Bill Barr's 'Antitrust Crackdown' Of Google Is Going To Be A Weaponized Farce

from the bad-faith-bullocks dept

Back in May we discussed how strange it was that folks would assume that Bill Barr’s “antitrust inquiry” into Google would be in good faith, given Barr’s history of, well, everything. It’s abundantly clear by now that Barr’s DOJ has been eager to weaponize antitrust to go after companies Trumpland is politically opposed to (like the legal cannabis sector), while turning a blind eye to every monopolistic whim of his BFFs in the telecom sector. The DOJ’s petty lawsuit against California automakers also made it clear there’s no real intellectual consistency being applied at the Trump DOJ when it comes to antitrust.

Now reports indicate that Barr has been expediting the DOJ “antitrust inquiry” into Google, in a transparent bid to get his “crackdown of big tech” into the headlines during the election cycle:

“In an unusual move, Mr. Barr placed the investigation under Jeffrey A. Rosen, the deputy attorney general, whose office would not typically oversee an antitrust case. Mr. Barr and Mr. Delrahim also disagreed on how to approach the investigation, and Mr. Barr had told aides that the antitrust division had been asleep at the switch for decades, particularly in scrutinizing the technology industry.”

Context here matters. As the net neutrality fracas made abundantly clear, Google has long been the nemesis of the telecom sector, which has been clamoring for greater scrutiny of “big tech” while successfully convincing the Trump administration to neuter pretty much all oversight of telecom monopolies. Barr, a former Verizon lawyer, has eagerly rubber stamped numerous telecom consolidation efforts with less than zero interest in hard data, most notably the job and competition eroding merger between T-Mobile and Sprint.

Despite an ocean of data showing that deal would reduce competition, harm sector pay, kill overall jobs, and result in higher prices, T-Mobile did everything in its power to kiss the Trump administration’s ass to gain merger approval. As a result, DOJ antitrust boss Makan Delrahim not only approved the deal without listening to experts, but used his personal phone and email accounts to help lobby the deal to approval. That is what “antitrust enforcement” looks like at Donald Trump and Bill Barr’s DOJ. It’s just cronyism dressed up as serious adult policy.

Now, apparently, we’re to believe that Barr genuinely cares about “big tech” monopolies.

The speed at which Barr is moving to shovel the inquiry into the spotlight for election season fodder has apparently upset many staffers at the DOJ, who say the rush has eroded the integrity of the investigation:

“Many career staff members in the antitrust division, including more than a dozen who were hired during the Trump administration, considered the evidence solid that Google?s search and advertising businesses violated antitrust law. But some told associates that Mr. Barr was forcing them to come up with ?half-baked? cases so he could unveil a complaint by Sept. 30, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.

Some lawyers who felt they needed more time laid out their concerns in the memo and left the case; about 20 lawyers remain on the team.”

There are clearly several goals here for Billy Barr.

The first is to get the false “Conservatives are being unfairly targeted” victimization complex in headlines ahead of the election. The second is to gain leverage over companies like Google as they ponder cracking down on Trump disinformation during an election season. The third is to aid telecom giants and folks like Rupert Murdoch that have long coveted Silicon Valley’s advertising revenue. None of these motivations have anything to do with a genuine “antitrust inquiry,” but we’re going to spend the next month or two watching experts and journalists, who should know better, pretend otherwise.

Some economists have pointed out that Barr’s quest to use antitrust to police viewpoint diversity not only isn’t particularly legally sound, it (like so much in Trumpland) flies in the face of everything Conservatives claimed they believed in over the last thirty years. For example, there was decades of right wing histrionics about the “fairness doctrine” — a concern that’s suddenly and mysteriously absent as Barr attempts to mutilate antitrust to support his quest to police “viewpoint diversity”:

Google engages in plenty of dodgy behavior that requires intelligent, adult antitrust and regulatory scrutiny. But Iran Contra cover upper Billy Barr, fresh off endless bouts of sycophancy, obvious falsehoods, and antitrust abuse, is probably the last guy capable of doing so with even a modicum of integrity.

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Comments on “Bill Barr's 'Antitrust Crackdown' Of Google Is Going To Be A Weaponized Farce”

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60 Comments
ECA (profile) says:

Re: Thanks for the reminder

I hope they understand what they are doing, in the advert portion.
How many Bots on your machine that track you do you want?
REALLY, thats how Google does it. And every time you remove it, it gets replaced.
Mostly all it does it give you a Number, and at each site it looks at it as you sign in, and says.."Oh! its you. You bought this last time, do you want another?"

Does HE understand what its like to remove >100 bots all doing the same thing off your computer? Every site you would goto, would have these "Identifiers" on your machine to tell the Advertiser, you were THERE.
This (IMO) ranks up there with the ‘tracker’ that was install in Windows Music program. It was for testing, but would send data back to MS about what music you played, and HAD on your machine, I think removed in 2007.. That NO AV/Anti bot program ever Looked for.

There is a solution that Every Online site can do, and Iv suggested it to many. Create their OWN advert section, to contact companies and make deals and Make the Adverts 1st party, NOT 3rd. Most people allow 1st party adverts. ANd by the time a 3rd party ad setup is done, it Costs allot of money. As a 1st party, you get to undercut all that. And probably get as much as you would anyway.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Thanks for the reminder

Does HE understand what its like to remove >100 bots all doing the same thing off your computer?

There are people who say things like that. Not, of course, people who know anything about computers, let alone bots. Just people who are committing fraud in the computer-repair industry.

I suspect you fell foul of one of those fraudsters, and got shown a list of cookies (or possibly windows registry entries) and got told that every one of them was a Google-installed "bot" running to track you.

I can’t say it’s precisely a "lie". It is meaningless tech-word soup–it doesn’t even make enough sense to be "true" or "false".

As a programmer, I used to really resent being told stuff like that. But I don’t anymore. It’s just some people’s way of telling me they know nothing about computers. Whomever told you that, don’t EVER do ANYTHING they suggest on your computer. It may not be reparable.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Thanks for the reminder

NO.
I repair other persons machines, and 10+ years ago, it was a horrendous job Going threw windows and finding all the crap that was installed int he background.
Do understand, that I have Seen the virus, that can delete you BIOS chip.
When you take over 10 minutes for your system to start, When MS installed them from 3rd party adverts, on a First connection to the internet, was MSN. 8 virus and 15 bots, then re installing windows.

I do use software to do allot of the work, and then evaluate HOW windows is working. Then reconfig and go threw all the CRAP running in the background, using other programs to REALLY see all of it.
Im more hardware then software tho, and have had to search a Manufacturer site threw about 300 drivers to find the correct ones.

Stopping programs from starting at STARTUP, doing something and then disappearing After they reloaded themselves to another location to monitor your system. is so much fun. And I do, look up those with more expertise. But at 60 years old, Im tired of MOSt of the BS I have seen recently. Loved my Amiga, my 64, My 64/128 and even the Osborne I used. CPM was a mess. Want to learn RPG? Cobol 1? fortran 1? I was there when the Computers went to the public, and dint require a IBM360-30 to take up a WHOLE room in your house. I worked on 1 of those also.

So go out and find a Cucumber and use it explicitly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Thanks for the reminder

I assume you have not been asked by relatives to "fix" their computer. The complaint is usually, *It has become so slow lately".
After running malwarebytes (free) or equivalent, you may be surprised at how many suspicious items are found. Not all of them are bots, some may only be tracking cookies but do you want those?
Yes, the ECA post may have exaggerated the quantity of one hundred bots.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Thanks for the reminder

There’s no easy answer. Sometimes it’s productive to go through what’s being removed and tell the person, "look, this is the crap that was causing your problems" and help them understand why it happened, so that they don’t do it again, which is an opportunity you don’t have with a clean reinstall. Sometimes, people are so ignorant they don’t learn even if you push it in their face, and will immediately install back the same crapware. I’m way more selective about who I help nowadays but there’s no helping some people.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Thanks for the reminder

"Sometimes it’s productive to go through what’s being removed and tell the person, "look, this is the crap that was causing your problems" and help them understand why it happened, so that they don’t do it again…"

If I had a nickle for every time I had to tell a friend or relative "Look, your problems are cause by having two antiviruses, multiple "PC doctor" clones and anti-spyware sniffers installed in active mode. You need and should have exactly one of each"

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Thanks for the reminder

"Yes, bonus points when you need to tell them that the no-name "security" software they downloaded from a random ad is in fact a trojan."

I’ve been lucky enough for that not to happen. It’s more that I have a relative who, despite being pretty savvy for his age, has a tendency to install and try the freeware versions of programs like anti-malware, avast, pcdoctor, etc…and then purchases the active version of everything he’s got installed. At which point the usually unloaded CPU starts burning every last of it’s cycles having different programs loaded into RAM constantly monitor each other.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Trump pushed his buttons...

The executive is supposed to be doing whatever it is legally obliged to by congress, carrying out the president’s policies as far as possible within the law, and doing whatever it can to make the law fit those policies (which includes using political methods to try to get the justices and congresscritters to alter the law, which is what he’s doing here). The problem isn’t that Barr is doing that, it’s that you (and I) don’t like Trump’s policies, and that the executive branch has never fully and completely fulfilled its legal obligations.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Trump pushed his buttons...

…and it no longer matters. What was that line from Popehat? If you fuck donkeys and say you’re only pretending to be a donkey fucker that just makes you a bona fide donkey fucker.

Trolls pretending to be Trump cultists are as bad as the real thing. Arguably worse as some Trump cultists can be considered gravely misled.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Trump pushed his buttons...

Exactly, or as another quote roughly goes – there is a word for people who joined the Nazi cause but did so for nationalist or economic or other reasons, and not the reasons of racism, anti-semitism or genocide. That word is Nazi.

I’m not saying that all Trumpers are Nazis (though god knows there some overlap), but there’s a point where paying lip service to, and taking action for, something makes you that thing. Satire is dead, role play trolling makes one more of a waste of skin than an actual cultist, so there we are.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Trump pushed his buttons

"I’m not saying that all Trumpers are Nazis (though god knows there some overlap), but there’s a point where paying lip service to, and taking action for, something makes you that thing. Satire is dead, role play trolling makes one more of a waste of skin than an actual cultist, so there we are."

I think we’re all just fortunate Trump is a damn sight more petty-minded and unambitious than Hitler or that overlap would be a venn diagram of exactly one circle…

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Trump pushed his but

That is what ultimately concerns me, if the US ends up with a competent fascist who’s capable of thinking past his own ego for 5 seconds then we are all doomed, because it’s been shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that the assumptions that fascism could never take hold in the US are false. Hopefully we won’t have to find out, but we shall see.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:10 Trump pushed his

"That is what ultimately concerns me, if the US ends up with a competent fascist who’s capable of thinking past his own ego for 5 seconds…"

That thought has been hovering over my head ever since the election boiled down to Trump vs Biden. You may recall my previous fears and comments on this.

I’m very worried that Biden winning will turn into yet another massive disillusionment cirqué du soléil act of nepotism and financier panhandling – a shitshow fit to see voters inclined to vote for sanity once again dropping off the rolls in disgust come next election, and a genuine bohemian corporal emerging from the GOP ranks just in time.

If I had any belief whatsoever that Trump winning four more years would avert that future I might have to accept the idea that the best way forward would be to hurl those four years on top of the grenade.
I don’t see that as being the end of it though, so the one and only hope the US – and the world – really has is if Biden wins, the congressional elections toss the entire current crop of the GOP out on their ears, and the democrats take over, splitting themselves into moderate conservatives and progressives to take up the slack as the braying horde of neo-confederate trailer-trash making up the current GOP is sent to the political wastelands on the fringe where they belong now.

Any of that fails to come together we just spend the next four years watching congress and senate blocking Biden from even going to the bathroom while the nincompoops already in office spend their time making sure the GOP has present reason to point at a total collapse of the government under the lame duck presidency of Sleepy Joe.

Ugh.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:11 Trump pushed

"we just spend the next four years watching congress and senate"

That part is guaranteed. The question is what we watch them doing. But, none of us will know anything about what that will actually until January 20th, 2021. We can guess, but that is the first date where any guesses will be confirmed by meaningful action.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Trump pushed his buttons...

Arbitrary rules and actions promulgated by the president is the law. Deal with it.

Like, this is literally false.

Literally the first thing that the Administrative Procedures Act bars is "arbitrary" actions by federal agencies: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/5/706

I mean, holy shit, dude. I know you push Russian propaganda every time you post here, but that’s not how the law fucking works.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Trump pushed his buttons...

"It’s acceptable and not corruption when he is legally doing what was promised by the elected official he serves."

The salient point is that the Attorney General is supposed to not serve any president per se. He’s supposed to uphold the law without fear or favor.

So hell yes this is corruption.

So once again, seedeevee, the only way your narrative makes any sense is if in your mind Trump was made King instead of President. Because that’s the only way in which a nations chief prosecutor is expected to serve a sitting official rather than the law.

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Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Trump pushed his buttons...

I don’t get why people are all up in arms about Barr doing trumps bidding..

The DOJ is an independent agency. Trump gets to nominate the AG, but they are supposed to be independent. That’s why people are up in arms.

They act like it’s some fluke or anomaly..

It is an anomaly. In past administrations something like this would be a massive scandal.

It’s built into the system.

No. It’s not.

Trump put him there. If he wasn’t someone who would do trump’s bidding then he wouldn’t be the attorney general.

Again, you seem to have missed out on the history of this and how it normally works.

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seedeevee (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Trump pushed his buttons...

Sure the DOJ is independent of the National Basketball Association but what the fuck does that have to do with the Trump Administration and all of its facets?

You are pushing a fake history of Washington D.C., politics, politicians and more BS regarding normalcy, anomolies and scandal.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Trump pushed his buttons...

Sure the DOJ is independent of the National Basketball Association but what the fuck does that have to do with the Trump Administration and all of its facets?

The DOJ is an independent agency of the President you stupid fucking troll. It is not supposed to take orders from the President. I recognize that this may be different in wherever you live, but here in America the DOJ is not the President’s personal law enforcement agency.

You are pushing a fake history of Washington D.C., politics, politicians and more BS regarding normalcy, anomolies and scandal.

No, you troll, you are.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Trump pushed his buttons...

You are saying that the agency is normally independent and this time is different, but the difference isn’t Barr it’s trump. Barr is just a direct result of trump’s actions. If he acted more independently, he would be Rosenstein, and so the agency is not independent from the presidency as intended.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Trump pushed his buttons...

"I don’t get why people are all up in arms about Barr doing trumps bidding."

Because such open corruption and tin-pot dictator behaviour should not be acceptable, even if it’s not surprising right now.

Is that really your response to this? All pretence to being a free country is being kicked out of the window, and your response is shrug, it happens?

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crade (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Trump pushed his buttons...

The trouble is the checks and balances aren’t working.

Whats scary to me isn’t that the justice department is corrupt here, it’s that if the pres being corrupt is the cause of the justice department being corrupt. The judicial is under the executive rather than independent, and together they overpower the legislative completely
Whats scary is not that the president is brazenly using the power of the U.S. to interfere with the election, it’s that the only way the system has to deal with that seems to assume either the elections will be free from interference.

In my mind the U.S. president has clearly demonstrated that he has both the will and power to overcome the will of the electorate. The only hope to stop it as I see it comes from outside the system.. he might be incompetent enough to fumble it and then next guy might miraculously be willing to give some of the power up.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Of course he doesn’t. The current Cult of Trump is just furious at all the race traitor commie liberal scum who jumped ship when they found the candidate they all initially nominated and/or went along with wouldn’t settle for anything less than utter and abject submission.

Or, to put it in other words, the monster they thought to use as a weapon against democrats and liberals turned out to be an actual monster. Oops?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 'He was supposed to screw them over, not me!'

That reminds me of an interview I saw a good while back wherein a Trump supporter noted that they voted for him because they thought he would go after The Others, and they were absolutely shocked when it turned out that they were in the line of fire as well.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 'He was supposed to screw them over, not me!'

Puts me in mind of a meme that’s been sadly constantly relevant on both sides of the pond was it slowly dawns on some people what they actually voted for (though they will never admit responsibility, of course)

"’I never thought leopards would eat MY face,’ sobs woman who voted for the Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party."

https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/leopards-eating-peoples-faces-party

Also of note:

“I voted for him, and he’s the one who’s doing this,” Minton told Mazzei. “I thought he was going to do good things. He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/1/8/18173678/trump-shutdown-voter-florida

That’s all you really need to know about them. They’ll vote for you to suffer so long as they believe it won’t be them. They don’t want things to get better for everybody, they just want others to hurt.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Deja vu...

After reading that second quote I was almost certain that that was the one I was thinking of given it sounded so very familiar, but looking at the date and context it looks like it was in fact just another member of his cult moaning that he’s not causing the correct people to suffer, showing just how vile they and their position are.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Deja vu...

Yes, which is why it seems so strangely difficult to get them to vote in their own interests. Apparently, they’ll burn their own houses to the ground so long as "those people" don’t get to sleep on the comfortable ashes with them. The idea that you can just make the house more comfortable for everyone without the fire doesn’t get a moment’s notice.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Deja vu...

Yes, which is why it seems so strangely difficult to get them to vote in their own interests.

Or worse, is exposes that in the list of things that they want ‘other people suffering’ has higher priority than ‘me not suffering’, such that a candidate that promises to make The Others suffer is seen as ‘voting in their own interests’.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 'He was supposed to screw them over, not me!'

"That’s all you really need to know about them. They’ll vote for you to suffer so long as they believe it won’t be them. They don’t want things to get better for everybody, they just want others to hurt."

…and, of course, the ones who might not have intended for others to get hurt but just stood there and said "He said he’d run the nation like he ran his business!" without the slightest clue as to just how he ran those businesses of his.

Actual malice is no doubt a high incentive to many of Trump’s voter base, but ignorance and gullibility shares a lot of the blame.

"’I never thought leopards would eat MY face,’ sobs woman who voted for the Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party."

"First, they came for the communists, but I said nothing because I wasn’t a communist…"

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 'He was supposed to screw them over, not me!'

"just stood there and said "He said he’d run the nation like he ran his business!" without the slightest clue as to just how he ran those businesses of his."

As I’ve said before, they didn’t vote for Trump’s real business record, they voted for what was presented on The Apprentice. But, unlike the UK version of the programme, they didn’t have a man who was competent in real life presenting and didn’t understand that the answer to the question of how he ran them was "into the ground".

"First, they came for the communists, but I said nothing because I wasn’t a communist…"

The longer version of the poem begins with socialists as the target. Yet, whenever someone suggests reasonable social programs on part with the rest of the developed world they’re attacked as socialists or communists, and the Trump supporters never realise which side of history they just announced they were on…

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 'He was supposed to screw them over, not me!'

"… and the Trump supporters never realise which side of history they just announced they were on…"

Or, as is the case of the Very Fine People, they know damn well which side they’re on and are just fine and dandy the Ein Volk, Ein Reich rhetoric has been seeing gainful use again.

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