Pattern Matching

Google’s antitrust case won’t reshape the industry. But it’s the start of something that might.

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Photo: VIEW press/Getty Images

The Department of Justice’s antitrust lawsuit against Google got a lot of attention this week, and understandably so. It mirrors the landmark antitrust case against Microsoft two decades ago, which stands as the prototypical example of the U.S. government grappling with a big tech company’s power.

But it is also, in many ways, a narrow case: It focuses exclusively on Google’s dominance of internet search and search ads, and rests on established laws and precedents. Even if successful, it’s unlikely to significantly curtail the massive reach or influence of Google’s trillion-dollar parent company, Alphabet. …

The DOJ’s antitrust case is simpler than you might expect

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Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit this week alleging that Google is an illegal monopoly. Now comes the tricky part: proving it.

Once a humble search engine with no business model, Google has grown into such a vast conglomerate that the word “monopoly” seems almost inadequate to describe its scope. For that matter, even the word “Google” is inadequate — the search engine and its affiliated ad business are now just part of the broader, trillion-dollar Alphabet empire.

And yet the question of whether and how Google constitutes an illegal monopoly gets complicated in a hurry. Is its dominance of internet search a problem in itself? Does the problem stem from the breadth of its business, which spans search, online advertising, online video, mobile operating systems, cloud services, smart home devices, and much more? Does it arise from the interactions between these business lines, the way Google leverages its market power in one arena to boost its business in another? Or is there no real monopolization problem here at all, given that most users freely choose Google’s products over those of its rivals and reap the benefit of services that are offered to them at no monetary cost? …

Pattern Matching

How the prospect of a “blue wave” is changing content moderation.

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Photo: Jim Watson/Getty Images

Up until two weeks ago, Facebook was a place where QAnon conspiracy groups flourished, aided by its recommendation algorithms; where you could pay to promote anti-vaccine misinformation; where Holocaust denial was treated as a legitimate political opinion; and where conservative news outlets were known to get a pass on rule enforcement to avoid upsetting the right.

As of today, none of those things are true. A series of dramatic policy reversals by the dominant social network, followed by an aggressive crackdown on a dubious New York Post story alleging corruption by the Biden family, amount to a transformation in the company’s official posture toward online speech (if not the underlying dynamics that make it such a potent vector for misinformation). One year after Mark Zuckerberg delivered a full-throated defense of free speech at Georgetown University, emphatically rejecting calls to broaden restrictions on what views Facebook users can express, his company has done just that. …


Will Oremus

Senior Writer, OneZero, at Medium

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