Adi Robertson

How the Antitrust Battles of the '90s set the Stage for Today's Tech Giants

The 1980s saw major changes in the tech and telecommunications landscape, primarily the breakup of AT&T, which agreed to end its telecom monopoly by splitting into a number of “baby bells.” At the start of the ‘90s, the Federal Trade Commission was already scrutinizing computerized systems that seemed to facilitate entirely new monopolistic and collusive schemes.

Why the AT&T and Time Warner merger appeal matters — and why it’s a long shot

The Department of Justice (DOJ) appeal of the AT&T-Time Warner decision doesn’t have any immediate effects on the company's plans since the DOJ didn’t ask for a legal stay while it filed its appeal. But it signals the department’s plans to keep fighting consolidation, which could help shape the landscape for future mergers. If the Department of Justice successfully appeals the decision, it could make many other deals less likely to succeed, setting a precedent for considering vertical mergers potentially as monopolistic as horizontal ones.

What happens if Apple loses its Supreme Court App Store antitrust appeal?

The Supreme Court will decide whether iPhone users can sue Apple for locking down the iOS ecosystem, something the suit’s plaintiffs say is creating an anti-competitive monopoly. Apple v. Pepper could theoretically affect how tech companies can build walled gardens around their products. The Supreme Court isn’t going to make a call on that specific issue, but its decision could affect people’s relationship with all kinds of digital platforms. Here’s what’s at stake when the Supreme Court case starts, which should happen sometime in the next year. 

Here’s how companies have flouted net neutrality before and what made them stop

No matter what happens June 11, network neutrality repeal opens the door to some real abuses of internet service providers’ power — not hypothetical scenarios, but real predatory practices we’ve already seen in the past. These incidents show how complicated the issue of net neutrality is: all of these transgressions happened after the 2005 Internet Policy Statement, which laid out four “open internet” principles that would guide the agency’s decisions.

OLPC's $100 Laptop was going to Change the World -- Then It All Went Wrong

One Laptop Per Child wasn’t just a laptop, it was a philosophy. After announcing “the $100 Laptop,” OLPC had one job to do: make a laptop that cost $100. As the team developed the XO-1, they slowly realized that this wasn’t going to happen. OLPC pushed the laptop’s cost to a low of $130, but only by cutting so many corners that the laptop barely worked. Its price rose to around $180, and even then, the design had major tradeoffs. While Sugar was an elegant operating system, some potential buyers were dubious of anything that wasn’t Microsoft Windows.

How women helped build the internet, and why it matters

Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet, a new book from journalist and musician Claire L. Evans, offers a rougher and more complicated version of the history of the internet. 

New York attorney general asks people to report fake net neutrality comments

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman wants New York state residents to report fake net neutrality-related comments sent under their names. Schneiderman’s office has put up a page where New Yorkers can search the FCC’s comment database, then report any fake submissions. The page asks users to post links to fake comments and answer a few accompanying questions, including whether the content matched their actual view of net neutrality.

Anti-net neutrality spammers are impersonating real people to flood FCC comments

Thousands have posted comments on the Federal Communications Commission’s website in response to a proposed rollback of network neutrality internet protections, weighing in on whether and how to defend the open internet. But many others appeared to have a different point of view. “The unprecedented regulatory power the Obama Administration imposed on the internet is smothering innovation, damaging the American economy and obstructing job creation,” read thousands of identical comments posted this week, seemingly by different concerned individuals. The comment goes on to give a vigorous defense of deregulation, calling the rules a “power grab” and saying the rollback represents “a positive step forward.” By midday May 9, the thread was inundated with versions of the comment. A search of the duplicated text found more than 58,000 results as of press time, with 17,000 of those posted in the last 24 hours alone.

The comments seem to be posted by different, real people, with addresses attached. But people contacted said they did not write the comments and have no idea where the posts came from. “That doesn’t even sound like verbiage I would use,” says Nancy Colombo of Connecticut, whose name and address appeared alongside the comment. “I have no idea where that came from,” says Lynn Vesely, whose Indiana address also appeared, and who was surprised to hear about the comment.

Can virtual reality help us talk politics online?

The more remote someone feels, the less human they seem. This is the driving force behind large parts of what is wrong with communicating on the Internet, and it often makes talking about politics on the internet a special kind of hell. But virtual reality, theoretically, can make people on opposite sides of the globe feel like they’re talking face-to-face. And this election season, a VR social network called AltspaceVR is testing whether this feeling of connection can bring its users together during a bitterly divided campaign.

WikiLeaks threatens to start its own Twitter because of 'cyber feudalism'

WikiLeaks and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey have had harsh words over Twitter’s recent decision to ban noted Breitbart editor and troll Milo Yiannopoulos. WikiLeaks’ Twitter account declared the ban an example of "cyber feudalism," saying that Twitter had "banned conservative gay libertarian [Yiannopoulos] for speaking the 'wrong' way" to Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones.

According to an earlier Twitter statement, Yiannopoulos was banned for "inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others" after Jones began posting examples of racist and misogynist abuse she had received on the platform. Dorsey soon replied to WikiLeaks, echoing this language. "We don't ban people for expressing their thoughts," he wrote. "Targeted abuse & inciting abuse against people however, that's not allowed." The ideal version of Twitter would in fact do what WikiLeaks suggests: build tools to let people pick who they want to communicate with, then facilitate that as openly as possible.