When You Can't Innovate, You Litigate: Oracle Gleefully Takes Credit For Attacks On Section 230 And Google
from the shameful dept
A few weeks ago, Oracle announced that it was moving its headquarters out of Redwood Shores, in the middle of Silicon Valley, to Austin, Texas. The move is more symbolic than anything else. The company told employees they can continue working from wherever they want and founder Larry Ellison sent an email to all employees saying he’ll be working from the island of Lanai, which he purchased a few years ago. But the symbolism of the move works in multiple ways. Despite being founded and headquartered in Silicon Valley for almost half a century, Oracle has long represented the anti-Silicon Valley approach to innovation.
Nearly a decade ago, cartoon artist Manu Cornet made this truly classic cartoon image of tech company org charts (which he thankfully put under a Creative Commons license):
I’ve heard people at all of those companies more or less confirm the accuracy of every one of those. The Oracle one is particularly on point:
For a while now, people in Silicon Valley have been well aware of Oracle’s reputation as the anti-innovation behemoth, especially following its attack on APIs, interfaces, and how software is developed with the case against Google’s reimplementation of the Java API. We’re still waiting on how the Supreme Court rules on that one, to see whether or not Oracle has succeeded in undermining a key part of how software is developed — including Oracle’s own practices in reimplementing others’ APIs.
Bloomberg now has a big report on how all of the recent antitrust cases against Google have Oracle’s fingerprints all over them, and in the article, Oracle’s top lobbyist gleefully takes credit for it.
What’s less known is that Oracle Corp. spent years working behind the scenes to convince regulators and law enforcement agencies in Washington, more than 30 states, the European Union, Australia and at least three other countries to rein in Google’s huge search-and-advertising business. Those efforts are paying off.
Officials in more than a dozen of the states that sued Google received what has been called Oracle?s ?black box? presentation showing how Google tracks users? personal information, said Ken Glueck, Oracle?s top Washington lobbyist and the architect of the company?s antitrust campaign against Google. Glueck outlined for Bloomberg the presentation, which often entails putting an Android phone inside a black briefcase to show how Google collects users? location details ? even when the phones aren?t in use ? and confirmed the contours of the pressure campaign.
?I couldn?t be happier,? said Glueck about the barrage of lawsuits. ?As far as I can tell, there are more states suing Google than there are states.?
The thing is, Oracle more or less admits that it’s doing this purely out of spite and the fact that it has failed to innovate and keep up with more nimble and innovative competitors. Oracle and Larry Ellison made some big bets early on that flopped. And rather than correct course and innovate, it has focused on what we’ve referred to as political entrepreneurship: lobbying and using the powers of government to shut down competitors, rather than innovate.
As many of us suspected, but is now confirmed by the article, Oracle is also a key player in trying to dismantle Section 230:
Oracle was one of the first companies to push Congress to adopt an anti-sex-trafficking measure in Congress, not because it was critical to its business but because Oracle knew it could hurt Google, according to a person familiar with the matter. The legislation weakened legal liability protections for tech companies such as Google from lawsuits over user-generated content in sex-trafficking cases.
Again, as many of us long knew, but didn’t have public confirmation of, Oracle plays dirty in trying to smear anyone defending the open internet:
It?s also a master at stealth lobbying tactics, such as digging up dirt on competitors, disseminating opposition research and supporting dark-money groups that publicize negative findings about rivals.
In the article, it also points out that Oracle hired a firm to pay cleaning staff at a research group that wrote reports Oracle didn’t like to rifle through the organization’s trash to dig up dirt.
The article also confirms our earlier reporting about how Oracle execs sucking up to Trump, and Oracle’s ability to label other companies’ execs as saying anti-Trump stuff, was the key to it landing the TikTok deal:
Oracle won some battles after fostering ties to President Donald Trump. Oracle Chief Executive Officer Safra Catz and Glueck were part of Trump?s transition team. Catz advised the president on trade policy and serves on the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence.
Those ties may have proven fruitful when Microsoft was in pole position to acquire the U.S. operations of TikTok, the popular video app that Trump ordered its Chinese owner to sell. When TikTok picked Oracle as its preferred partner, after a phone call with Executive Chairman Larry Ellison, the president backed Oracle?s last-minute bid for a minority stake in the app as part of a deal that?s pending approvals.
As the article highlights, Oracle’s revenue has continued to remain steady while all the tech companies it attacks politically have continued to thrive. And the reason for that is that those companies have built better products, while Oracle… hasn’t. Instead, it’s taken the tried and trued losers’ approach. If you can’t innovate, litigate. Or, in this case, rig the political system for favors. It’s shameful.
Of course, what the Bloomberg report mostly leaves out is how much of this actually harms innovation and competition in the long run. We’ve already pointed out just how insanely short-sighted Oracle’s API copyright case is. If you want to actually undermine Google’s market share, making sure that others can reimplement its APIs is key. And while Oracle’s cloud business is way behind leaders like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google, one of these days, someone in Oracle’s giant legal and lobbying team is going to wake up and remember that Section 230 protects its cloud business too.
But, of course, Oracle would rather set fire to the entire internet than realize it needs to innovate.