Congressman Nadler Throws The World's Worst Slumber Party In Order To Destroy The Internet

from the not-the-last-sleepless-night-this-nonsense-will-cause dept

House Judiciary Chairman Congressman Nadler really does not like "big tech" companies, and four of them (Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon) in particular. His antipathy has led him to bypass any further subcommittee inquiry to identify which issues raised by these companies might be suitable for regulation, or to develop careful language that could remediate them without being an unconstitutional and counter-productive legislative attack on the entire Internet economy.

Instead he called a full committee hearing this past Wednesday to debate and markup a slate of six bills that are, in their current form, an unconstitutional and counter-productive legislative attack on the entire Internet economy. (Here's where we'd normally include an embed of the hearing, but for reasons that are not at all clear, after the session was live-streamed via YouTube, it is currently blocked from showing the recording -- perhaps the session that was a debate about how best to break Google, has literally broken Google by streaming a video too long for YouTube to deal with).

Although the hearing lasted over 24 hours(!), from midday Wednesday into midday Thursday (with just one three-hour recess and a few other breaks for floor votes), there was little illumination on whether anything these bills target is truly an infirmity at all, an infirmity that Congress hasn't itself created, or an infirmity particular to just these targeted companies. Or whether any of these proposed "remedies" won't hurt the very interests they are ostensibly supposed to help.

Over the course of the hearing he did, of course, get some bi-partisan pushback. Some of the most credible seemed to come from Reps. Lofgren and Issa, who tried to alert the bills' proponents to many of the bills' defects, and also Rep. Spartz, who kept noticing all the due process and doctrinal shortcuts built into the bills. And some of the language did get amended. But no evidence was considered and no experts were consulted. The committee was not interested in building any further record that might challenge (or even potentially support) the foregone conclusions that something must be done and these bills should be the something.

As a result, the fundamental problems with the bills remain because the fundamental problem remains: even after all that effort the Committee still lacks a meaningful understanding of how and why tech companies get big, including any reasons why we either value that bigness or otherwise force it to happen. The kindest read of the situation – as with most tech policy regulation, it seems – is that it's a bit like the story of the blind men and the elephant, where each man has a different perception of what an elephant must look like depending on whether they are holding its trunk, its ear, or its tail. Here the House Judiciary Committee is holding tightly to the tail and refusing to even contemplate that there might be any more elephant to consider. As a result it also can't recognize how some of the problems they are worried about are actually problems of their own making.

One conspicuous example that came up during this marathon bill markup session was the outrage expressed by some members of the committee that Amazon sometimes kicks off independent vendors using its marketplace services. But instead of asking why Amazon might do that, the committee chose to presume that it was due to nothing more than some nefarious anti-competitive instinct. And in making that presumption the committee ignored its own role in forcing Amazon's hand.

For instance, how does it make sense for Congress to think that Amazon should potentially be liable for counterfeit or defective goods vendors use their platforms to sell, and yet simultaneously criticize Amazon for denying vendors with potentially problematic products access to their platform? Answer: it doesn't make any sense at all. Congress needs to decide: if it wants Amazon to be more open to more small business users, it has to make it safe for them to be.

Yet instead of fortifying laws that offer platforms protection to make it safe for them to be open to more users, including smaller businesses and potential competitors, Congress is instead hard at work crafting bills to further put the screws to the bigger platforms if they give access to the wrong third party user who does something with their platforms that Congress also doesn't like. It is deliberately creating a no-win situation for platforms that forces them to make only bad choices that no one will like – and that Congress will only want to further punish them for.

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Filed Under: antitrust, big tech, competition, jerry nadler, markup
Companies: amazon, apple, facebook, google


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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 25 Jun 2021 @ 11:10am

    Something something the opposite of progress...

    Meanwhile they still haven't managed to fund making sure there are no longer any lead service lines poisoning citizens, but they had a nice show hearing about things to distract people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2021 @ 11:29am

    “Smaller Businesses” =/= Fly-by-night Amazon sellers marketing counterfeit and defective goods.

    For instance, how does it make sense for Congress to think that Amazon should potentially be liable for counterfeit or defective goods vendors use their platforms to sell, and yet simultaneously criticize Amazon for denying vendors with potentially problematic products access to their platform?

    Idunno, maybe because the people in Congress criticizing Amazon for profiting off of the sales of tons of fake & defective garbage on their store have an actual good point, which courts have agreed with like in Oberdorf v. Amazon, and the people criticizing Amazon for “denying vendors with potentially problematic products” are Republican fucksticks who want their alt-right pals to be able to peddle their fascist ideas and shitty brands? And you’re lumping two groups of people that likely have minimal overlap together as if they’re the exact same people to make your argument sound better?

    Yet instead of fortifying laws that offer platforms protection to make it safe for them to be open to more users, including smaller businesses and potential competitors

    Cute; you think that sites like Amazon would actually let upstart competitors exist. Talk to the folks of Diapers.com about that. But then again, I’m sure you’ll just say that they could’ve innovated harder and magically won out against Bezos & Company.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2021 @ 4:45pm

      Re:

      Cute; you think that sites like Amazon would actually let upstart competitors exist. Talk to the folks of Diapers.com about that. But then again, I’m sure you’ll just say that they could’ve innovated harder and magically won out against Bezos & Company.

      The folks at Diapers.com who went on to found another e-commerce company afterwards that was successful enough that they basically were acquired to re-invent and run Walmart.com? Seems like they were able to compete.

      Or, how about the folks who run Shopify, who are growing at a vastly faster rate than Amazon these days?

      Or, maybe I should talk to the founders of Boxed, who have created a pretty amazing competitor to Amazon over the last few years that is valued over a billion dollars today.

      If Amazon was able to stop competitors, none of those would exist, so, seems like maybe you don't know what you're talking about.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 26 Jun 2021 @ 2:49am

      Re:

      "Cute; you think that sites like Amazon would actually let upstart competitors exist."

      They do. Some are even hosted on AWS.

      "Talk to the folks of Diapers.com about that"

      The diapers.com that sold to Amazon for $545 million? While Amazon were certainly evil and shady in how that case went before the sale, I think the folks in charge of it are OK. Especially since one of the founders went on to create another site that sold to WalMart for $3.3 billion.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 Jun 2021 @ 10:34am

        Re: Re:

        Okay, so we have Amazon and Walmart at the top of the food chain acquiring everyone that will sell to them. Truly, this is the competition that the online retail space needs. /s

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 27 Jun 2021 @ 12:01am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Major corporations buying out competition in order to get a tighter stranglehold on the market is a problem, but a very different one to having no competition in the first place. If the latter is your problem, you might want to pick examples of competition that's truly hard done by, not examples of people becoming billionaires in the process.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Rico R. (profile), 25 Jun 2021 @ 11:42am

    Congress: We need you to fight IP theft and be small!

    For instance, how does it make sense for Congress to think that big tech should potentially be liable for intellectual property rights violations by people who use their platforms unless they actively police it, and yet simultaneously criticize them for being so big they need to be broken up into smaller entities that can't possibly meet all of their new proposed demands? Answer: it doesn't make any sense at all.

    FTFY.

    Between this big tech copyright paradox and using section 230 as a cudgel against big tech to stop the "censorship" they're supposedly experiencing, the end result is the destruction of the internet as we know it! Congress needs to think twice before they attempt to "break up" big tech or limit liability protections websites enjoy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2021 @ 12:30pm

      Re: Congress: We need you to fight IP theft and be small!

      I buy a remote off of Amazon. It turns out to be defective and my child suffers permanent damage because of it. I’d like to track down the seller on Amazon to seek legal redress, but the seller is gone without a trace. Am I supposed to say “Oh well, Amazon and I did our best, but we couldn’t find them. I guess all is forgiven and bygones should be bygones, I didn’t need recompense for the medical expenses for my child anyway.”?

      Fuck that noise. To quote a commenter on the Ars article: As a public policy, profitability and accountability need to run together, otherwise you have a system that financially incentivizes predation, of which we have quite quite enough already.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2021 @ 4:47pm

        Re: Re: Congress: We need you to fight IP theft and be small!

        I buy a remote off of Amazon. It turns out to be defective and my child suffers permanent damage because of it. I’d like to track down the seller on Amazon to seek legal redress, but the seller is gone without a trace. Am I supposed to say “Oh well, Amazon and I did our best, but we couldn’t find them. I guess all is forgiven and bygones should be bygones, I didn’t need recompense for the medical expenses for my child anyway.”?

        How is that different than if I buy the same product off of a webstore setup on Squarespace, or self hosted... and then when the product blows up and I find out that the online store is shut down and I can't track down the actual seller?

        Should I be able to blame the web hosting firm? Seems... not right. Yes, it sucks that they can't find the actual responsible party, but that doesn't mean you automatically get to blame someone else. That's not how these things are supposed to work.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 26 Jun 2021 @ 2:41am

        Re: Re: Congress: We need you to fight IP theft and be small!

        So, if you buy the product not from Amazon but from a flea market or similar fly-by-night operation, what recourse is available to you? Are you able to sue the building they were hosting their stall inside or the city in charge of the street, or do you have to do something else?

        Honest question, since I'm wondering how these things that have been potential issues for decades were resolved, before seem to have people decided that them being on the internet should mean that bystanders need to be punished.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 Jun 2021 @ 4:52am

        Re: Re: Congress: We need you to fight IP theft and be small!

        You buy the remote from a car boot sale, and cannot trace the seller latter, should the organizers of the sale be held responsible?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Jun 2021 @ 3:08pm

      Re: Congress: We need you to fight IP theft and be small!

      Congress needs to think twice before they attempt to "break up" big tech or limit liability protections websites enjoy.

      Bold of you to assume Congress has thought once about these issues.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 26 Jun 2021 @ 4:52pm

        Re: Re: Congress: We need you to fight IP theft and be small!

        Oh they have, the problem is that more often than not these days the thinking starts and ends at 'How can I exploit this for personal gain?'

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2021 @ 12:03pm

    My take on politicians' general treatment of "big tech" is that they're roundabout fishing for more "campaign contributions." They openly support anti-competitive behavior it's big telecom, big pharma, big entertainment and such doing it. The difference? Those industries spend fortunes on lobbying.

    They can't actually come out and say "give us $$$ and we'll stop blaming you for everything wrong in the world," but the implication between the lines is there.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 25 Jun 2021 @ 12:28pm

      Re:

      Nailed it in one, the complete apathy(if not active support) for other industries and companies engaging in similar behavior makes clear that the attacks on tech companies are largely not being done in good faith and are just PR stunts and attempts to strong-arm those companies into 'donating' more.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2021 @ 2:45pm

    And another reason why I think there should be a moratorium on crafting any new laws until every single law currently on the books has been thoroughly reviewed and evaluated to see if it's still relevant, makes sense, and if it's actually accomplishing what it's supposed to, and if not, repealing it. That should keep Congress busy for oh, the next several decades considering all the too many laws already on the books.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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