Opinion | It’s Time to Break Up Facebook – By Chris Hughes – co-founder of Facebook – The New York Times

By Chris Hughes
Mr. Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, is a co-chairman of the Economic Security Project and a senior adviser at the Roosevelt Institute.
May 9, 2019, 14
“The last time I saw Mark Zuckerberg was in the summer of 2017, several months before the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. We met at Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., office and drove to his house, in a quiet, leafy neighborhood. We spent an hour or two together while his toddler daughter cruised around. We talked politics mostly, a little about Facebook, a bit about our families. When the shadows grew long, I had to head out. I hugged his wife, Priscilla, and said goodbye to Mark.

Since then, Mark’s personal reputation and the reputation of Facebook have taken a nose-dive. The company’s mistakes — the sloppy privacy practices that dropped tens of millions of users’ data into a political consulting firm’s lap; the slow response to Russian agents, violent rhetoric and fake news; and the unbounded drive to capture ever more of our time and attention — dominate the headlines. It’s been 15 years since I co-founded Facebook at Harvard, and I haven’t worked at the company in a decade. But I feel a sense of anger and responsibility.

Mark is still the same person I watched hug his parents as they left our dorm’s common room at the beginning of our sophomore year. He is the same person who procrastinated studying for tests, fell in love with his future wife while in line for the bathroom at a party and slept on a mattress on the floor in a small apartment years after he could have afforded much more. In other words, he’s human. But it’s his very humanity that makes his unchecked power so problematic.

Mark’s influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government. He controls three core communications platforms — Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — that billions of people use every day. Facebook’s board works more like an advisory committee than an overseer, because Mark controls around 60 percent of voting shares. Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook’s algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered. He sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive, and he can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it.

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Bravo Chris Hughes, I feel enlightened. So, Elizabeth Warren knew about this stuff when she called for the breakup of Facebook. After reading this and the top comments, I want to second this idea, and also, insist that we also breakup Amazon. Amazon went around blackmailing companies like Diapers.com. Sell out to us or be destroyed, was the way Amazon treated such new upstarts and success stories in the online market place, and they got away with it.

Some commentators insist we should all quit Facebook, but I don’t agree. I enjoy and use it way to much to share or push ideas, causes, and humor, and to follow (less often) my friends and family.

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David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth Century Vietnam” and blogs about the environment at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com.

Opinion | The Case for Investigating Facebook – By David N. Cicilline- The New York Times

By David N. Cicilline
Mr. Cicilline, a member of the House of Representatives from Rhode Island, is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law.

March 19, 2019, 173
Credit Nasir Kachroo/NurPhoto, via Getty Images

“A year ago, the world learned that Facebook allowed a political consulting company called Cambridge Analytica to exploit the personal information of up to 87 million users, to obtain data that would help the company’s clients “fight a culture war” in America.

Since then, a torrent of reports has revealed that the Cambridge Analytica scandal was part of a much broader pattern of misconduct by Facebook.

It has paid teenagers to spy on their behavior, even asking users “to screenshot their Amazon order history page,” according to the website TechCrunch. The company has secretly collected highly sensitive data through the back doors of other apps, such as ovulation trackers, to target ads at users “even if no Facebook account is used to log in and if the end user isn’t a Facebook member,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

And in its pursuit of dominance, Facebook gave at least 60 device makers direct access to its users’ data. Those actions are under criminal investigation, The Times reported last week. Facebook has also engaged in campaigns to obstruct congressional oversight and to smear and discredit critics — tactics reminiscent of the big tobacco playbook.”

Elizabeth Warren Proposes Breaking Up Tech Giants Like Amazon and Facebook – The New York Times

By Astead W. Herndon
March 8, 2019, 337 c

“Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat who is bidding to be the policy pacesetter in the Democratic presidential primary, announced another expansive idea on Friday: a regulatory plan aimed at breaking up some of America’s largest tech companies, including Amazon, Google and Facebook.

The proposal — which comes on the same day Ms. Warren will hold a rally in Long Island City, the Queens neighborhood that was to be home to a major new Amazon campus — calls for the appointment of regulators who would “unwind tech mergers that illegally undermine competition,” as well as legislation that would prohibit platforms from both offering a marketplace for commerce and participating in that marketplace.

Ms. Warren’s plan would also force the rollback of some acquisitions by technological giants, the campaign said, including Facebook’s deals for WhatsApp and Instagram, Amazon’s addition of Whole Foods, and Google’s purchase of Waze. Companies would be barred from transferring or sharing users’ data with third parties. Dual entities, such as Amazon Marketplace and AmazonBasics, would be split apart.

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“I want a government that makes sure everybody — even the biggest and most powerful companies in America — plays by the rules,” Ms. Warren said in a statement. “To do that, we need to stop this generation of big tech companies from throwing around their political power to shape the rules in their favor and throwing around their economic power to snuff out or buy up every potential competitor.” “

Opinion | The Monopolization of America – by David Leonhardt – The New York Times

“The new corporate behemoths have been very good for their executives and largest shareholders — and bad for almost everyone else. Sooner or later, the companies tend to raise prices. They hold down wages, because where else are workers going to go? They use their resources to sway government policy. Many of our economic ills — like income stagnation and a decline in entrepreneurship — stem partly from corporate gigantism.

So what are we going to do about it? It’s time for another political movement, one that borrows from the Boston Tea Partiers, Jefferson, T.R. and the other defenders of the economic little guy.”

Opinion | Big Business Is Too Big – by David Leonhardt – NYT

The big airlines. The hospital systems that dominate many metro areas. Gigantic retailers like Walmart and Amazon. And, increasingly, technology companies like Facebook and Google.The United States has an oligopoly problem — a concentration of corporate power that has been building for years but is only now starting to receive serious attention from policymakers, think tanks and journalists. (Mea culpa: I’m one of the journalists who was too slow to focus on the problem.)“In nearly every sector of our economy, far fewer firms control far greater shares of their markets than they did a generation ago,” Barry Lynn and Phillip Longman wrote in Washington Monthly, back in 2010. This consolidation has helped hold down wages, raise prices and reduce job growth — while lifting corporate profits.

Corporate America Is Suppressing Wages for Many Workers – By ALAN B. KRUEGER and ERIC POSNER – NYT

“Even after eight years of economic recovery and steady private-sector job growth, wages for most Americans have hardly budged. It is tempting to think that wage stagnation is intractable, a result of long-term trends, like automation and globalization, that government is powerless to do anything about.In fact, a growing body of evidence pins much of the blame on a specific culprit, one for which proven legal weapons already exist.

But they are not being used.The culprit is “monopsony power.” This term is used by economists to refer to the ability of an employer to suppress wages below the efficient or perfectly competitive level of compensation. In the more familiar case of monopoly, a large seller — like a cable company — is able to demand high prices for poor service because consumers have no other choice. It turns out that many corporations possess bargaining power over their workers, not just over their consumers. Their workers accept low wages and substandard working conditions because few alternative job opportunities exist for them or because switching jobs is costly. In other words, in the labor market, effectively a small number of employers are competing for their labor.Monopsony power is frequently created through noncompete clauses and no-poaching agreements and is aimed at the most vulnerable workers.

Employers like Jimmy John’s have discovered that they can control and intimidate workers by putting terms in their contracts that limit their ability to find new jobs even after they leave their old one. Jimmy John’s discontinued this practice in response to public outcry and litigation, but noncompete clauses remain ubiquitous.In a new study for the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project, we report survey results in which we find that one in five workers with a high school education or less are subject to a noncompete. A quarter of all workers are covered by a noncompete agreement with their current employer or a past one.”

The Upside of Being Ruled by the Five Tech Giants – by Farhad Manjoo – NYT

“The tech giants are too big. But what if that’s not so bad?For a year and a half — and more urgently for much of the last month — I have warned of the growing economic, social and political power held by the five largest American tech companies: Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft.

Because these companies control the world’s most important tech platforms, from smartphones to app stores to the map of our social relationships, their power is growing closer to that of governments than of mere corporations. That was on stark display this week, when executives from two of the five, Facebook and Google, along with a struggling second-tier company, Twitter, testified before Congress about how their technology may have been used to influence the 2016 election.

Yet ever since I started writing about what I call the Frightful Five, some have said my very premise is off base. I have argued that the companies’ size and influence pose a danger. But another argument suggests the opposite — that it’s better to be ruled by a handful of responsive companies capable of bowing to political and legal pressure. In other words, wouldn’t you rather deal with five horse-size Zucks than 100 duck-size technoforces?”

David Lindsay Hamden, CT Pending Approval

Great reporting and analysis Farhad Manjoo. Amazon has definitely crossed the lines of propriety. Read the story of how they blackmailed Diapers.com into selling to them or going under. Amazon deserves to be broken up, and carefully regulated like a serial criminal, whose operations you often enjoy.

If the Europeans are telling the truth, Google needs severe government oversight as well. The Europeans report that Google’s searches just happen to prefer Google companies and partners.
David Lindsay blogs at InconvenientNews.wordpress.com

How the Frightful Five Put Start-Ups in a Lose-Lose Situation – The New York Times

“The tech giants are too big. But so what? Hasn’t that always been the case?As the men who run Silicon Valley will be the first to tell you, a company’s size doesn’t matter here. For every lumbering Goliath, there are always one or two smarter, faster Davids just now starting up in some fabled garage, getting ready to slay the giants when they least expect it.

So if you’re worried about the power of the Frightful Five — Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft — just look at how IBM, Hewlett-Packard or monopoly-era Microsoft fell to earth. They were all victims of “creative destruction,” of an “innovator’s dilemma,” the theories that bolster Silicon Valley’s vision of itself as a roiling sea of pathbreaking upstarts, where the very thing that made you big also makes you vulnerable.

Well, maybe not this time.”

David Lindsay Hamden, CT Pending Approval

Ever since I read the story of the Amazon’s brutal take over of Diapers.com in Bloomberg Businessweek, I have called for the breaking up of Amazon. All the little companies it blackmailed into selling themselves or get taken out by competition, should be taken away, and what is left of Amazon should not be allowed to compete with any of them for 50 years or some serious defensive number.