tech firms pose an existential threat to our system of self-government, these bills were met with fierce and often acrimonious resistance from most of the GOP. Two hundred and seven Republicans voted on these bills, but only 39 of them — less than 1:5 — voted in favor.

Conservatives both in and outside of Congress were likewise split. Opposition to the bills was led by congressional firebrand Rep. Jim Jordan, while conservative stalwarts like Congressmen Chip Roy, Ken Buck, Paul Gosar, and Jim Banks voted in favor. The Heritage Foundation endorsed the legislative package as a “requisite starting point to rebalance the relationship between American citizens and the Big Tech companies that abuse them.” American Principles Project backed the bills too.

So, what’s the issue?

At issue was the bill requiring billion-dollar companies to pay an increased fee to have their mergers reviewed. Mind you, the fees in question already exist — this bill simply increased them on large mergers in response to a recent and massive increase in merger activity.

Big Tech firms have contributed substantially to the uptick in major mergers. Google and Facebook in particular have spent the last decade buying up smaller firms at a startling rate. In the past 10 years, Facebook has bought sixty smaller companies — about one every two months. Google has bought 133; that’s one company every 27 days.

Watch the video for this article, plus an interview with the American Principles Project’s Jon Schweppe:

That’s a lot of power flowing toward companies that already have more power than many countries. If we want to police the market to make sure these mergers are fair, then we could at least fund the people who do the policing.

This was a bridge too far for Rep. Jordan, however. He characterized the bill as funding the “same DOJ that raided President Trump’s home” and empowering “woke radical” Lina Khan at the Federal Trade Commission.

Now, it’s true that the increased fee funding could flow directly to the DOJ antitrust office, but that office had nothing to do with the raid on the Trump estate. The antitrust division is funded separately from the rest of the budgets at DOJ.

Meanwhile, the FTC will only gain access to additional funding if Congress decides to give it to them via the appropriations process. This is simply how the FTC is funded, and true regardless of whether or not the bill passed.

Sen. Mike Lee voted against Lina Khan’s confirmation and has been a constant critic of hers, but he still called claims that this new anti-trust bill will give her and the FCC more money a “tech-funded lie.” As he pointed out in a joint statement with Sens. Chuck Grassley and Tom Cotton, “these bills improve antitrust enforcement without appropriating any more funds to President Biden’s out-of-control FTC.”

But while most have never heard of last week’s fight, these small bills represent something significantly more important than the bills themselves: These bills took the tiniest of steps against the gigantic power of Big Tech, but only a few dozen Republicans were willing to go even that far, and dozens more were intensely opposed.

That raises serious concerns about the House GOP’s commitment to taking on the tech threat in the next Congress, should they win a majority. Antitrust is a weapon that must be wielded carefully, but it’s a weapon that absolutely must be wielded.

Lax antitrust enforcement is what has allowed Big Tech firms to buy up their competition without scrutiny and amass a market dominance that makes them virtually untouchable. It’s how we got Amazon, whose $469 billion per year in revenue is higher than the GDP of thirty-four U.S. states.

Many conservatives have been confused, and they see antitrust as some kind of socialist plot. But it doesn’t have to be. Antitrust is the market-based law enforcement that acts as a bulwark against a heavier regulatory approach down the road. The only reason we have to debate far more intrusive interventions, like treating tech companies as utility monopolies, is because we failed to properly enforce antitrust in the first place years ago. Too few conservatives understand this.

But more broadly, this recent episode reveals that the right (or at least its elected leaders) don’t understand how business has changed and how America has changed. We see this every time Republicans are pushed to actually stand up to Big Business, Big Tech, Big Defense, or Big Anything.

Since 2016, Republicans have learned to talk a pretty good game. They rail against left-wing corporate activism and “woke capital.” They trash companies that proudly and visibly throw their weight around in the culture war. But at heart, these Republicans are still loath to take even the smallest steps against them. They’re happy to do nothing and quote Reagan to justify it.

The right will never be anti-big business, and that might be OK. The alternative to business, after all, is government. But the right must stop rushing like a battered wife to bail out the corporations who continue to wield their massive private power against ordinary Americans.

Let Big Finance try and beg Sen. Elizabeth Warren for a bailout if they want; and let Big Tech find allies outside the congressional Republicans they abuse daily. Why should Jim Jordan save Facebook from the FTC when Facebook both manipulates the market and hates men like Jordan (and all his voters)?

The political right must be prepared to use the power of the government against bad market actors, because that is what antitrust is: the rule of law in the market.

Even with a number of prominent congressional Republicans running defense for them, Big Tech lost this fight — and lost it publicly. That alone should be encouraging. But this victory was carried over with the explicit help of the Democrats, and with a majority of Republicans voting against it. Last week’s votes were a great day for The Realignment, but they are also a precedent that will only be carried forward into the next Congress if the GOP — as a whole — is ready to embrace the ideas they embody as actual policy.

The grounds are shifting; The Realignment is taking place. Republicans should be careful where they’re standing.


Exclusive — Ted Cruz Caves to Democrat Amy Klobuchar on Media Cartel Bill

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has caved to the Democrats on legislation that would allow media organizations to create formal cartels to negotiate with Big Tech companies, several congressional aides and others familiar with the process told Breitbart News on Wednesday.

If Cruz goes forward with his plans to back—and allow the senate to advance—the legislation, then he will immediately become one of the biggest enablers of the establishment media and Big Tech giants and he could seriously jeopardize his political future.

Cruz, who had previously jammed up a committee markup on the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) a few weeks ago, has now decided to give Klobuchar what she wanted and allow the Democrat proposal to proceed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee to eventually be considered by the full U.S. Senate.

Several aides on both sides of the JCPA fight familiar with the matter told Breitbart News on Wednesday that Cruz caved to Klobuchar and has agreed to changes to language he offered in an amendment to allow the bill to advance. When questioned repeatedly about it on Wednesday, Cruz’s office did not deny these aides’ characterization.

Cruz himself has not replied to inquiries from Breitbart News sent over text directly to the senator. Several Cruz staffers have refused to answer whether he cut a deal with Klobuchar, and they have refused to make the senator available for an interview to explain himself.

A Cruz spokesperson would only provide, when asked detailed and serious questions about the possibility of a deal and what form the deal would take, a generic statement claiming that Cruz opposes censorship of conservatives–something that would be inherently untrue if he votes for or simply even just enables Senate consideration of this legislation.

“Sen. Cruz is a fierce defender of the First Amendment and free speech and he will always fight to prevent Americans from being censored or silenced,” the Cruz spokesperson told Breitbart News.

Despite Cruz’s office’s refusal to answer specific questions about this, the Senate Judiciary Committee is considering the JCPA again—for the third week in a row—on Thursday. Late Wednesday, the committee circulated a clarifying amendment that does exactly what the various committee aides told Breitbart News that Cruz had caved to Klobuchar on: Alters the original Cruz amendment text, and removes things that Klobuchar said she could not support.

The office of Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), who had previously undercut the broader bill to back Cruz’s amendment three weeks ago in committee, confirmed that Cruz caved to Klobuchar on record to the Daily Caller News Foundation. Proponents of the JCPA—like Kennedy, and now Cruz—have falsely claimed it would help conservatives fight back against Big Tech. The legislation does no such thing as, among the serious structural problems, it has included no favored nations clause contained in it, which means that a group of media companies could get together on their own and negotiate a sweetheart deal with a big tech company but that deal would not apply to every media company.

Kennedy’s office said in a statement to that publication:

We have reached an agreement that clarifies what the bill was designed to do: give local news outlets a real seat at the negotiating table and bar the tech firms from throttling, filtering, suppressing or curating content. The only reason I can see for parties to oppose this bill is that they have a problem either with healthy market competition or free speech.

The original Cruz amendment a few weeks ago complicated efforts by bill proponents to get the proposal out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The reason for that was, while Kennedy backed it—as did other GOP cosponsors of the JCPA—Democrats like Klobuchar were opposed to it. By happenstance, Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) was stranded in India infected with the coronavirus and had not designated a proxy vote for himself, so the Cruz amendment was adopted into the bill and GOP cosponsors like Kennedy and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC,) as well as supporter Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), had not been willing to vote for the bill without Cruz’s amendment. As such, a visibly angry Klobuchar withdrew her own bill—and she tried again last week to no avail. Now, thanks to Cruz’s cave, she is likely to succeed in committee when she tries again on Thursday morning.


Pinkerton: Seeking the Right Strategy for Big Tech Beyond Elon Musk

Pinkerton: Seeking the Right Strategy for Big Tech Beyond Elon Musk

Three Options

The problems of Big Tech—including censorship, shadow banning, wokeness, monopoly power, and Chinese penetration—are, well, big.  

So what to do?  Broadly speaking, there are three possible strategies: first, accept the status quo; second, break up Big Tech through antitrust litigation; third, more regulation.

Let’s look at each strategy in turn:

The first strategy is accepting the status quo.  Of course, that’s not much of a strategy, as it means accepting the rule of Big Tech owners—who include everyone from Mark Zuckerberg of Meta/Facebook (he of the Joe Biden-helping “Zuckbucks”) to Elon Musk (if his purchase of Twitter goes through).  And yes, a few libertarians, not worried about life in the real world, have advised us to just let Big Tech do as it pleases. But let’s keep in mind: These are the same people who wanted Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) to ease up on Disney.   

Without a doubt, Musk as a social-media owner is reassuring to most conservatives; as he declared in an April 25 tweet, “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.”  Indeed, conservative accounts have already been gaining ground on the platform, even as Musk ascends into the conservative pantheon. 

Yet it’s by no means a sure thing that Musk will pull off the Twitter deal; as we know, he’s been under ceaseless attack from the left, and it’s possible that woke capital could yet kibosh his bid.  In fact, Musk has already accused big investors such as Bill Gates of shorting Tesla stock; that is, betting that the price will go down.  If more shorting were to happen, Musk could possibly be deprived of the liquidity he needs to complete his purchase. 

The Twitter profile of Elon Musk in shown on a cell phone on April 25, 2022, after it was announced that Twitter accepted Musk’s $44 billion bid to acquire the company. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Furthermore, we know that even the greatest hero won’t be around forever.  And so it’s right and proper that Americans seek structural change, beyond any personality; last year The Wall Street Journal reported on a poll showing that 80 percent of Americans (83 percent of Democrats  and 78 percent of Republicans) agreed that the federal government “needs to do everything  it can to curb the influence of big tech companies that have grown too powerful.”  So a change is gonna come.  

The second strategy is antitrust litigation, which could potentially bust up Big Tech.  In the last two years, 38 state attorneys general have joined an antitrust suit against Google, and 48 state AGs filed suit against Facebook. And when the Facebook suit was dismissed by a court (the AGs are appealing), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) stepped in and refiled it.  At the same time, smaller antitrust suits are ongoing against Amazon and Apple. 

In addition, according to Vox, Biden administration appointees at the FTC and Justice Department are aiming to do more: “They have Big Tech in their sights.” Vox adds, “We haven’t seen this kind of test of the tech sector since the United States sued Microsoft for antitrust violations in 1998.” 

Uncle Sam’s suit against Microsoft was, indeed, a big deal, and yet interestingly enough, it still left Microsoft as a big deal; it is currently the second-most valuable company in America, boasting a market capitalization of some $2.17 trillion. The fact that MSFT has stayed so huge and yet attracts little controversy is a tribute to its management. The blue partisan coloration of its employees isn’t much different from the rest of Big Tech, and yet even so, the company itself hasn’t gone woke and censorious.  And that’s a point to file away: It’s possible for a company to be big and well-behaved. 


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law on “Online Platforms and Market Power” on July 29, 2020. (MANDEL NGAN/Getty Images)

One final point on antitrust as a strategy: If Facebook were somehow broken up, would any of the resulting pieces be automatically less woke and censorious? It’s possible that competition would drive some Little Facebooks to be less unfair, but it’s also possible that the Little Facebooks would simply collude with each other. So if we see a problem, maybe we should simply fix the problem and not dance around it.

The third approach is regulation.  As we have seen, the public is emphatic for action, and it will eventually get what it wants.  Yet along the way, we’re going to see—if we can bear to look—some legislative sausage being made. 

The best-known proposal is the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) In her words, 

This bill prohibits certain large online platforms from engaging in specified acts, including giving preference to their own products on the platform, unfairly limiting the availability on the platform of competing products from another business, or discriminating in the application or enforcement of the platform’s terms of service among similarly situated users.

We can see: The bill has some antitrust-y elements to it, but it’s also a  big dollop of regulation.  As The Washington Post observes, “The bill…has become the epicenter of a massive power struggle between Washington and Silicon Valley.”  The Post, of course, is owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon—and so yeah, the Post itself is part of the epicenter.  And as this author can attest, TV ads from the Computer and Communications Industry Association proclaiming, “Don’t Break Our Prime”—as in Amazon Prime—have been blanketing D.C. airwaves. 

Klobuchar’s bill has gained 12 co-sponsors in the Senate, evenly split, Democrats and Republicans.  Yet we might note that a co-sponsor is not necessarily the same thing as a firm supporter.  It’s been known to happen that a co-sponsor signs on only to have “standing,” which is to say, the ability to stand next to the sausage at all times, as it wends its way through the meatpacking plant.  In fact, one of the co-sponsors is Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), a multimillionaire former tech executive, who says of the bill, “It needs some work, it’s not perfect by any means.”  In other words, Warner is ready with his carving knife.  

So prospects for Klobuchar’s legislation are uncertain; the Post says merely that the bill “may survive,” and Punchbowl News, an insider publication, adds that its passage is “a possibility.”  For its part, Politico suggests that not much is going to happen on anything in the remaining eight months of the 117th Congress. 

Yet after the 117th Congress comes the 118th Congress, in which Republicans might well find themselves having regained their majorities.  And if so, Republican leaders will have to think about governing, as opposed to merely opposing.  Yes, of course, partisan politics never goes away, but voters will be looking to leaders to actually solve pressing problems.  And the biggest problem, always, is national security.  

National Security Concerns and Big Tech

We might note that there’s a second Big Tech bill currently in play, namely, The Open App Markets Act, spearheaded by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).  That bill would require app stores—such as those run by Apple and Google—to open themselves up to new competition.  As with Klobuchar’s bill, this legislation, too, has met with strenuous opposition.  

On April 18, seven former national security officials—from both parties, from both the legislative and executive branches—released an open letter in which they warned against tinkering with Big Tech: 

Legislation from both the House and Senate requiring non-discriminatory access for all ‘business users’ (broadly defined to include foreign rivals) on U.S. digital platforms would provide an open door for foreign adversaries to gain access to the software and hardware of American technology companies.  Unfettered access to software and hardware could result in major cyber threats, misinformation, access to data of U.S. persons, and intellectual property theft.

Critics pounced on the letter, calling it the handiwork of hired guns. Yet still, it’s simply true that we live in a world rife with hackers, spammers, spoofers and phishers, to say nothing of sophisticated enemy governments.  And so it’s dangerous, and maybe even fatal, to dismiss national security concerns out of hand.  

Furthermore, it takes knowhow and money to fend off these threats.  So perhaps that argues for bigger, so that companies can afford to defend themselves—and us, their customers. The letter continues: 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine marks the start of a new chapter in global history, one in which the ideals of democracy will be put to the test.  The United States will need to rely on the power of its technology sector to ensure that the safety of its citizens and the narrative of events continues to be shaped by facts, not by foreign adversaries.

This nail of a point has been further hammered in omnipresent online advertising by a new tech group, the Chamber of Progress; it presents itself as sort of cuddly and liberal, but nevertheless it delivers a hard-edged hawkish national security message.  For instance, it quotes Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) saying, “I’m concerned that this going to be very dangerous legislation.”  Is Feinstein touting her Silicon Valley constituents?  Is she articulating valid concerns?  Maybe both?   It’s important to take time to figure this out.  

The Associated Press

 A screenshot of the warning screen from a purported ransomware attack is seen on laptop in Beijing on May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Moreover, the rise of cloud computing and the prospect of warfighting within the metaverse puts even more of a premium on secure computing.  Back in February, War on the Rocks took a deep dive:  

While a defense metaverse could enable a range of discrete warfighting and social benefits, its true value should emerge through the interconnection of the various defense virtual worlds — provided interoperability is prioritized in the design of these virtual environments from the start.  Integrating virtual activities across the Department of Defense should create an iterative feedback loop, with little human effort involved, thus ensuring that lessons learned from training, education, or recruitment can be exploited during test and experimentation and vice versa.

The piece continued, “In some ways this mirrors the benefits that platforms—from Google to Amazon, YouTube, or Pinterest—provide.”  A cynic will stop right there and exclaim, “That’s convenient for Big Tech!”  And maybe it is.  And yet maybe, too, it’s true.  After all, the People’s Liberation Army is on the hunt in this same space.   

So we should be informed by the stern warning from Breitbart News senior contributor Peter Schweizer in his 2022 book

In the meantime, every patriot should at least listen to the arguments of the MIDC—Military Industrial Digital Complex.  And then, as we shall see, improve upon them—to keep the whole country, and our individual rights, secure. 

What Republicans Should Do

If Republicans win in 2022 and find themselves sharing power with President Joe Biden in 2023, they should be clear-eyed about Big Tech. Yes, we need Big Tech as part of our national defense, and yet Big Tech’s liberal tilt here at home is indefensible.  So let’s get a plan to keep what we need and fix the rest. 

Republicans should begin by clearing away the liberal fog on “disinformation,”  The grim joke among Republicans is that Democrats wish to define anything they don’t like as either “disinformation” or “hate speech.”  So if the GOP regains power, goodbye, Big Sister.  With her and other Orwellian terrors out of the way, what else should Republicans do?  How to move forward?

The GOP might take a tip from pro-Trump conservative activist Scott Presler, who argued in an April 25 tweet that no matter what happens with Musk and Twitter, “We must still legislate an Internet Bill of Rights,” which would declare “It is illegal & unconstitutional for social media companies to work w/ the White House to silence political opposition.”

There’s a key insight there: If you want to protect a right, write it into inviolable law.  That’s the story of the First Amendment, and the Second Amendment, both of which (along with the other eight amendments that form the Bill of Rights) were important enough to be woven into the Constitution.  

So we can now see the path ahead: We must lock in our gains.  An Internet bill of Rights would thus include protections and due process on platforms, which should be legally deemed, as Sen. Hawley and others have suggested, to be common carriers. 

Common carrier is a legal term, reaching back to Roman times, that requires certain public-facing facilities (roads, bridges, phone lines) to treat all customers equally.  So now, let’s update that concept for the digital era, so that our digital rights, too, can be fully protected.  Such rights could include protections for privacy, and against censorship and shadow banning.

So how to secure these rights?  For that we will need some kind enforcement mechanism, that will probably end up being a sort of regulatory commission.  To be sure, some on the right will blanch at the thought of a new government agency, but how else to protect ourselves?   Since we can’t trust Big Tech—and since the Bible reminds us, “put not your faith in princes”—then we have to trust ourselves, all 332 million of us.   It’s a simple point, really: Ordinary people can only find power if they organize, and that means creating an organization to serve as a watchdog for our rights. 

As this author wrote back on January 24, 2021, “There’s an old joke: If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.  That is, if you aren’t a player in the process, you’re the one being played.”  As I wrote further, “One possible answer is a Federal Platform Commission (FPC), overseeing Big Tech’s common-carrier responsibilities; and this FPC could be an outgrowth of the existing Federal Communications Commission (FCC).” 

It’s worth noting that, by statute, the FCC must allocate at least two of its five commissioner slots to the Republican Party—and that’s two more seats at the table than the GOP has, at present, at any Big Tech company.  Moreover, the entire FCC is all about due process and transparency; sure, it’s kludgy with bureaucrats and lobbyists, and yet at least the American people have a voice.  

An FPC might not come all at once.  It will likely emerge gradually, from the cumulative realization that Big Tech needs supervision—for the sake of our privacy, for the sake of the economy, and for the sake of our national security.  And so a series of clarified benchmarks would, over time, morph into a structure: an FPC. 

An FPC would not only protect our voice—making all tech companies are as well behaved as Microsoft—it would also be charged with thinking through the national security implications of Big Tech.  That is, what policies we need to safeguard our personal data and our physical safety from all threats, including the danger of nefarious Big Tech cooperation with Beijing.  So the FPC–as well as, of course, law enforcement-

Admittedly, the idea of an FPC is a big lift.  And yet as we have seen, the problems of Big Tech are big.  So while it’s great that Elon Musk seems poised to assume control of Twitter, it would be even greater if Americans could assume permanent control of their own digital liberties. 


Big Tech Insists They’re Protecting Americans From China While Importing Chinese-Style Social Controls

Big Tech Insists They’re Protecting Americans From China While Importing Chinese-Style Social Controls

If you need evidence that Big Tech firms are starting to worry about the growing movement to diffuse their immense market power, look no further than their newest scare tactic: using China as an excuse to avoid antitrust scrutiny.

Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and the nonprofit proxies they pay to defend them have put a lot of effort into trying to convince America that subjecting Big Tech to more stringent antitrust enforcement or regulation would have dire consequences. They’ve warned that innovation would suffer, but that rings hollow when so many of the new innovative companies are already being bought up (and then often shut down) by Big Tech.

They’ve suggested that antitrust action might result in the loss of the free services we’ve come to depend upon. But how do they call their services “free” when we pay for them by giving them all of our personal data, which they store and monetize, and when they rely on our content to make their platforms valuable in the first place?

Big Tech firms have told us we should be grateful for the superior quality of their services, which could suffer if they were broken up. But then again, one could argue that Google Search was better before it was filled with ads.

YouTube was better before its algorithms tried to corrupt our children and amplify the reach of terrorists. Facebook was better before it censored people of faith and conservatives, while protecting those who post revenge porn. Instagram was better before it drove our teenagers to anxiety and depression. Amazon was better before it silenced conservative authors and raised questions about its influence on a multibillion-dollar defense contract.

Having failed with each of those claims, Big Tech has turned to a new bogeyman: China. Antitrust enforcement actions against Big Tech—or legislation aimed at restoring and protecting competition in Big Tech markets—would risk crippling America’s ability to combat the growing threat from Communist China, or so the line goes. The cynicism would be offensive if the argument weren’t so laughable.

It’s not just lobbyists bringing these arguments to my office and others on Capitol Hill. Earlier this summer, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said in an interview, “These gross proposals like breaking them up and so forth, it’s not going to be helpful because it’s going to set us back against China.”

Last month, the National Security Institute began a series “examining the national security implications of antitrust challenges at home and abroad.” The first panel featured Big Tech defenders suggesting the antitrust laws were written for late-19th-century monopolists and are too outdated to deal with Big Tech, and that Big Tech is a driver for research that is essential to national security. Antitrust scrutiny, they implied, might hinder the companies’ ability to compete with China, who won’t be imposing the same restraints on their own companies.

Like every other excuse Big Tech has made, this too rings hollow and we should flatly reject it. That doesn’t mean the antitrust laws should be enforced in the absence of actual anticompetitive harm. Nor does it mean that we should radically alter our antitrust laws to embrace a “big is bad” philosophy. But the idea that Big Tech should be treated with kid gloves makes no sense. The fact is, American ingenuity is strong enough to compete and win on the merits without coddling or amnesty from our antitrust laws.

Competition, and the innovation and disruption that facilitate it, are what made these companies American success stories. That same competition, innovation, and disruption are what will keep them at their best or make way for the next great American success story. You see, competition in Big Tech doesn’t threaten American, it threatens the monopolists—and that makes America stronger.

Insulating American companies from competition out of a fear of foreign competitors will do the opposite of what Big Tech claims to want: we will be stuck with stagnant monopolists too complacent either to benefit American consumers or to protect us from foreign threats.

In fact, it is Big Tech companies themselves that pose the greatest threat when it comes to China. They not only can’t protect us from foreign threats, but in some cases actively cooperate with them.

Google has been accused of working with the Chinese military, and has acknowledged developing a filtered version of its search engine to satisfy Chinese censors. Amazon has been working with a Chinese partner to expand its web-hosting services in the highly censored country.

The New York Times revealed earlier this year that Apple—which assembles nearly all of its products in China— has stored data on Chinese government servers, shared customer data with the Chinese government, removed apps from its App Store to appease the Chinese government, and banned apps from a critic of the Chinese Communist Party. The Times also alleged that Facebook was courting the Chinese government in 2016 by developing a censorship tool. Facebook has admitted to sharing data with Chinese state-owned companies, and last year it undertook to expand its Chinese ad business.

These are the benevolent corporate heroes who are going to save us from the Chinese threat? Give me a break.

Far from saving us, it seems like the habits of their new Chinese friends are rubbing off on our Big Tech big brothers. In a way, Silicon Valley is helping America keep up with China: now we too have censored speech on the internet, constant surveillance, and tightly controlled marketplaces.

Instead of embracing the very crony capitalism that has been so destructive to American prosperity in the past, American firms should spend more energy competing on the merits for Americans’ business, and less time cozying up to Chinese bureaucrats. The free market should pick winners and losers, not Communist apparatchiks.

This whole episode leads me to only one conclusion: insisting that antitrust enforcers pull their punches or risk impairing our ability to face the threats from China is nothing short of corporate extortion, a protection racket at a global scale. What we need is more competition, and less protectionism. The only way we will defeat the economic threat of communist China is by empowering American businesses to challenge and disrupt the would-be Chinese collaborators that make up Big Tech.

The hypocrisy is glaring: Big Tech wants to assist Communist China in exchange for access to its economy, while pointing to the Chinese threat as an excuse for anticompetitive and monopolistic conduct in the United States. Americans deserve better, and we should refuse to entertain this disingenuous and insulting excuse.


Facebook Protects The Posts Of VIP Users

Facebook Protects The Posts Of VIP Users

Put this one in the category of something we all knew was probably happening. Though Mark Zuckerberg publicly claims that Facebook’s more than 3 billion users are all equal on his platform, in practice some users are more equal than others.

Documents released to The Wall Street Journal detail a program known as “cross check” or “XCheck,” which shields millions of VIP users from the company’s normal enforcement process.

All of this confirms, again, something that tech-skeptics have long argued: The massive, concentrated power of a handful of platforms protects the speech of the politically powerful, at the whims of non-democratically elected CEOs.

This story broke on Monday, just hours from the announcement that the Federal Election Commission found that Twitter’s actions to block circulation of a story critical of Hunter Biden in the weeks prior to the 2020 election did not constitute election meddling. (Hilariously, The New York Times still refers to the New York Post story about the younger Biden’s laptop as “unsubstantiated.”)

It is absurd to claim that the suppression of information and political speech on dominant social media platforms — because it wasn’t just Twitter blocking the story, it was Facebook as well — has no meaningful effect on political discourse and outcomes. It is common sense that, as these platforms become the primary source of news for many and drive narratives across the broader press, they now represent key points of political infrastructure.

A self-government cannot sustain itself if its political speech and information gathering is distorted and contorted — either by the government or by corporate actors whose power over speech clearly exceeds that of the government. It is the job of Silicon Valley innovators to innovate. But it is the job of our representative government to set limits that align with our republican form of government. There is more and more evidence that congressional action and, where appropriate, antitrust enforcement is both necessary and warranted.


World’s Richest Man Jeff Bezos Steps Down as Amazon CEO

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has officially stepped down from his role as CEO of the e-commerce giant, being replaced by the company’s former web services CEO Andy Jassy. Bezos will continue with the company in the role of Executive Chair. The leadership handover is occurring just weeks before Bezos will fly into space with his brother.

The Verge reports that Jeff Bezos, who served as the CEO of Amazon since he founded the company 27 years ago on July 5, 1994, has officially stepped down from his role. The company’s investor relations website names Andy Jassy, who has run Amazon Web Services since 2003, as Bezos’ successor while Bezos is now listed as Executive Chair.

The handover of roles on July 5 was previously noted during a shareholder meeting. This is a major moment for Amazon, which has had Bezos at the helm of the company for its entire existence. The company successfully survived the dot-com bubble bursting in the late 90s and has become one of the world’s most dominant technology firms, critics contend that it wields monopoly power to crush the competition both online and in traditional retail.

Amazon dominates the online commerce sector in the United States and parts of Europe and has served as the backbone of much of the modern web thanks to Amazon Web Services. Bezos’ successor, Andy Jassy, joined Amazon after graduating from Harvard Business School in 1997 and has led AWS since the team was founded in 2003.

Jassy was named the CEO of Amazon Web Services in 2016. At the end of 2020, AWS controlled around a third of the total cloud computing market, according to Synergy Research. Jassy’s route is similar to that of the current Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who previously ran Microsoft’s Azure cloud business.

Although Bezos is stepping down as CEO, he likely will not be removing himself from the public eye completely. He will be stating on as Amazon’s executive chair, where he’s said he will “stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives,” and also plans to dedicate more time and energy to other initiatives such as the Day One Fund and Bezos Earth Fund foundations, the Washington Post, and his Blue Origin space company.

Bezos will fly to the edge of space onboard a rocket built by Blue Origin on July 20, accompanied by his brother Mark Bezos.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address


Kevin McCarthy Releases House GOP ‘Framework’ for Fighting Big Tech Censorship

House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy on Sunday night released a “framework” he argued to House Republicans would help rein in Big Tech companies from engaging in censorship and silencing of conservatives.

In a letter sent to House Republicans on Sunday night, McCarthy announced the framework as an apparent counterweight to a series of antitrust bills which last week passed the House Judiciary Committee with largely Democrat support but also some Republicans, most notably Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO).

“Just days before the 2018 primary election, Google search results for ‘California Republicans’ identified our ideology as ‘Nazism,’” McCarthy wrote:

At the same time, conservatives like Devin Nunes and Donald Trump Jr. were shadowbanned on Twitter. For pro-life groups like Live Action and others, the discrimination wasn’t subtle at all. Since then, the examples of conservative censorship and bias across internet platforms has proliferated. Each one of you are all too familiar with how Big Tech and its overwhelmingly liberal executives want to set the agenda and silence conservatives. But Big Tech doesn’t just have a free speech problem. It has an anti-competition problem too.

The letter from McCarthy is heavy on criticism of Google — and specifically mentions several other Big Tech companies like Twitter, Amazon, and Apple — but does not mention Facebook. A House GOP leadership aide told Breitbart News this framework would apply across the board to everyone including Facebook, though. It is notable that McCarthy’s letter also cites efforts specifically from Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). Jordan, in particular, is noteworthy because he is the founding chairman and chairman emeritus of the House Freedom Caucus who also serves as the House Judiciary Committee ranking member and holds lots of sway with conservatives and has been at loggerheads with Buck on the approach to combatting Big Tech for a while now.

“Over 90 percent of search happens on Google and 90 percent of users drop off after first-page results,” McCarthy continued in the letter:

The ability to stack the deck protects the willing participants of the scheme and punishes the non-compliant. The same gatekeeper effect lies with Amazon and Apple. If your company or product doesn’t meet the criteria of corporate wokeism, it’s increasingly likely Americans won’t find it on these platforms. Today’s Big Tech behemoths were once the gold standard of entrepreneurism and innovation. They took on incumbents, created new services, and transformed what our economy looks like today. Innovation and competition is what makes a free economy stronger, and ultimately, our lives better. But Big Tech’s idea of competition today is corrupted. Big Tech wants higher corporate taxes because companies like Amazon know it’s the entrepreneurs and disruptors who will have to pay more to try to compete. Apple, Google, and Amazon use their platforms to tip the scales towards higher fees and their growing product lines. And just about every big technology company has experience copying products or businesses they are unable to acquire.

McCarthy specifically praises the antitrust lawsuit filed by the DOJ against Google during former President Donald Trump’s administration but said that is not enough and Congress needs to act — noting that he, Jordan, and McMorris Rodgers will be introducing specific legislative proposals starting this week.

“The Trump Administration wisely commenced antitrust action against Google last October, but more can be done and Congressional action is warranted,” McCarthy said. “For the sake of preserving free speech and a free economy, it’s time Big Tech faces the music. House Republicans are ready to lead. This week I will join Ranking Members Jim Jordan and Cathy Rodgers to roll out a framework to stop Big Tech based on three principles.”

The three principles that are part of McCarthy’s framework are “accountability,” “transparency,” and “strengthening anti-trust review.”

Under the “accountability” part, McCarthy is heavy on ending Section 230 protections for Big Tech, saying that the House GOP framework “would rein in Big Tech and end their abusive practices, including by changing the law so that Americans can challenge Big Tech directly for their infringement of public speech rights.”

“This effort starts by taking away the liability shield Big Tech has hidden behind for far too long. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act would be changed to limit liability protections for moderation of speech that is not protected by the First Amendment and would preclude Big Tech from discriminating against Americans based on their political affiliation,” McCarthy wrote. “We would also require regular reauthorization of Section 230 so Congress may update regulations of the constantly-evolving internet landscape.”

Under the “transparency” part, McCarthy puts an emphasis on trying to help conservatives in their fight against Big Tech censors — but the framework does not offer too many specific legislative recommendations.

“Our framework would empower Americans by ending Big Tech’s ability to hide behind vague terms of service that have not constrained their conduct in any meaningful way,” McCarthy wrote. “We will do so by mandating that any Big Tech content moderation decisions or censorship must be listed, with specificity, on a publicly available website. In addition, by requiring Big Tech to implement and maintain a reasonable user-friendly appeals process, our plan will empower conservatives and others whose speech rights have been infringed to challenge Big Tech’s attacks.”

Under the final section of the plan, which calls for strengthening antitrust laws, McCarthy wrote that the House GOP framework he, McMorris Rodgers, and Jordan are putting forward would aim to empower state attorneys general rather than the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to tackle litigation more quickly on this front.

“Our framework also recognizes that the status quo and bureaucratic delays are not acceptable when it comes to bringing long-overdue antitrust scrutiny to Big Tech,” McCarthy wrote. “We will provide an expedited court process with direct appeal to the Supreme Court and empower state attorneys general to help lead the charge against the tech giants to break them up. We will also reform the administrative state and remove impediments that delay taking action on Big Tech power.”

McCarthy’s letter to House GOP members then takes a direct shot at the bills from House Democrats that Buck and a handful of other House Republicans backed last week as they wove their way through the Judiciary Committee. He specifically wrote that those bills do nothing to help stop Big Tech censorship, while empowering the federal bureaucracy including the FTC.

“To this point, House Democrats have advanced a plan that not only ignores addressing conservative censorship, it makes it worse. And their plan empowers a federal bureaucracy with no accountability,” McCarthy wrote. “I have more faith in elected state leaders than in the unelected federal bureaucracy, which is as ideologically homogeneous as Big Tech. In other words, I think our former colleague Jeff Landry will more effectively prosecute anti-competitive behavior than Lina Khan.”

McCarthy’s letter concludes by admitting that this framework is only a “jumping off point” and that “more will need to be done,” and it calls for Republicans across the conference to develop legislation to fulfill those principles.

“We will work with our members, committees, and newly formed task forces to turn this framework into legislation, and we will fight for floor consideration,” McCarthy wrote. “Conservatives and our ideas have been targeted by Big Tech for too long. We must step up because make no mistake, the Democrats continue to demonstrate no interest in addressing fairness when it comes to conservative viewpoints. And they’ll continue to use Big Tech to do so.”

It remains to be seen what happens next, but McCarthy leaning into this is clearly an attempt to throw some sand in the gears of the Democrat-led effort — backed by Buck and some other Republicans — to push antitrust bills through both chambers of Congress after the Judiciary Committee just advanced several of them last week.

What House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to do next with the anti-trust bills and the timing is unknown at this point. She could proceed to the bills quickly or she could deep-six them entirely and ignore them. But whatever happens next could impact the bills’ chances in the evenly-divided but Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate, too, where Democrats would still need to hold their entire conference together and win over at least ten Senate Republicans to pass the bills there.​



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