No surprise that this episode is really all the congressional hearing. I personally only listened to about an hour of it but it seems like it went better than most expected it to be.
This is one the rare issues in congress where Democrats and Republicans seem to agree that something needs to be done. But when it came time to ask their questions the Republicans didnt really address anti-trust concerns directly. Almost all the Republicans questions were about censorship of conservative viewpoints on these platforms. Not only a clearly partisan issue but also not at all based in any facts. Democrats on the other hand were acting the way you expect lawmakers to act during an important hearing like this. They were asking questions about the businesses themselves and specific questions concerning antitrust.
Google seemed to get the worst of it with Republicans not just concerned about “censorship” but also about Google objecting to working with the military on certain projects which they called unpatriotic. Democrats on the other hand focused on the idea of google “stealing” content from other sites and how more and more google search’s never leave googles walled garden. Those issues are very really and I really agree that something should be done about them. I dont want to force google to remain just ten blue links forever anymore than anyone else does but at this pace google will be as much of a bubble as facebook is.
Speaking of Facebook the questions directed to them were no surprise. You’ll never guess what the republicans were asking about despite the fact that that we all know how popular Fox News and the like are. Democrats on the other hand were laser focused on the Instagram acquisition, citing internal emails where Zuckerberg called instagram a threat.
Amazon’s questions focused mostly around them customer data from the marketplace to crush third party sellers with their own products. This is so clear that its happening but its not totally clear how we could write laws to prevent this. Every grocer store in the country has a house brand and I’m positive they use sales data on competitor products when deciding which house brands to make and how to price them. Clearly amazon has a lot more data and a lot more control over what people see and dont see but it’s going to be tough to find a good place to draw the line with something like this. Maybe going more absolutist and outlawing house brands all together, including in grocery stores, would be better but I dont see how they get away with that.
And that leaves Apple. Apple got the least amount of quesitons overall and thats not really surprising. John and Ben agreed that Tim Cook didnt think he belonged there and honestly its hard to disagree. Apple has its issues with the App Store and there may be a place for regulation here but its hard to see anything apple is doing as destructive as the other three. The App Store needs to loosen the rules a bit. Its clearly gone way past safety and security of customers and become about making money for apple. They are a business so of course it should be about making the most money possible but folks like us love Apple because they claim to want to make the best products first, then profits come from that. I dont think anyone at apple thinks the current state of the App Store is the best it could be for consumers or third party businesses.