Break up and regulate big tech by appointing Rohit Chopra to run the Federal Trade Commission.
Always learn so much from you. Thank you.
Wow, you did great research and tied Ashli's plight, and the plight of all of middle America, into the craziness that happened in D.C that day. Amazing work. Kudos sir!
Great post, Matt. I learned a lot about the power of the FTC that I was unaware of.
Just to add to Ms. Babbitt's story, there is research showing that many of the people who buy into conspiracy theories are just like her, in that they have tried to do everything the right way according to our society's neoliberal rules.
They get training and experience, frequently in the military, as well as vo-tech schools and community colleges. Then they attempt to become entrepreneurs, like the neoliberals tell everyone who has lost a job is the way to personal and financial success. Their laudable efforts are stymied by the oligarchic power structure and the predatory companies they are forced to do business with in order to operate their businesses.
When those businesses fail because of these predators, they turn to conspiracy theories, just as early societies turned to mythology and religion to explain the natural events that destroyed their crops and decimated the animal populations that they depended on for sustenance.
Since most people have little to no understanding of the structure of our economy that promotes those predatory companies and practices, they turn to conspiracy theories to explain their failures. Makes perfect sense to me.
The main difference today is that we have a government that has the power to do something to rectify the situation somewhat, if only we can get good people like Chopra into positions where they can really make a difference.
Sadly, I'm afraid Chopra might remain a lonely voice crying for justice in the wilderness with only infrequent and modest success. Given Biden's history, I'm not optimistic that he will appoint Chopra as FTC chair. I think Biden is far too deeply captured by the corporate oligarchs to do the right thing.
GitHub, a popular platform for software version control and collaboration, recently, blocked the entire staff of an European company, because one employee had logged in from Iran. GitHub did so without any warning or explanation, so much so, that the CEO of the company had to take to Twitter to get someone's attention at GitHub.
GitHub, is an example of a double monopoly, a monopoly platform owned by a bigger monopoly (Microsoft). As it turned out not even Trump appointed OFAC lawyers approved of a such a draconian interpretation of the US sanctions against Iran, and GitHub was forced to retract.
In a healthy competitive market economy, no company would dare to treat its customers so callously and recklessly.
What evidence is there to indicate that Parler was used to organise the riots at Capitol Hill? It would extremely difficult to organise any event on a platform like Parler. It doesn't have any groups facility like Facebook and other platforms.
There will be lots of fights over the constitutionality of many your proposals, and given the current makeup of the courts, including SCOTUS, I would say the chances of success are pretty low. But still worth trying. It at least gets the debate going.
Matt, you want to put this 'right' for real? An audit of the voting machines. Do that and support for Trump will melt away and he'll be seen as what he is perceived by leftists. Don't do that (audit the actual machines), and you're going to have half of America feeling their vote was stolen. As for the rest of your article regarding the FTC head, social media, etc. that's get sorted as the pendulum swings. Note; let it turn out you can't audit the machines for 'reasons' and we're cruising for trouble in my opinion. Sigh
George W wasn't alone in sending Ashli to Iraq. Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi were all for it, too. At least W is retired.
I really appreciate the fact that you are taking a systematic approach to this, as that's precisely what needs to happen. We need long term solutions to the problems our corporate greed is creating. They are robbing our entire country of the "American Dream". It doesn't exist any longer and not only that, we are being reduced to nothing but low income workers with little hope of progressing, unless we work in a few specialized area's within certain corporations. NO THANK YOU. We need to take care of our citizens and show them respect, care and that they have value. Why would anyone care about anyone else when they've been shit on their whole lives (like Ashli)? I get it and we need systematic change and it's going to take people like Chopra, Sanders, Warren, Abrhams, AOC, YOURSELF, etc etc etc..
A Biden staffer must have read your piece, and quickly suggested that Chopra be shunted off to the CFPB, where he can't cause too much trouble for the big boys. (sigh)
Great piece Matt!
Matt: can you find out where Substack content is hosted and if they have a plan to reboot somewhere else if they encounter problems with their host?
Thank you for your extremely informative and entertaining e-mails. I was educated in the US and try to keep in touch with the news there from my home in Tokyo. I’m afraid I find myself in the unusual position of disagreeing with the view in your latest column.
You argue on the one hand that the lack of punishment has encouraged monopolistic companies to continue predatory practices, leading to an endless cycle of bad behavior; you call reasonably for stricter enforcement of the law to rein in such acts. Then you airily dismiss the acts of BLM and Antifa – which violently occupied entire neighborhoods and downtowns, burned down arbitrary establishments like churches, Wendy’s franchises and black-owned sports bars, brazenly stole from shops, terrorized individuals, attacked public buildings like police headquarters and the White House (lest we forget – the president had to be evacuated), and caused an estimated $2 billion in damage to taxpayers and businesses – by saying that “There’s no moral or practical equivalence between these pro-Trump rioters and those who protested against police brutality.”
Violence is violence, period. An attack on a random Wendy’s is also an assault on democracy – a violation of private property, private enterprise and personal safety. When those acts are not prosecuted or even criticized – indeed, when they are actually defended by public officials and the media (CNN: “Please show me where it says protesters are supposed to be polite and peaceful”) – what lesson do you expect the other side to draw? Congress was happy enough when it was just lowly citizens under siege. It’s beyond hypocritical of them to complain now that their space has been violated. You can’t cheer on wanton acts of carnage on public streets, property and people and expect the other side to put up with it forever, whatever the perceived rightness of your cause.
Your talk of “equivalence” is, I’m sorry to say, irrelevant. Protests are fine, but the violence is not and should have been cut off at the start. As with those unenforced monopoly laws, we’re simply seeing the logical consequences of official inaction.
The media here in Japan have been much more balanced in their coverage, asking legitimate questions about the protests over the past year, the election process and the actions of both sides, all without a predetermined opinion. I wish American commenters would take a step back and do the same.
I enjoy tremendously your essays on the creeping monopolization of everything from cheerleading to the increasingly autocratic social media. I hope you’ll keep personal politics out of it.
I don't doubt a solvent can remove all traces of ink but raising this is disingenuous because it involves picayune, or retail, cheating. I am more concerned about wholesale cheating.
Look, when Democrats, under the guise of the pandemic response, mailed unrequested ballots they opened the door to claims of wholesale cheating. So I want a count. And I want an forensic audit of the voting machines. And I want mandatory jail sentences for anyone involved in cheating the vote.
Look, spin it any way you want but this isn't a Republican or Democrat issue. Why not? It's because what was used for the Democrats this time can be used against them next time. So let's lock this down forevermore and ensure an honest vote.
And what if we do a forensic audit of the machines? And what if we spend whatever it takes to confirm a person matches an intentionally cast ballot and also discover wholesale cheating that affected the election? Don't know. Question for another day. Let's not get ahead of ourselves.
All I'm saying is this . . . if we want peace in this country, lets double check and know one way, or the other. Otherwise, the persistent thought the election was stolen will spoil the unity of our nation. I repeat, this is bigger than Trump, bigger than Biden bigger than either party.
There are plenty of anti corporate sources on the internet(Matt Stoller,Naked Capitalism,Oftwominds,etc.)but Babbitt chose anti government websites.Magically pretending that the corporations that own our government are never to blame for anything even though she had been directly affected by a corporation.This is the libertarian(mainly comes in two flavors,liberal and conservative) poison that courses through the American empires veins.A nation of suckers and sociopaths.What she and the majority of Americans should be doing is looking in the mirror for the source of their problems.
I have to applaud the efforts of your introductory paragraphs. Such efforts evince a dangerous, and therefore commendable, exercise of the imagination, but your moral analysis proved a little too tidy. Politics today only seems to allow for prescribed answers and approved intuitions. This oppressive tendency that the conspiratorial mindset of the left and the right enforces is a larger problem than certain myths about policing or election fraud. Beware those that do evil and speak of good, and beware those whose virtues are approved by the institutions that secure their station in life. Such people are without imagination. Such virtues are dubious.
On the point of Parker’s removal, being a long-time reader of yours, I was very interested as to what you would conclude. I have a few questions. I agree with you while-heartedly that the likeliest solution, once the various complexities are considered, is to reduce the capacity of social media to radicalize and profit off of people’s loneliness, grievances, and addiction to these products. Some other of your readers’ comments seem to point out what may be missing from your analysis. What is it about Parler, a company that appears miles behind Twitter and Facebook in terms of its capacity to monetize the outrage and addiction of its users, that makes it a unique threat? The answer, it would seem, is that parler is guilty of the sin of omission rather than commission. While it may be true that this allows the worst elements to fester, is it true that this makes parler uniquely useful as a tool of organizing political violence? In the other cases you reference, it seems to me that a business model and a failure to enforce preexisting guidelines, or, in other words, sins of commission and omission, created your ‘product safety’ analysis. This leads me to what may be left out of your analysis of Apple, Google, and Amazon’s decisions apropos parler, and that is where the product safety analogy fails. Products of the non-technological kind can be made safe to pretty arbitrary standards. Coffee served at McDonalds can be served at a temperature that does not cause third-degree burns. Even very complex products, like energy, could be limited to arbitrary and impractical degrees, such that their emissions do not cause the extinction of man on earth. Speech always contains the capacity to create violence and hate. This appears unavoidably true and constitutes a real inconvenience, one that our regulations of the tech sector needs to solve for, difficult as that may be, but I fail to see what makes parler uniquely dangerous in the abstract. I therefore have to conclude that what Apple, Amazon, and Google did is dangerously arbitrary. Free speech, from the constitutional perspective, is not protected because it only leads to good outcomes. It is protected because it is the right of man to think, feel, and speak for himself whatever the outcome may be. I am not a user of any social media, in the sense that I do not have any social media accounts, and my perspective is informed primarily by intuition and your writings on the subject. Considering the innate properties of speech to create bad outcomes, even your solution, regulation such these services be made less addictive, would in certain ways fall victim to your surmise that what parler is doing should be illegal. When every service can be identified as dangerous, it is inevitable that the largest player will decide what can and cannot be used based not on its dangers, but on what danger said service poses to that largest player. That largest player could be the government if a particularly egregious update to the patriot act is passed. Thanks again for what you’re doing. It helps people form views on important issues.