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Why Trustbusting Big Tech is a Bad Idea

Ryan Young on the DOJ’s latest Anti-Trust Lawsuit

What do Elizabeth Warren and Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) have in common? They both want to break up Big Tech.

Last month, the DOJ filed the highest-profile antitrust lawsuit since the Microsoft case of the late 90s, highlighting conservatives’ ongoing concerns about bias, censorship, and even election meddling by Big Tech — specifically Google. There’s no doubt that social media giants like Twitter and Google have increasingly begun muting certain voices, including the nation’s oldest newspaper, The New York Post, and even the President himself.

The post-election frenzy to take control of the narrative is further inflaming the debate, with conservatives loudening their calls for trustbusting action — a la the railroads and Standard Oil in the 19th-century.

Ryan Young, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, warns that categorizing Google et al. as monopolies subject to heavy-handed regulation would be a mistake, especially with the possibility of an incoming Biden administration.

Ryan dissects claims that the media — facilitated by Big Tech — is colluding with the Biden campaign to sway the election. Ryan expands on his “Case Against Antitrust” in the current context, and we will take your calls any time during the hour.

Although, it’s clear that “Big Tech” companies like Google, Apple and Twitter are in the tank for the Democrats, their bias poses no serious obstacle to staying informed as long as you diversify your news sources and listen to independent shows like this one. There is no great threat to competition in the market for news and information — to the contrary, the internet has given us more options than we could have dreamed of.

Don’t miss it.


Bob Zadek: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to The Bob Zadek Show, the longest running live libertarian talk radio show on all of radio. The elections are kind of over, more or less. They might be over in January after the Georgia run-offs are finished. Maybe then we’ll know who’s going to rule over us for the next two years, and at least perhaps four years, we’ll see.

So I need a little break from partisanship. I thought I’d select a topic this morning that affects every American. Every single person is affected by this issue all of the time. Nobody knows who to root for. The Department of Justice in Washington, DC has just filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google. In the lawsuit, Department of Justice versus Google. It affects free speech rights.

Perhaps it affects antitrust and anti-competitive business practices.

Remember the flap a couple of weeks ago between Jack Dorsey and Ted Cruz, and the Republican administration and Twitter involving Twitter’s banning and censoring the New York Post’s attempt to post on their Twitter feed information about Biden’s son and Biden? They got blocked by Twitter and the word censorship was bandied about.

Ted Cruz dragged Jack Dorsey before Congress and gave him a tongue lashing and a scolding that got a lot of publicity. We have Ted Cruz or the federal government on the one hand, and Twitter on the other. Who are you rooting for? These questions of who you’re rooting for are nonpartisan. The answer of who you are rooting for doesn’t depend upon what party you’re on. It would be so interesting and helpful to my friends out there to do a deep dive into all of the antitrust news in the media to understand really what’s going on so at least you know who to root for. With that introduction, I am delighted to welcome back to the show, Ryan Young.

Ryan is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. He spends lots of his time worrying about regulatory reform, trade regulation, antitrust regulation, and other issues that affect all of us. And these issues do affect all of us. Ryan has recently written an article called “Google Antitrust Lawsuit: Heavy on Politics, Weak on Legal Merits.” He will explain to us all that’s going on in the somewhat arcane but profoundly important area of antitrust legislation and regulation. Ryan, welcome back to the show again, good morning.

Ryan Young: Good morning, Bob. Thanks so much for having me back. I always love doing your show.

Antitrust Law: An Overview

Bob Zadek: Now, let’s sort of tee up the issues. We have parallel issues which, other than antitrust concerns, don’t have much in common on their legal merits, but they have a lot in common politically. Both of these battlegrounds have a lot to teach us about how we feel about censorship, antitrust regulation, what is good for the consumers and what is good for America.

So Ryan, in a few words, as we get into the topic of anti-trust, first of all, what’s wrong with a trust? If we are antitrust, trust must be bad. How absurd is that? A trust is just a type of legal entity. So tell us in the broadest sense about the subject of anti-trust legislation. What is the goal of federal antitrust regulation? What’s wrong with trusts? What is the real target?

Ryan Young: Here is where it gets complicated, right at the beginning. Anti-trusts law doesn’t actually have a single goal. Some people want to use any trust law to reduce concentrated power. If a company’s too big, maybe it can subvert democracy, promote inequality, and make America a less pleasant place to live. Other people view anti-trust law as a way to protect the consumer, and this is how anti-trust law works today. It doesn’t matter if a company gets big or powerful or dominates its market as long as it doesn’t hurt consumers. It isn’t necessarily bad as long as it does what it does well and helps consumers.

Other people view antitrust law as something else entirely. Republicans, for example, have changed their stance on antitrust to where they want to use it to regulate political speech. That is what the Twitter flap is about.

Bob Zadek: So historically, people associate antitrust law and antitrust regulation, with the concept of monopoly. I recall back to what I was taught in my economics education in high school and college, I was taught that Standard Oil and the banks and the railroads all had monopolies. I was taught that a monopoly was per se, bad, and the government would exist to attack and tear apart monopolies. Monopolies gave private businesses power over marketplaces, and they therefore could take advantage of consumers by using improper practices to keep out competition and charge consumers high prices for junky goods, and consumers had no choice because there was no competition.

So does antitrust focus directly on monopoly, or just bigness, per se?

Ryan Young: The law is incoherent on that, we’re going to be saying that a lot. A monopoly can raise prices and squeeze supply at the same time because they can get away with it if they have the market power to do that. Usually, if you raise prices, the competitor is going to sneak in. So if you can do that, and squeeze the supply, make less of it, but make a super high profit margin and no one else can come in because you have that market power all to yourself, that is what is considered a monopoly for most antitrust case purposes. Those are very rare in economic history. In fact, the only examples we have are ones that have been supported by the government, whether it’s the East India Trading Company, or AT&T more recently. Those are about the only examples you can’t have a monopoly as most people define it. Without government help, markets just do not sustain monopolies for long term.

“In fact, the only examples [of monopoly] we have are ones that have been supported by the government, whether it’s the East India Trading Company, or AT&T more recently.”

Bob Zadek: One of the challenges even in attacking an alleged monopoly is, before you attack a company for monopolizing per se, you have to identify the market. If you define the market broadly enough, then no company has a monopoly. If you define it narrowly enough, then many companies have a monopoly. Even the concept of Monopoly is almost incapable of being defined. Isn’t the definition of the market, think Amazon, a key component of trying to appreciate whether a company does enjoy monopoly power?

Ryan Young: That’s exactly right. That is what I call the “relevant market fallacy.” In any case, usually the first thing that the government and the companies squabble about is what’s the size of the relevant market.

Not too long ago, Sirius and XM merged and the government was looking into blocking it because they said, “you guys are going to monopolize the satellite radio market,” which is true. However, that’s not the relevant market. The relevant market is actually much, much bigger. They compete with terrestrial radio. They compete with streaming music services like Spotify, they compete with audiobooks, they compete with CDs people have in their car, for those of us with older cars. The relevant market is huge, and they do not dominate it. We’ve seen that in a decade since that merger has happened that they have a monopoly over satellite radio but the media marketplace is still diverse, and it is healthy and has had no deleterious effect on competition.

The government was right to leave that one case alone despite their initial squabbling over the relevant market fallacy.

Ryan Young’s Ideal World of Zero Antitrust Law

Bob Zadek: Now you have spoken and written often about antitrust legislation, legislation that attacks companies merely because of their size. So in your perfect world, would there be no antitrust regulation? Would that word simply leave the vocabulary? And if so, does that pose a risk to consumers?

Ryan Young: I would repeal the whole kit and caboodle, because a lot of objections to concentrated power, which I share, are best dealt with through other means. A lot of times what people are upset about isn’t an issue of competition. The AT&T monopoly was propped up by the government. For a long time until the late 60s, attached a separate non AT&T or non Western Electric made answer machine to your phone line, AT&T could go after you with lawyers and win. There was no good reason for that. No market monopoly could ever get away with that, it was only because they had government backing. Markets don’t put up with that sort of thing but the government can enforce them.

Usually antitrust is in fact itself cronyism. When we have those kinds of rules, companies can game them. The Sherman Act was passed in 1990 but in the decades before that, there were actually 19 states that passed their own state level antitrust laws. Those happened because right around that time there were two brand new technologies that came out.

“Usually antitrust is in fact itself cronyism.”

You had a national railroad network that was maturing, and you had refrigeration. And what that caused was very large farm producers emerging, because they could stick meats and grains and things in railroad cars, keep them refrigerated and fresh, haul them long distances very quickly. That kind of arrangement is good for large producers that can make more goods shipping farther, faster, more cheaply. It’s good for consumers. And because consumers started choosing those over smaller producers that didn’t have those cost advantages, the smaller farmers who have been hurt got together and lobbied legislators to pass laws, not to build up their own businesses, but to tear down the new businesses. They captured legislators, they use regulations to their own advantage to benefit their businesses.

The Sherman Act from the start was essentially a national version of that. It’s cronyism all the way down. And that’s how anti-trust works in practice. That’s why I say getting rid of it all together.

Does Antitrust Protect Consumers or Competitors, or Both?

Bob Zadek: I’m so glad you mentioned that, Ryan, because that points out another area of examination — an area of inquiry and an area of confusion.

Should antitrust attacking bigness, per se, protect other businesses, the would-be competitors who can’t compete against Walmart because of size? Or, should it only protect consumers?

I believe, historically, antitrust legislation was based upon protecting consumers. Therefore, if a company monopolized and as a result consumers are getting really good stuff at a really cheap price, but competitors cannot get into the market, should that and does that draw the attention of regulators, or does antitrust regulation not care about other businesses who cannot compete?

Ryan Young: Antitrust law should care about the competitive process, not about individual competitors. If Walmart comes into town, and small businesses go out of business, Walmart didn’t put them out of business, consumers did. They made a choice. If Walmart jacks up its prices, they don’t have a monopoly because they don’t have that ability. Someone else will come in and benefit consumers if Walmart increases their prices. Consumers are the ones who are in charge here, not a big company. So while I oppose concentrated power, that’s not an example of it.

Bob Zadek: Antitrust regulation should never be used to protect other businesses who are competing out of the marketplace. I couldn’t agree more. Take what we have just developed in the few short seconds we have spent examining antitrust regulation, per se. Let’s talk about the Federal Government Department of Justice filing a lawsuit, somewhat in a hurry with a lot of politics involved that Ryan will explain to us filed the antitrust lawsuit against Google. Let’s give DOJ the benefit of the doubt only for a few seconds, Ryan, and make the best case for them. What’s the problem that DOJ found enough to bring a lawsuit against Google?

Ryan Young: It’s about two things. The first is that Google has a very large market share with its search engine. You have Bing and you have Duck Duck go. It’s rumored that Apple is in the early stages of building its own search engine. None of those are very popular. And Apple’s doesn’t even exist yet. Google’s market share for its narrowly defined search category is 85%–90%, depending on whose numbers you use, that is overwhelming, and they can use that anyway they please, the Justice Department argues.

In fact, one of the one of complaints a lot of conservatives have is that Google is using it to bias its search results against conservatives and to censor conservative ideas.

The other area is advertising. Google has enormous power over the digital advertising market. They have more than a two thirds share of online advertising. The Justice Department argues that it’s too much power for one company to have, that is too lucrative a revenue source and Google can use that power in unsavory ways. Those are the two facets of the search engine and the advertising dominance.

Bob Zadek: Six times you use the word “power.” Where in any founding document is the mission to have the government attack power simply because it exists? I can understand attacking power where one entity is harming another.

“Where in any founding document is the mission to have the government attack power simply because it exists?”

I understand that, of course, they should attack that to protect us from others who wish to harm us. Wealthy people have more power than less wealthy people. NFL team owners have lots of power that I will never dream to have. You can’t allocate power evenly among all players in the marketplace. So of course, some companies will have lots and lots of power. Some companies have power simply because they are credible, The Wall Street Journal, which enjoys a fine reputation for quality journalism. By dint of it having a good product, it has lots of power, people trust it. Amazon perhaps has lots of power. What you seem to be saying is that the mere fact that Google has power is a reason for the lawsuit.

Ryan Young: I would argue instead that Google doesn’t have very much power at all. One part of the case is that Google pays lots of money to Apple and to smartphone companies to make its browser the default, which means people will never use anything else. In fact, it pays Apple $8 to $12 billion every year, just to make its Google search engine the default in iPhones. And that’s part of the complaint because that gives Google power. But I would argue that Google doesn’t have very much power at all, you and I are much more powerful than Google. And here’s why.

“You and I are much more powerful than Google.”

The example comes from the last big tech antitrust case, the Microsoft case, that was over Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser. Microsoft tied it into its Windows operating system and made it the default and even made it so people could not get rid of it or uninstall it if they preferred to use something else. What happened was that even though Microsoft, at that time had a dominating market share of the internet browser market within a couple years of that lawsuit which ended essentially in a draw, with very few actions taken, you had Mozilla Firefox taking over, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Microsoft Internet Explorer and its successor, which is called Microsoft Edge which still exists. So they are still the default option for Windows computers but very few people use them. It’s a very diverse marketplace.

The reason the default status that Microsoft had and was the subject of a multibillion dollar antitrust suit is because Microsoft never actually had power. Consumers did. As soon as something else came along that they liked better consumers had the power to change.

The reason Google’s on top right now is because people prefer to use it. If you want to use something else, if you prefer Bing, or DuckDuckGo, and in a few years time, people may well, they might also prefer Apple’s forthcoming option, you have, all you have to do is what I call the “dozen keystrokes argument.” It’s not difficult to type into your browser, even if it’s Google’s Chrome browser, it’ll still take you there to use that search engine. Google doesn’t have the power here, consumers do. And that’s why I don’t think the antitrust case is well founded.

DOJ’s Case against Google: The “Censorship” Issue

Bob Zadek: You mentioned censorship as one of the issues which caused DOJ to start to file this lawsuit against Google. Tell me more about censorship. I always understood that only a government could censor as that word is generally understood. Google has no obligation to publish anything. Its obligation is only to its users. If Google doesn’t give good enough information it will be vulnerable to competition. Just like Netflix decides what movies to carry, and its decision not to carry a movie could be called censorship by the producers of the movie that’s not carried, it is not censorship. Netflix is making a business decision.

What is the DOJ complaining about when they use the concept of censorship in their attack against Google?

Ryan Young: That is not part of complaints. Only governments can censor. If Google or Facebook or Twitter says we are not going to spread a story, they can’t take down the website that took down that story. Again, the dozen keystrokes argument. It is not very difficult to type in, or, or to find the content that you want. You might have to be a little more savvy, but it’s not like you have a government with the force of law, clamping down on new sources. That’s not happening. People are not being silenced. Private platforms are saying we don’t want that content here. Maybe they’re making a mistake.

In many cases, I think they are making mistakes. But that’s not a legal issue because we have the First Amendment. Facebook, or Twitter, or Google cannot clamp down on content, all they can do is refuse to distribute it on their private platform. And that is a distinction that a lot of people don’t make anymore. And that makes me a little sad about the state of free speech in this country. Usually you have at least one party who favors it. In the last four years, we have found that neither party is willing to defend free speech. You are supposed to defend speech that’s unpopular and that you disagree with. We’re not seeing that these days. I find that disheartening. It’s not an antitrust issue. But it’s still a very important issue.

Bob Zadek: We’re going to discuss free speech when we discuss the parallel antitrust conversation happening around Twitter’s misbehavior. So you’re quite right about free speech.

It would be interesting for consumers to compare the Google search engine against the competition. When I run a search, whether it’s a political search or not, it is fascinating to perform the identical search with two or three search engines, and compare the results, which you easily can do, because you are the one who is doing the searching, and see if you find that one search engine gives you the content you want. You can make a buying decision and make that search engine the default. It’s an interesting mind exercise.

The Uncertain Future of Tech Post-Lawsuit

Bob Zadek: Now, before we leave the subject of Google I want to help all listeners understand why they care. Can you tell what a victory looks like for the DOJ? How would the world have Google and other search engines be different if DOJ got exactly what they wanted?

Ryan Young: They never specified that in the complaint. That is one of the biggest problems with the case. In fact, a lot of career staff at the Justice Department who have been building up the case against Google for a year or longer at this point were not happy with the complaint coming out so soon. The timing was politicized by Attorney General Bill Barr, who wanted it out before the election, and he got it but the price is that the complaint is very weak.

Career staff were so upset that some left the case and refused to sign on to it and protest over how shoddy they believe the case was. When I looked over the case, the career staff was right. It doesn’t specify what kind of remedy they want. Some people want to break Google up into different firms one, one side would handle search and other would handle Google Maps or whatever. There are lots of ways to do that. Other people want to split it up into two separate but equal companies, two competing search engines that will then compete against each other going forward. They don’t specify it. When you want to oppose concentrated power, you should at least have an endgame in mind.

Google & Advertising: Not a “Monopoly”

Bob Zadek: Please share with us what you would like about advertising.

Ryan Young: Google doesn’t charge its users. So how did it become nearly a trillion dollar company? Because it charges advertisers. Newspapers are upset that Google and Facebook and companies like them are stealing away ad revenue. Remember what we said about the definition of Monopoly. If you have that kind of power, you’re able to raise prices, squeeze the supply, and get away with it. So what has happened to advertising prices in the last decade. Facebook and Google have combined to capture over two thirds of online advertising just between themselves, so advertising has been cut in half in the last decade.

Not only that, but at the same time, print advertising prices have been going up. Some newspapers are charging double what they used to for advertising.

Now, if Google and Facebook had the kind of concentrated monopoly power that should be fought, they wouldn’t be cutting their prices in half, nor would they be spending billions of dollars in research and development to improve their algorithms — their product — as well as their advertising services. What you have here is the opposite of monopoly, what you have is a vibrant competitive process.

“Now, if Google and Facebook had the kind of concentrated monopoly power that should be fought, they wouldn’t be cutting their prices in half.”

So again, on both fronts, whether it is the search engine dominance or the dozen keystrokes argument, or the relevant market fallacy or the digital advertising side, we have falling prices. The case is weak. The Justice Department’s career staff are right.

Bob Zadek: The only one who is hurt here seems to be the government, who likes to be the most powerful enterprise around and jealousy protects its power from others who by lawful means have also acquired power, whatever that word even means. So this is an antitrust action where the government doesn’t want the competition from private enterprise.

If anybody is exercising monopoly power, it is those at DOJ, who are taking advantage of their monopoly power to get rid of competition for the attention of Americans. If Google is behaving badly, its bad behavior is in jiggling search results to accomplish their political purposes. Well, that goes to the quality of the result. We have already discussed that on this show.

I invite people to comparison shop searches. If you find that Google is cooking the search books, you will just leave them and the marketplace will punish Google, because Google has no monopoly on the data. Everybody has access to the data. It is how you produce the results. That is Google’s deliverable. And if we find the results are lower quality, we will just leave Google.

The Laptop from Hell & A Cardinal Rule of Politics

Bob Zadek :I’d like to segue right into a related antitrust issue involving Twitter. This all came to light when the New York Post released a story relating to Hunter Biden’s laptop left at a repair shop. It found its way to Rudy Giuliani and found its way to the DOJ, which found emails on it that could be politically damaging to Joe Biden. It was believed to profoundly affect election results.

The New York Post, a 200 year-old paper, founded by Alexander Hamilton, released the information from on his Twitter feed, and Twitter then blocked it, saying it was hacked material and violated their policy. They later apologized after censoring this information.

Jack Dorsey and others were dragged before Congress and Ted Cruz publicly scolded Dorsey and complained about Dorsey’s power. Ted Cruz said “Who elected you, Mr. Dorsey?”

Dorsey didn’t have a really good answer. It was antitrust regulation that was bandied about as the threat against Twitter. Tell us about the gross misuse of antitrust in the Twitter case and tell us about the free speech issues that are alleged to be involved.

Ryang Young: I find it almost unbelievable how short-sighted Republicans are being about this. Suppose they are right that a lot of tech companies do have a in-house bias in their product. Republicans are proposing to gear up a large antitrust and speech regulation machine, precisely as they hand the keys over to Democrats. Democrats are going to use this power against Republicans. I can’t believe how short-sighted that is.

“Republicans are proposing to gear up a large antitrust and speech regulation machine, precisely as they hand the keys over to Democrats… I can’t believe how short-sighted that is.”

I’ll just remind our politically-astute listeners that it didn’t work when Harry Reid did that. He compromised certain long time norms in the Senate dealing with the use of the supermajority required to ratify the appointment to federal judges. That came back to haunt him. That was the same issue. If you start fussing around with the rules you are handing the keys to the kingdom to the other guys when they take power.

Bob Zadek: That is exactly right. I was picking on Republicans on that issue. It is a thoroughly bipartisan issue and both parties are guilty of it. A cardinal rule of politics is never give yourself powers you wouldn’t want the other side to have. Neither party follows this rule.

What I thought of when you said, “Never give yourself power that you wouldn’t want the other guy to have,” is that in American history, the Office of the President was given in many ways broad powers of foreign policy, commander in chief and the like, and that was done because everybody kind of knew who the President was going to be. It is Washington, a man above reproach in all respects. But Presidents of that quality were not always the president after Washington. Even the founders may have been guilty of assuming that every President was going to be of Washington’s caliber. I just had to sneak that in, Ryan.

The Case against Twitter

Bob Zadek: What is the antitrust and free speech beef that right now the Republicans have against Twitter? The attack on social media and censorship may have a bipartisan edge even though right now, the social media seems to be primarily progressive. What’s the government versus Twitter complaint?

Ryan Young: There is no antitrust angle. There are some very creative legal minds working now to find some, but it is ultimately not a question of monopoly power, because of the dozen keystrokes argument we discussed earlier. I have yet to hear a good response to that. I’ve talked to a lot of people, I’ve read a lot of articles about this, and I’ve yet to hear a good rebuttal.

In fact, one of my coworkers is an iPhone user. I’m an Android user. We mentioned earlier that Google pays Apple as much as $12 billion a year to make its search engine that default. On iPhones, if you don’t like Google, and if you’d rather use something else that says it better fits your ideological profile, it takes three taps on a screen to change search engines. This collapses in an antitrust argument. Republicans want to regulate political speech in their favor. Now that the executive branch is transitioning to the Democrats, they’re going to do the same thing.

“Republicans want to regulate political speech in their favor.”

They’re going to take the precedents that Republicans have set they’re going to take the new power that Republicans are gearing up to themselves. Instead they are going to use it against Republicans and for themselves. This short political shortsightedness could have ended up having disastrous long-term consequences against companies that don’t have monopoly power.

Consumers are the people who decide whether Twitter and Facebook and Google rise and fall. People come up with better ways to do these things. Why did Google emerge over giants like Yahoo, and AltaVista? Because they did it better. Facebook did it better than MySpace. Every day there are new startups that might end up being something that people prefer. Because of the dozen keystrokes arguments, it is very easy to switch over. Government should not regulate political speech.

I have very few absolutes in my political beliefs. I reject certainty in all its forms. But one of those absolutes is freedom of speech, the government should not regulate speech.

Bob Zadek: What is the alleged governmental interest in what Twitter did or did not do, specifically with the New York Post blocked Twitter feed, and more generally with the allegation that Twitter is somehow carrying out its political beliefs by adjusting how people use Twitter? What’s going on behind the scenes? What’s the alleged governmental interest in what Twitter does? How could the government care what a private business does?

Ryan Young: The government should not care and that that is for a couple of reasons. Twitter made a mistake when they censored the Hunter Biden story that the New York Post published. Other media outlets, including some owned by the same parent company, NewsCorp, such as the Wall Street Journal, thought the story was not adequately sourced. I don’t have an opinion on that matter. Twitter clearly did.

If I was running Twitter, I would have let the story through. People are competent to decide for themselves I think. Twitter’s content moderators thought differently. That is a business decision and businesses make mistakes all the time. I don’t think that should be a legal issue because it is a speech issue. Government should not censor speech. So Twitter is free to make its own mistakes. If anything, the publicity surrounding the muting of the Hunter Biden story resulted in a Streisand effect, it actually doubled the stories reached and stayed in the news cycle for days, instead of dying quietly. So if anything, the content moderator, Twitter, amplified the story, instead of muting it.

The Relevancy of the “Streisand Effect,” and Section 203

Bob Zadek: Explain to our listeners what the “Streisand Effect” means.

Ryan Young: Barbra Streisand is a famous singer who was well known for her political activism, especially on behalf of poverty, which made her a little embarrassed when a tabloid ran a photo of a very opulent beachfront home. She was embarrassed by that, and she actually sued to stop the paper from running that photo. What happened is that again, while the story would have died on its own very quietly and a few people might have had a chuckle at Streisand’s hypocrisy and left it at that. Instead, she amplified the stories as more people found out about it, more people had a laugh at her expense, and it backfired. That is called the “Streisand effect.”

Bob Zadek: To summarize where we are with the federal government dusting off a very old and somewhat powerful tool of antitrust litigation to enforce the statute. The present attacks on Google are unsupportable on the basis of antitrust legislation. It may be that the only possible interest of the government is an arcane law entitled Section 230. Under existing legislation, Twitter and Facebook and Google, are free to do whatever they want from an editorial standpoint. They are not allowed to exercise editorial control over what other people publish in their electronic platforms.

Once they start editorializing and making editorial judgments, then a different body of law is triggered and they can be liable for defamation and things of that nature, which means they have litigation exposure, which means the cost of doing business goes up. So they are definitely afraid of being accused of exercising editorial control, of being like a newspaper and deciding what gets printed. That’s the legal battle that’s going on. Other than that, there is no antitrust issue as you see it. So Ryan, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. I love talking about antitrust. Of course, it’s so murky and so old fashioned, and the public never knows who to root for.

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Originally published at on November 4, 2020.



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