Sunday, July 23, 2017

Nothing beats a platform monopoly

Since the birth of broadband, net neutrality’s cheerleaders have feared that service providers might begin to act as the internet’s “gatekeepers,” …The real distortions come from massive “platform monopolies” like Google, Facebook and Amazon, whose proprietary algorithms decide what users see online.

The supposed purpose of “net neutrality” is to stop any internet company from getting a leg up over others. But that’s exactly what happens when Google’s search results prioritize its own services—and profits—over competitors’. …If Google’s favoring its own products while pushing potential competitors down its rankings doesn’t create “fast” and “slow” lanes, what on earth does?

Similarly, avowed net-neutrality supporter Amazon was granted a patent in May for “Physical Store Online Shopping Control,” a system to block shoppers in brick-and-mortar stores from using Wi-Fi to view competitors’ prices. Isn’t “no blocking” the heart of net neutrality? Facebook, meanwhile, has virtually abandoned chronology in its News Feed in favor of picking and choosing what users see—and what they don’t—based on what the company has learned about them.

The costs of such abuses from the platform monopolies are obvious and many. Newspapers have nearly been “prioritized” out of existence by Google’s shameless appropriation of their work: Why click through and read a whole article when Google News will pluck out the most important bits and show them to you free—alongside its own ads, of course. … Last year, the FCC chairman tried and failed to force TV companies to make their feeds available on set-top devices made by—wait for it—Google, Apple and Amazon.

The internet giants behind the Day of Action can now track users’ physical location 24 hours a day, learning where they live and work, by logging where their phones are at different times of day or the Wi-Fi networks they pass. If two phones sit side by side overnight, advertisers knows what that means—and appropriately “targeted” pitches are sure to follow.
From Ev Ehrlich, “‘Neutrality’ for Thee, but Not for Google, Facebook and Amazon,” Wall Street Journal, July 21, 2017.