Should America’s Tech Giants Be Broken Up?

Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook may be contributing to the U.S. economy’s most persistent ailments.

As a former tour manager for Bob Dylan and The Band, Jonathan Taplin isn’t your typical academic. Lately, though, he’s been busy writing somber tomes about market shares, monopolies, and online platforms. His conclusion: Amazon.com, Facebook, and Google have become too big and too powerful and, if not stopped, may need to be broken up.

Crazy? Maybe not. Taplin, 70, author of Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy, knows digital media, having run the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California. Ten years before YouTube, he founded one of the first video-on-demand streaming services. He also knows media M&A as a former Merrill Lynch investment banker in the 1980s. He says Google is as close to a monopoly as the Bell telephone system was in 1956.

He has a point, judging by market-research figures. Alphabet Inc.’s Google gets about 77 percent of U.S. search advertising revenue. Google and Facebook Inc. together control about 56 percent of the mobile ad market. Amazon takes about 70 percent of all e-book sales and 30 percent of all U.S. e-commerce. Taplin pegs Facebook’s share of mobile social media traffic, including the company’s WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram units, at 75 percent.

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Why ‘Net Neutrality’ Is Nothing More Than Corporate Power Grab

Giving the federal government control of the Internet wouldn’t bring greater freedom—it would enable bureaucrats and lobbyists to run the show.

Recently, you may have heard the scary news that the Trump administration is trying to destroy the internet. Last week, tech companies like Twitter and Facebook had a “week of action” to promote “Network Neutrality,” an initiative of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which the new Trump-appointed commissioner Ajit Pai is threatening to roll back.

However, like many things these days, this supposed threat is fake news. The name “net neutrality” may sound appealing, commonsensical, or even modern—but the truth is that the FCC has been pushing this initiative for the past decade, despite several Constitutional challenges. When you strip down the internet jargon and flashy activist promotions, net neutrality is nothing more than a New Deal-era power grab. It’s outdated, unfair, and ultimately puts the government in charge of policing web content.

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Mark Zuckerberg Is Clueless About Church If He Thinks Facebook Can Replicate It

Facebook reflects a diseased society that has failed to share its faith with the next generation, and has succumbed instead to moralistic therapeutic deism.

There’s a new mega-church in town—one already boasting over two billion members. Although launched in 2004, “Pastor” Mark Zuckerberg only recently Christianized his online community by comparing Facebook to a church:

A church doesn’t just come together. It has a pastor who cares for the well-being of their congregation, makes sure they have food and shelter…People who go to church are more likely to volunteer and give to charity – not just because they’re religious, but because they’re part of a community.

While people of faith who attend doctrinally-based churches or synagogues scoffed at the idea of Facebook as a replacement, Zuckerberg thinks he knows his flock. But does he? Or is Zuckerberg projecting what, by all appearances, is his belief system—Moralistic Therapeutic Deism?

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Facebook Can Track Your Browsing Even After You’ve Logged Out, Judge Says

Judge dismisses lawsuit accusing Facebook of tracking users’ activity, saying responsibility was on plaintiffs to keep browsing history private

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit accusing Facebook of tracking users’ web browsing activity even after they logged out of the social networking site.

The plaintiffs alleged that Facebook used the “like” buttons found on other websites to track which sites they visited, meaning that the Menlo Park, California-headquartered company could build up detailed records of their browsing history. The plaintiffs argued that this violated federal and state privacy and wiretapping laws.

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A Supreme Court Call On The Third Party Doctrine

The Fourth Amendment should apply to personal phone data

This week, constitutional law experts and the law enforcement community were abuzz after the U.S. Supreme Court added Carpenter v. United States to its docket, a case that could reshape government data collection and the Fourth Amendment in the internet Age. The Fourth Amendment asserts that the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” Timothy Carpenter, the petitioner in this case, alleges that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated.

The case comes at a time when domestic surveillance by intelligence agencies is under scrutiny, and smartphone and internet records are playing a greater role in law enforcement investigations. It raises an important legal question about the applicability of old doctrines that give the government immense power in the Information Age.

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Facebook’s Secret Censorship Rules Protect White Men From Hate Speech But Not Black Children

A trove of internal documents sheds light on the algorithms that Facebook’s censors use to differentiate between hate speech and legitimate political expression.

In the wake of a terrorist attack in London earlier this month, a U.S. congressman wrote a Facebook post in which he called for the slaughter of “radicalized” Muslims. “Hunt them, identify them, and kill them,” declared U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, a Louisiana Republican. “Kill them all. For the sake of all that is good and righteous. Kill them all.”

Higgins’ plea for violent revenge went untouched by Facebook workers who scour the social network deleting offensive speech.

But a May posting on Facebook by Boston poet and Black Lives Matter activist Didi Delgado drew a different response.

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Amazon Is Trying To Sell You Everything (Don’t Let It)

When I ask people why they don’t mind putting their personal information and private lives online on sites like Facebook, Google’s many linked apps, or through Amazon’s personalized algorithms and in-house listening device Echo (linked to “voice service” Alexa), many say something like, “I have nothing to hide – I’m not a serial killer.”

This is missing the point. No one is suggesting that you are trying to cover up a murder or steal state secrets. I am suggesting that it might be unwise to allow these largely unregulated, personal-information-inhaling, behemoth tech corporations to know basically everything about you and to acquire and maintain positions of unprecedentedly concentrated power. We do not understand how powerful and intrusive they are because they are so far ahead of regulators (I don’t think Jeff Bezos takes as many vacation days as your average congressperson or government regulator) and privacy-related watchdog groups, which don’t have a fraction of the resources these companies have. We don’t know what we don’t know and we don’t know what they do know.

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