Rigorous Anti-Trust Actions Could Target Internet Giants

First, here is a fascinating note about Obama. Think Progress, a left-wing website, reported on September 9:

Former President Obama made his first campaign stop of the midterm elections in Orange County, California Saturday to stump for seven Democratic House candidates running in districts currently held by Republicans but that Hillary Clinton won in 2016.

About 750 people attended the event at Anaheim Convention Center, where Obama delivered a short speech centered on unity and the “politics of hope.”

Just 750 people? Where is the enthusiasm? Where are the adoring crowds? Trump turns out 10,000 people at a time, with thousands waiting outside for lack of space at his rallies.

Now here is today’s main commentary:

As we have focused increasingly on the censorship efforts directed at conservatives by internet giants like Google and Facebook we have heard suggestions of regulation by government.

President Trump has gone much further. He is suggesting possible anti-trust action, i.e., using government force to literally break up these internet companies that have become monopolies. This is miles beyond mere regulation.

For more than a century Democrats and liberals have used anti-trust actions to split up big private companies that they opposed like Standard Oil and Bell Telephone. They said over and over that we must use the law to prevent monopolies on service for the good of “the people”.

Business Insider reported recently:

US President Donald Trump told Bloomberg on Thursday that tech giants Google, Amazon, and Facebook could be a “very antitrust situation.”

In a week in which Trump has repeatedly attacked Google over its perceived liberal bias, the president raised monopoly questions about the firm and its peers.

“As you know, many people think it is a very antitrust situation, the three of them,” the president told Bloomberg. Antitrust laws prevent companies from abusing their power to make the market less competitive.

Trump did not go so far as to suggest the companies be broken up. “I won’t comment on the breaking up, of whether it’s that or Amazon or Facebook,” he said.

… It would be for Federal Trade Commission or the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division to decide whether to bring federal antitrust proceedings against the tech firms.

The very fact that the president has uttered the phrase “anti-trust” indicates how critical this situation has become. You can rest assured that Facebook and Google are taking this extremely seriously. They never in a million years thought that anyone would even challenge them, never mind seek to regulate them. Now possible anti-trust actions? Wow. Wikipedia reports:

United States antitrust law is a collection of federal and state government laws that regulates the conduct and organization of business corporations, generally to promote fair competition for the benefit of consumers. (The concept is called competition law in other English-speaking countries.) The main statutes are the Sherman Act of 1890 , the Clayton Act of 1914 and the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914. These Acts, first, restrict the formation of cartels and prohibit other collusive practices regarded as being in restraint of trade. Second, they restrict the mergers and acquisitions of organizations that could substantially lessen competition. Third, they prohibit the creation of a monopoly and the abuse of monopoly power.

The Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, state governments and private parties who are sufficiently affected may all bring actions in the courts to enforce the antitrust laws. The scope of antitrust laws, and the degree to which they should interfere in an enterprise’s freedom to conduct business, or to protect smaller businesses, communities and consumers, are strongly debated. One view, mostly closely associated with the “Chicago School of economics” suggests that antitrust laws should focus solely on the benefits to consumers and overall efficiency, while a broad range of legal and economic theory sees the role of antitrust laws as also controlling economic power in the public interest.

Wikipedia then reports:

If an antitrust claim does not fall within a per se illegal category, the plaintiff must show the conduct causes harm in “restraint of trade” under the Sherman Act §1 according to “the facts peculiar to the business to which the restraint is applied”.

Nikitas3.com believes that conservative individuals and companies that have spent years building up their presence on the internet and who rely on communicating through the internet to get their message out and to make money have very good cause to challenge Google, YouTube and Facebook for “restraint of trade”.

As examples, The Gateway Pundit reports:

Floyd Brown is a conservative author, speaker and media commentator. In 2008 Floyd launched Western Journal which quickly became one of the top conservative websites in America. By 2016 Floyd’s organization of Western Journal and other conservative websites under his umbrella had more than a billion page views. Since 2016 Floyd’s organization lost 75% of its Facebook traffic.

Likewise, we spoke with Jared Vallorani from Klicked Media. Jared traveled to Washington DC with The Gateway Pundit and website owners at 100% Fed Up in June to discuss Facebook targeting against conservative publishers with Republican lawmakers. Jared told The Gateway Pundit his organization Klicked Media, which hosts over 60 conservative websites, lost 400 million page views from Facebook in the last six months if you compare the traffic to a year ago. Jared said, “We lost 70% to 80% of our traffic if you compare January to May 2017 vs Jan to May 2018.”

If you combine the total number of pageviews lost by just these two conservative online publishers you are looking at a loss of over 1.5 billion pageviews from Facebook in one year.

This shows how critical this situation has become. Here is more about the anti-trust action aimed at the Bell System. Wikipedia reports:

The breakup of the Bell System was mandated on January 8, 1982, by an agreed consent decree providing that AT&T Corporation would, as had been initially proposed by AT&T, relinquish control of the Bell Operating Companies that had provided local telephone service in the United States and Canada up until that point. This effectively took the monopoly that was the Bell System and split it into entirely separate companies that would continue to provide telephone service. AT&T would continue to be a provider of long distance service, while the now-independent Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) would provide local service, and would no longer be directly supplied with equipment from AT&T subsidiary Western Electric.

So we now have Google and Facebook controlling their activities from top to bottom. Should they face a breakup like Bell?

Here is Wikipedia reporting on the breakup of Standard Oil:

Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. United States, 221 U.S. 1 (1911), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United found Standard Oil Co. Of New Jersey guilty of monopolizing the petroleum industry through a series of abusive and anticompetitive actions. The Court’s remedy was to divide Standard Oil into several geographically separate and eventually competing firms.

By the 1880s, Standard Oil was using its large market share of refining capacity to begin integrating backward into oil exploration and crude oil distribution and forward into retail distribution of its refined products to stores and, eventually, service stations throughout the United States. Standard Oil allegedly used its size and clout to undercut competitors in a number of ways that were considered “anti-competitive,” including underpricing and threats to suppliers and distributors who did business with Standard’s competitors.

The government sought to prosecute Standard Oil under the Sherman Antitrust Act. The main issue before the Court was whether it was within the power of the Congress to prevent one company from acquiring numerous others through means that might have been considered legal in common law, but still posed a significant constraint on competition by mere virtue of their size and market power, as implied by the Antitrust Act.

Size and clout? That sounds like Google and Facebook. Now we have a story from BuzzFeed about these tech companies discussing a strategy for the 2018 mid-term elections:

Representatives from a host of the biggest US tech companies, including Facebook and Twitter, have scheduled a private meeting for Friday to share their tactics in preparation for the 2018 midterm elections.

Last week, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, invited employees from a dozen companies, including Google, Microsoft, and Snapchat, to gather at Twitter’s headquarters in downtown San Francisco, according to an email obtained by BuzzFeed News.

“As I’ve mentioned to several of you over the last few weeks, we have been looking to schedule a follow-on discussion to our industry conversation about information operations, election protection, and the work we are all doing to tackle these challenges,” Gleicher wrote.

The meeting, the Facebook official wrote, will have a three-part agenda: each company presents the work they’ve been doing to counter information operations; a discussion period for problems each company faces; and a talk about whether such a meeting should become a regular occurrence.

This sounds perfectly rational in light of the fact that many foreign actors are seeking to manipulate our system to influence elections.

But this meeting distracts us from the fact that Facebook, YouTube and Google themselves are actively seeking to influence the election through outright censorship of conservatives. And this censorship is vastly more direct and threatening to our open elections than interference by foreign powers. BuzzFeed reports:

On Tuesday, Microsoft announced that it had, for the 12th time since 2016, legally acquired control of a handful of web domains registered by Russian military intelligence for phishing operations, then shut them down. The next day, after receiving a tip from the threat intelligence company FireEye, Facebook and Twitter announced they had taken down a network of fake news sites and spoofed users meant to create sympathy for the Iranian government’s worldview. Google made a similar announcement about YouTube on Thursday.

So the Big Question is: Who is going to investigate Facebook, Google, YouTube, Microsoft and Twitter?

Answer: The only agency that can do so is the federal government.

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