Stop Pretending The Trump GOP Genuinely Cares About Monopoly Power

from the gullible-and-adorable dept

Over the last year or two, a constant drumbeat has permeated tech news coverage. It goes something like this: the GOP is embracing a “populist” agenda by standing up to “big tech.” The modern Trump GOP (with heroic consumer champions like Josh Hawley and Marsha Blackburn in the lead) we’re told, have become stalwart opponents of monopolization, especially in tech. They’re just super concerned about what this power means for free speech, especially given that conservative voices are routinely “censored” on the internet.

One problem. It’s all bullshit. And there’s a long line of journalists and experts who still somehow haven’t quite figured that out yet. Or have figured it out but are too afraid of upsetting readers or advertisers to be honest about it.

Case in point: the New York Times, which this week explored how the GOP’s interest in “reining in big tech” has stalled because “solutions” to modern tech problems could hurt revenues or don’t include adequate hand-wringing over “conservative censorship”:

“The Republicans? chief objections to the report are that some of the legislative proposals against the tech giants could hamper other businesses and impede economic growth, said four people with knowledge of the situation. Several Republicans were also frustrated that the report didn?t address claims of anti-conservative bias from the tech platforms. Mr. Buck said in ?The Third Way? that some of the recommendations were ?a nonstarter for conservatives.”

The Times, like most big outlets, proceeds from the assumption that the Trump GOP genuinely cares about reining in “monopoly power” in technology. But that gives the GOP way more credit than it has earned or deserves, and helps prop up bad faith bullshit as legitimate grievance.

For one, the GOP’s breathless concerns about “monopolization” aren’t apparent anywhere else. As the GOP freaks out over “big tech,” for example, “big telecom” has been allowed to effectively guard the chicken house and eat the lion’s share of the chickens. The GOP-controlled FCC effectively neutered itself at AT&T’s and Comcast’s request. Terrible job and competition killing telecom mergers have been repeatedly, rubber stamped by the GOP. Similarly there’s zero evidence of any serious attempt to rein in other monopolized sectors from banking and airlines to pharmaceutical and energy.

There’s also still no evidence that “conservatives are being censored.” As in, none. Oddly, the New York Times can’t be bothered to mention this. The lion’s share of those being kicked offline are being kicked offline because they’re simply…behaving like assholes on the internet. And in fact, there’s far more evidence that platforms like Facebook are ignoring their own rules to protect right-wing speech because it’s more profitable to let inflammatory bullshit bumble around the information ecosystem (see: Breitbart being a trusted news ally and nobody giving a damn that Ben Shapiro games Facebook systems to inflate traffic).

Here’s the thing. This steady flood of shitty Section 230 bills aren’t about policing monopoly power. And folks like Marsha Blackburn and Josh Hawley, who’ve never had a single bad thing to say about telecom monopolies, couldn’t give any less of a shit about monopoly power. They do however care about political power. And the over-arching goal right now is to apply enough pressure on Silicon Valley giants that they don’t start adequately policing political disinformation. Because if they do, many of the cornerstones of the modern Trump GOP (race baiting, divisive bullshit, inflammatory garbage, rampant disinformation) fall apart.

Yes, Democrats have plenty of bad ideas and frequently can be found doing nothing or making things even worse. Congress needs a reboot and fresh blood on a tragic scale. But that doesn’t change the fact that the entire, multi-year GOP quest to tackle “big tech’s monopoly power” has never actually been about monopoly power. It’s about political power and money. It’s about trying to shovel more ad revenue to accountability-immune telecom monopolies or Rupert Murdoch. It’s also about preventing anybody from tackling the mountains of hateful internet bullshit that has become the cornerstone of Trumpism.

And despite countless gullible news reports and experts eager to portray GOP “big tech” pearl clutching as a good faith, earnest examination of the very real problems popping up in tech, it’s simply not. And those who continue to pretend otherwise are part of the problem.

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Comments on “Stop Pretending The Trump GOP Genuinely Cares About Monopoly Power”

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58 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Congress needing "fresh blood"

Congress needs a reboot and fresh blood on a tragic scale.

It’s not just that; they need reps and Senators who understand the internet as well as Sen. Ron Wyden and former SEC Chairman Chris Cox did. CASE in point (pun partially intended): an overwhelming majority of representatives voted to pass the CASE act in the house, even by those I generally agree with (usually a lot). So it’s not just "fresh blood", but people who understand the issues as well. Maybe we should bring back the Office of Technology Assessment so congress could make informed decisions again.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

Maybe we should bring back the Office of Technology Assessment so congress could make informed decisions again.

Ah, but that would undo one of the chief goals of Republicans going back to the days of Newt Gingrich: destroying independent expertise with which Congress could consult. Republicans can’t have their knowledge (and authority) questioned if they keep out of the room “experts” who can tell Congress “this is fucked up and here’s why”. Bringing the OTA back would give Congress access to people who know what the hell they’re talking about — and that scares the shit out of Republicans, especially Tea Party–era Republicans who’ve been taught to distrust science, experts, and anyone who they believe is a “know-it-all” because they know more about a given subject than do Republicans.

Democrats, for all their faults (coughfailuretofightclimatechangecough), at least pay lip service to the idea of listening to scientists and experts in their fields. Republicans, more often than not, would rather we all get on our knees and pray.

Annonymouse says:

Re: Congress needing "fresh blood"

The only way to get fresh oil into an engine is to drain and flush out the old crap.
So to get fresh blood in you are going to have to spill a whole lot of the old blood.
The tree of liberty is watered with the blood of Patriots and Tyrants and we are all out of patriots.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Congress needing "fresh blood"

"The tree of liberty is watered with the blood of Patriots and Tyrants and we are all out of patriots."

Well, you can avoid watering that tree…but only if you’ve paid the price of eternal vigilance. And the problem is that liberals have sat on their asses for too many years trying, desperately, to "talk things out" with the political personification of irrational hatred.

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Koby (profile) says:

Re: Re: Ooops

Lightly censored is a descriptive term to satisfy the leftist censors. If one were to say "Trump was censored yesterday", then the apologists counter with "no he wasn’t totally censored because it’s still possible to view the tweet, even if you have to do extra work, and you can’t like it or RT it". The reality is that Trump would be totally censored, if big tech felt they could get away with it. And if even the President of the United States can be censored, then the little guys don’t stand a chance. That’s why a lot of people support the breakup of the tech monopolies and 230 reform.

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Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Ooops

If one were to say "Trump was censored yesterday", then the apologists counter with "no he wasn’t totally censored because it’s still possible to view the tweet, even if you have to do extra work, and you can’t like it or RT it".

So you’re saying that Trump was censored but he wasn’t? Is that Schrödinger’s Censorship?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Annonymouse says:

Re: Re: Re: Ooops

Except for one itty bitty teensy weensy detail.
They are not monopolies.
AT&T et al are monopolies.
The federal reserve is a monopoly.
Google is not
Facebook isn’t even if it tries oh so hard to be.
Microsoft effectively is until business and government comes to their senses… ha! ????

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Rocky says:

Re: Re: Re: Ooops

Sheer stupidity and/or gross dishonesty is a descriptive term that accurately describes people who support a repeal of section 230.

Fascist is a descriptive term for people who want to force others to carry their speech.

Silent is a descriptive term for those who will be affected by a repeal of section 230.

Dead is a descriptive term for a democracy that allow forced speech.

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Rocky says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Ooops

  • Sheer stupidity: The belief that everything will magically become better with a complex set of rules or no rules at all.
  • Gross dishonesty: Attacking section 230 for political gains or at the behest of entrenched interests.
  • Fascist: Only totalitarian fascist states force media to carry speech, and that media will in the end be co-opted into the state openly or with a thin guise of legitimacy surrounding it.
  • Silent: The people who no longer can use social media because said media can’t accommodate them due to liability concerns or because they no longer dare use social media due to the rampant bigotry, hate and personal attacks the media will descend into (dependent on what replaces 230).
  • Dead: If the government forces speech, entrenched political interests can then easier put out a narrative beneficial to them unchallenged. That’s how a democracy dies if we look at recent human history,
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Ooops

Trump was just lightly-censored yesterday on twitter.

Which of course begs the question as to why he doesn’t take his shitposting to Parler.

Amirite, Koby?

Remember Parler?

What happened with all of you sticking it to Twitter by moving to Parler, big mouth?

Why don’t you all just go where the free speech is, instead of just complaining about it? Or is complaining the only thing impotent, do-nothing conservatives know how to do?

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Again, MODERATED because of being an asshole, not conservative

Do you ever get tired of making a fool of yourself or playing the victim, or is that just your kink?

If someone who played a round of russian roulette and didn’t blow the back of their head off due to luck and someone who worked for them making sure the next trigger pull wouldn’t be one with the bullet tried to argue that ‘russian roulette is perfectly safe, look at me, not a scratch’, they would absolutely deserve to have that message removed from social media as grossly irresponsible and incredibly dangerous.

Likewise if someone got COVID and due to luck and extensive medical treatment the likes of which most people could only dream of(‘funnily’ enough treatment paid for by those people, cause it sure as hell wasn’t by the patient), and didn’t die as a result of said luck and treatment tried to claim that something that has killed over two-hundred and ten thousand people in the US alone tried to claim that like they’ve been saying for months it’s no big deal because they survived they would very much deserve to have that post removed for the exact same reasons as the dangerous idiot in the first example.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Skipped over the Parler comments I see.

How genuine of you to remind us that Trump’s continued use of Twitter allows them to continue making money off of his use of the service, or rather his choice to use the service.

Seems like if he just closed his account and moved to Parler, that would hurt Twitter far more than you useless chimps whining about how life is so unfair.

Yet he chooses not to.

Perhaps that McDonalds diet is affecting what’s left of his brain.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You say that, despite the mounting death toll, and the survivors, who did not need hospitalization, but are still suffering poor health six months and more latter. Just how bad does it have to get to convince you that Covid needs treating seriously?

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

If they’re anything like other I’ve read about it will only sink it once they or an immediate family member catches it and ends up hospitalized and potentially dead, at which point suddenly it might sink in that covid isn’t just killing people they never met but can impact them too and just might be something worth taking serious.

For some people, whether due to sociopathy, lack of empathy or ‘just’ self-centeredness problems only become real when they impact the person directly, until then it’s just something that other people have to deal with and therefore not worth paying any attention to.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: 'Why do you fear russian roulette, look I'm fine so it's safe'

And old, overweight guy who got first-rate medical care that probably only a tiny percentage of the US population could even dream of you mean? It’s easy for someone to say not to worry about jumping out of a plane when they have a parachute.

Once more for emphasis, because apparently it needs to really be hammered in for the slow: Two hundred and ten thousand and rising(216,125 according to coronavirus dashboard as of this comment). That is the US death toll alone, out of just over one million deaths worldwide(1,056,523), meaning the US accounts for almost a quarter of the worldwide deaths, in large part thanks to people like you who refuse to take it seriously.

if you or Trump want to be suicidally stupid and grossly irresponsible respectively by refusing to take something that has killed hundreds of thousands in the US alone serious by all mean earn that Darwin Award, just don’t be surprised when social media sites respond in a responsible manner to keep your idiocy from getting other people killed by blocking/removing your posts that show you’re either a Darwin Award just waiting to happen and/or too selfish to care if you get other people killed.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"You sound upset that an old, overweight guy who subsists on McDonalds beat it over the weekend."

A guy who managed to "beat it" (he’s not cured yet, genius, he’s clearly struggling), who managed to get world class treatment that most people could not dream of, all paid for by taxes he refused to pay, after having infected at least 35 other people, and who is still promising to remove healthcare rights for millions of Americans who now have pre-existing conditions to due his failure before he leaves office?

Yeah, sane, rational people are upset a little by that.

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Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Ooops

You can tell that this was written in advance.

It wasn’t. What the fuck are you even talking about?

Trump was just lightly-censored yesterday on twitter.

He wasn’t. What the fuck are you even talking about?

This line didn’t age well at all.

It did. What the fuck are you even talking about?

So, to get more to the point, Twitter pointing out that the President of the United State is spreading blatant misinformation that is likely to get people KILLED is not "censorship." Second, even if it HAD taken down that info (which it did not, even though it probably should have) is not evidence of "conservatives being censored." It would be evidence of Twitter not wanting people to die because we have an idiot as President.

Koby, you’re bad at this. You look like a brainwashed idiot. We’ve explained this stuff to you countless times and you keep on repeating Fox News talking points like a blabbering fool.

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

Re: Re: Ooops

"He wasn’t. What the fuck are you even talking about"

I presume he’s referring to this:

https://www.chicagotribune.com/nation-world/ny-president-trump-twitter-locked-ny-post-20201006-gnv5wacehfd5fantuv4hiv2rpm-story.html

Note, that this is yet another flagrant violation of their policies, but Twitter merely requested he remove dangerous and irresponsible text, and not indefinitely suspend or remove the account as they’d do with any other user.

Anonymous Coward says:

Monopolies of Companies I Like

It’s very easy to simply dismiss claims of monopoly power when thinking about companies that I like, such as Apple, Google, or Twitter. But I’m open to claims that we may need to open up their platforms (in different ways as they accomplish different things.). But I still need evidence that the market is being harmed by their behavior before I’ll go along with that, and so far I haven’t seen that like I did with Microsoft.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Monopolies of Companies I Like

But I’m open to claims that we may need to open up [Apple’s, Google’s, and Twitter’s] platforms (in different ways as they accomplish different things.).

I agree with this. Cory Doctorow suggested "adversarial interoperability", and Twitter, for all their faults, is actually doing something suggested by Mike Masnick’s "Protocols, not Platforms" paper for the Knight First Amendment Institute.

So Twitter is at least doing the right thing in one case; Apple and Google, AFAICT, have not opened themselves up to such a degree (at least not Apple).

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Nijmegen says:

Re: Re: Monopolies I Like

‘Apple’s, Google’s, and Twitter’s’ are not monopolies.

But Republicans are not against all Monopolies in principle — they think some monopolies are great idea, especially those that directly benefit Republican government officials and their special interest supporters.

And Democrats believe exactly the same thing about monopolies (though their preferred monopolies differ somewhat).

Government enforced economic monopolies are fundamental to the current structure of American government.
Few Americans (and certainly nobody posting here here, -1) actually oppose the political concept of Monopoly — they just want to pick & choose which monopolies are permitted.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Monopolies I Like

There aren’t any monopolies to be found in big tech, the giant companies have all branched into multiple areas and are each competing with the other giants for marketspace in all the various areas and with some clearly being ahead right now in a few spaces.

Depending on what area your battles might be between google and apple, google and facebook, amazon and netflix, apple and microsoft, microsoft and google, twitter and facebook, facebook and Oracle etc etc ad nauseum.

and there is a bunch of small fry competition constantly coming and going in basically all those battles as well

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Narcissus (profile) says:

Follow the money, always follow the money

And there’s a long line of journalists and experts who still somehow haven’t quite figured that out yet.

All journalist have seen their livelihood threatened because all that sweet advertising money went to big tech. It seems that, regardless of their political leaning, they might not object to seeing facebook et al taken down a notch.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Follow the money, always follow the money

I’m willing to given them some benefit of the doubt and assume that for a number of them it’s the fault of their bosses that they’ve been turned from journalists into PR fluffers, rather than acting that way for pure spite, though I’m sure that some are doing it intentionally for the reason you noted.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Not exactly helping your case there...

If you’re trying to convince people that there’s worth in what you’re offering and that that newfangled ‘internet’ isn’t going to provide people the important news so they should come back to you acting as unpaid PR fluffers for whatever rich person/company wanders by is probably not going to do the trick, and if anything is just going to cause people to treat you as unreliable and give you even less attention, getting their news elsewhere.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I made a similar point above, that the CASE act was passed in the House overwhelmingly, including by some of the youngest representatives.

I also made the point to bring back the OTA, which Stephen T. Stone correctly pointed out that the Republicans got rid of it because it challenged their authority.

So age (and how long one has been in Washington) may not be the most relevant factors here, and we agree on that.

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