This whole new world of new technology was born in the 1970s and ’80s. We still think it’s new and we’re figuring it out, but we’re almost half a century into it and we can see what works and what doesn’t, what’s had good effects and hasn’t. It is time to move.
We’re Americans and we love money and success and the hallowed story of the kid in the garage who invents the beautiful product that changes the world.
And Republican officials—they can’t help it, they don’t just rightly love business; they love big business, they love titans. It’s almost romantic: Look what people can do in America! He started it in his dorm room! And now we’re at lunch!
It’s all too human, and of course greedy: Maybe these guys will start giving me money! I mean Pelosi-size money!
Here’s what they should be thinking: Break them up. Break them in two, in three; regulate them. Declare them to be what they’ve so successfully become: once a pleasure, now a utility.
It all depends on Congress, which has been too stupid to move in the past and is too stupid to move competently now. That’s what’s slowed those of us who want reform, knowing how badly they’d do it.
Yet now I find myself thinking: I don’t care. Do it incompetently, but do something.
Why are Republicans so slow to lead? The Times quoted Republican Sen. Josh Hawley as saying “the dominance of big tech” is a “big problem.” They “may be more socially powerful than the trusts of the Roosevelt era, and yet they still operate like a black box.”
In Glenn’s new book, The Social Media Upheaval, he quotes Columbia Law Professor Tim Wu in The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age, and then adds:
In total, Wu reports, “Facebook managed to string together 67 unchallenged acquisitions, which seems impressive unless you consider that Amazon undertook 91 and Google got away with 214 (a few of which were conditioned). In this way, the tech industry became essentially composed of just a few giant trusts: Google for search and related industries, Facebook for social media, Amazon for online commerce.” And these new tech monsters have a one-two punch that Standard Oil lacked: not only do they control immense wealth and important industries, but their fields of operation – which give them enormous control over communications, including communications about politics – also give them direct political power that in many ways exceeds that of previous monopolies.
When I lived in Silicon Valley, most local businesses seemed to have their own Websites, because they were early adopters. Local businesses in Texas rely heavily on Facebook for their Web presence, a walled garden run by oikophobes who despise most heartland residents – and had no problem last week working with a Daily Beast journalist to dox a private citizenbecause he dared mock Nancy Pelosi. As Ed Morrissey warned last year, “When the service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product. If you don’t want to be the product, don’t sign up in the first place.”