Web/Tech

"Are Facebook, Twitter, Google evil or just everywhere? What we have to do about big tech"

By law professor Glenn Reynolds, proprietor of Instapundit

I've been reading Instapundit regularly for at least 15 years. (I know this because my first link to it on this blog is dated 3/7/04.) In my opinion it's one of the very best things on the Net. Prof. Reynolds is consistently calm, reasonable, informed, and usually, magnificently correct. 

But on this issue--using antitrust to break up Google, Twitter, and Facebook--I'm sorry to say I sharply disagree with him. (The piece linked to doesn't quite state that he favors antitrust against the social media giants. But he regularly calls for just that on Instapundit.)

I note first that the core products of all three firms have been, and still are, absolutely free. And at least for Google, my experience is that quality--good to begin with--has improved over time. (See also "The Real Issue in Tech Antitrust: Where’s the Harm?" and "Why sound law and economics should guide competition policy in the digital economy," pp. 3-7.) 

Logically then, the folks that want to use antitrust against these three firms must propose evading the limits on antitrust's scope that have been in place for nearly 50 years now. And that's exactly what they do propose: Antitrust should either be given unprecdented new scope--Protect workers! Protect the community! Protect the environment! Protect outer space! (The last one is a joke. For now)--or we should return to what many of its advocates see as antitrust's original purpose, that of "protecting" small businesses.

I think Prof. Reynolds's complaint against the firms falls into the "protect the community" category. He has three complaints:

Thus today’s social media world tends to give us the worst possible outcome: lots of angry, ill-informed speech, coupled with censorship of things that the platform owners don’t like or are pressured into killing. Add to that a tremendous loss of privacy as platforms monetize people’s personal data, and it’s easy to see why the tech giants aren’t as popular as they once were.

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