Battles over corporate power that played out over the course of the 20th century may provide the best clues to how companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon might ultimately be reined in. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that the moderation of malicious content online could be overseen by an industry standards body similar to the Hollywood system for rating movies established in the 1960s. Another potential model is the body with roots in the 1930s that polices the securities industry, according to Zuckerberg’s top US policy executive, Kevin Martin.
Advocates and experts are worried that an Amazon-owned mobile app, used by owners of its Ring security cameras to upload videos for neighbors to see, could entrench racial discrimination and violate people's privacy. The app, called Neighbors, is striking deals to partner with police departments across the country. Recently, journalists on Twitter noticed Ring was hiring an editor — prompting concerns that Amazon was stoking community fears to sell security systems, as Amazon bought Ring in 2018. People with and without Ring cameras can download the Neighbors app.
The fast-evolving internet ecosystem is changing how tech companies form alliances to lobby policy-makers in Washington. Lines are blurring or becoming more stark among different tech, media, and telecommunication companies. Telecom companies are producing content, while platform companies are exploring new services like internet connections. That means sectors are no longer staying in their lanes, and regulatory scrutiny is shifting. Comcast and AT&T, both telecom powers, are now the owners of members of the Motion Picture Association of America.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere and Sprint executive chairman Marcelo Claure will pitch their companies' $26 billion merger before Congress, hoping to ease lawmaker's concerns about wireless competition while pushing the tie-up as a key part of the nation's 5G quest. It's a key test for a deal that would reduce the number of major national wireless carriers from four to three. The deal's opponents are fighting an uphill battle against a generally business-friendly administration, but the upcoming hearings let them air their concerns and turn up the heat.
The influence network led by billionaire Charles Koch is watching a growing push to regulate Big Tech firms with alarm. Officials, scholars, and donors with links to the network expressed unease with the idea that sweeping regulation will solve tech's problems — like platforms that facilitate the spread of malicious content or privacy practices that outrage users — and worried lawmakers aren't being precise enough.
For several years it has made sense, in some quarters, to lump together the tech giants — chiefly Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon, sometimes also including Netflix or Microsoft. But talking about "big tech" is beginning to offer diminishing returns. Many of these companies banded together in 2012 for lobbying purposes as the Internet Association, and they have long shared a set of common regulatory interests in managing their platforms and services with little government oversight. But as privacy regulation of some kind looks more inevitable, their interests are more likely to diverge.
The Federal Communications Commission is fueling the war over media consolidation by opening the door to another deregulatory spree targeting rules that stop local broadcasters from merging. The FCC voted recently to begin a legally-mandated review of the agency’s media ownership rules.
Facebook will release an early report on an audit of civil rights on its platform by the end of 2018, according to Color of Change, an advocacy organization that demanded the move in a meeting with COO Sheryl Sandberg. The social network hasn’t yet fulfilled any of the other requests made by the group, called Color Of Change, which has asked Facebook to: fire its top policy executive, a former Republican staffer, release data on voter suppression attempts on Facebook products, and release opposition research that a right-leaning consulting firm produced trying to link the civil rights group
President Donald Trump continues to comment on antitrust matters related to media companies he doesn't like, and experts worry the resulting political fray could hinder the Justice Department's ability to independently evaluate mergers. Media companies looking to merge amid an already difficult economic climate now have to consider this reality as a part of their business decisions.
On Nov 6, Americans will choose the lawmakers who will try to hammer out privacy rules for major tech players like Google, Facebook and Amazon. Democrats are poised to take the House majority — and want strict privacy controls. Lots of things can — and do — change after elections: Committees get new leaders with new priorities; Other members shift as lawmakers jockey for a preferred spot somewhere else; Policymakers get overtaken by news events, shifting their plans.