Our working definition of a digital platform (with a hat tip to Harold Feld of Public Knowledge) is an online service that operates as a two-sided or multi-sided market with at least one side that is “open” to the mass market
The rapid pace of digital technology means companies can move rapidly to advantage themselves by exploiting consumers and eliminating potential competition. Congress has traditionally created new expert agencies to oversee new technology platforms. Whether the Interstate Commerce Commission (railroads), Federal Communications Commission (broadcasting), Federal Aviation Administration (air transport), Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (finance), or any other of the alphabet agencies, the precedent is clear: new technologies require specialized oversight.
The Department of Justice’s impending lawsuit against Google has narrowed to focus on the company’s power over internet search, a decision that could set off a cascade of separate lawsuits from states in ensuing weeks over the Silicon Valley giant’s dominance in other business segments.
Facebook has said it will take aggressive and exceptional measures to “restrict the circulation of content” on its platform if Nov’s presidential election descends into chaos or violent civic unrest. Nick Clegg, the company’s head of global affairs, said it had drawn up plans for how to handle a range of outcomes, including widespread civic unrest or “the political dilemmas” of having in-person votes counted more rapidly than mail-in ballots, which will play a larger role in this election due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Trump Administration said it would challenge a federal court ruling Sept 20 that temporarily blocked its attempt to curb the use of Chinese messaging and e-commerce app WeChat in the US. WeChat's ban has had a lower profile than TikTok's, but the fate of the app, widely used by Chinese people around the world to stay in touch with family and friends, is at least as consequential. The ruling suggests that WeChat's fate in the US could be decided not only on grounds of national security and commercial regulations but also around freedom of speech principles.
While today’s exploding digital marketplace provides consumers with great gains, the industry’s structures, practices, and lack of regulation create anti-consumer results. The relatively unchecked cycle of decreasing competition with acquisition has left the industry with an unsupervised culture where the consumer is the product and the companies make the rules.
In 2019, about a year after the California Consumer Privacy Act was passed—but before it had gone into effect— CA State Sen Bob Hertzberg, who by then was majority leader of the CA State Senate, pitched a new idea to CCPA brain-child Alastair Mactaggart. In a total reversal from his earlier stance, Hertzberg urged Mactaggart to bypass the legislative process. Instead, he should fund and draft a new ballot initiative to improve upon the CCPA. And this one wouldn’t be a bargaining chip. It would go all the way to a vote by the people of California.
The tech world will be holding its breath to see whether President Donald Trump can pull out a victory.
China's TikTok sought to tamp down domestic controversy over its deal with Oracle and Walmart, saying that there would be no technology transfer to Oracle, though the US company would be able to check its software for safety. The TikTok deal has been a vivid example of the Trump administration’s policy of reciprocity toward Chinese businesses. Supporters of the approach say it’s only fair to treat Chinese companies by the same standards to which US companies are held in China.
Federal Trade Commissioner Rebeca Kelly Slaughter agrees with FTC Chairman Joseph Simons that political speech is outside the agency’s purview. “We are not the political speech police,” she said. Commissioner Slaughter said tech’s liability shield — Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — is an “important area to consider reform,” but she rejects the idea that the law requires companies to be viewpoint neutral. Two of Slaughter’s colleagues have proposed the FTC use its unique research authority to conduct a study on targeted advertising. “I think it is a good idea,” she said.
As the country’s most powerful newsmaker and the person in charge of a government that’s been aggressively pursuing antitrust cases against big tech companies, President Donald Trump does have leverage over Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. So the chief executive officer could be forgiven for flattering President Trump.