Tech Law Policy Blog Tracking the Most Important Research and Developments in Tech Law & Policy

Friday Links 3/15/19


Big news in tech law policy this week: In a 1700-word blog post, Elizabeth Warren proposes to break up Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.

An economist responds.

Ben Thompson provides another excellent analysis.

The intellectual justification for these changes seem to be loosely based on the ideologies of Tim Wu and Lina Khan, both of whom are very intelligent and capable scholars. But the proposal that I read seems far too glib and blunderbuss for my tastes. I’m confident that if we were to implement these changes “as is” it would do serious harm to the economy. But I’m also confident that there is no consensus for this yet, and, at least in this iteration, these changes won’t be implemented as is.

Also, as Ben Thompson points out, the narrative that the government’s antitrust suit of Microsoft paved the way for Google and Facebook is so wrong as to be absurd. Thompson focuses on the fact that Microsoft didn’t release Bing until 2009. But does Warren and her team sincerely think that Microsoft—king of corporate enterprise software, spreadsheets, and word processing, would have supplanted Facebook as a leader in social media were it not for the government’s antitrust suit in the late 90s?

Somewhat related: New article by Thomas Kadri and Kate Klonick comparing and contrasting First Amendment law with the censorship/moderation processes at Facebook.

The article is well written, for what it is, but I find it a little odd seeing an in-depth comparison of what might be the most established and evolved legal framework in this country with what is essentially a public relations problem for a private corporation.

The article criticizes Facebook for having an ad hoc moderation process for newsworthy events. But the reason is simple: Facebook wants to know which way the wind blows whenever a controversy arises so that it can make a decision to relieve PR pressure when it needs to do so.

Facebook mostly cares about moderation insofar as it is necessary to: 1) maintain the integrity of its products and 2) avoid PR disasters. As an outsider, thinking too much more deeply on the issue strikes me as futile over-analysis.

If we want to hold companies like Facebook accountable for things people post on their platform, the way to do that is with a modification of Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act.

In other news, supposedly Russia has a new plan to interfere with the 2020 general election.

Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not really after you?

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