US Dept of Justice opens investigation into Big Tech (Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc)

; Date: July 23, 2019

Tags: Amazon »»»» Facebook »»»» Google

Today the US Dept of Justice announced an investigation into "the Practices of Market-Leading Online Platforms" as Pres. Trump continues attacking Big Tech. In the past year or so, so-called Conservatives have criticized social media platforms for supposedly silencing their voices. While the DOJ press release doesn't reference that criticism, it's very likely that the two are connected.

For quite a long time Pres. Trump has kept up constant attack on "The Mainstream Media" or what he sometimes called "The Lying Press" or "Fake News Media". This is a very disturbing pattern similar to what dictators do to consolidate power. In any case, the media organizations he regularly attacks, CNN, NY Times, Washington Post, are widely regarded as solid reliable news sources.

In the tweet shown above, Pres. Trump is connecting the Washington Post and Amazon. The reason is that Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, also owns the Washington Post. For some reason Pres. Trump has been attacking Amazon on various fronts - such as demanding that Amazon pay more to the US Postal Service.

In addition for quite a long while Conservative agents have criticized Twitter, Facebook, Google, for "shadow banning" or otherwise making it harder for folks to find Conservative writings or videos. The idea is that supposedly the Big Tech companies are Liberal and therefore hate Conservatives and are seeking to destroy Conservative thought or some such nonsense. See Pres. Trump slams move to ban hate-speech mongerers like Alex Jones

The Investigation announced today isn't the first step taken by the Dept of Justice. Back in September 2018, the DoJ announced concerns that the Big Tech companies were hurting competition and stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms. Dept of Justice starts threatened attack on tech companies over supposed stifling of ideas

As I wrote at that time, these so-called Conservatives are misunderstanding how the social media platforms function. Perhaps they are purposely misunderstanding in order to further an agenda? In any case a website like Twitter or Facebook cannot show an unfiltered feed of all postings from all "friends". Any of us would be instantly buried in postings if our news feed were unfiltered.

Therefore - all the social networks use a variety of algorithms to select and sort the items to be shown. All users of social networks are seeing a filtered view.

One way the social networks are filtered is by affinity for what their algorithms discern as our interests. All these networks have on-staff artificial intelligence experts who are developing machine learning systems called "recommendation systems" or "recommender systems". The idea is that the social network is in the role of recommending what it thinks we would like to see.

Similarly YouTube has a recommender system to select the recommended videos shown on its home page. A recent interview discussed how one young man became radicalized with Alt-Right ideology because of YouTube's recommendation system. How YouTube radicalizes folks to Alt-Right views with the algorithm

Similarly Amazon and eBay have recommender systems to select products each think you may want to see.

In other words, these systems look at our behavior and use clues from what we do to select things to show us later. To see this in action, go to YouTube then watch a video on something you never watch. Then notice how YouTube keeps surfacing similar videos over the next couple months.

The complaints by Conservatives that their voices are being squished could very well be a result of these various algorithms.

It is also true that many Conservatives tend towards violent hate speech that violates the terms of service of any such platform. Many of the Alt-Right have been banned from YouTube or Twitter or Facebook over practicing this sort of speech.

Justice Department Reviewing the Practices of Market-Leading Online Platforms

Review Focuses on Practices that Create or Maintain Structural Impediments to Greater Competition and User Benefits

The Department of Justice announced today that the Department’s Antitrust Division is reviewing whether and how market-leading online platforms have achieved market power and are engaging in practices that have reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers.

The Department’s review will consider the widespread concerns that consumers, businesses, and entrepreneurs have expressed about search, social media, and some retail services online. The Department’s Antitrust Division is conferring with and seeking information from the public, including industry participants who have direct insight into competition in online platforms, as well as others.

“Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Antitrust Division. “The Department’s antitrust review will explore these important issues.”

The goal of the Department’s review is to assess the competitive conditions in the online marketplace in an objective and fair-minded manner and to ensure Americans have access to free markets in which companies compete on the merits to provide services that users want. If violations of law are identified, the Department will proceed appropriately to seek redress.

  • Topic(s): Antitrust
  • Component(s): Antitrust Division
  • Press Release Number: 19-799

Source (www.justice.gov) DOJ

About the Author(s)

David Herron : David Herron is a writer and software engineer focusing on the wise use of technology. He is especially interested in clean energy technologies like solar power, wind power, and electric cars. David worked for nearly 30 years in Silicon Valley on software ranging from electronic mail systems, to video streaming, to the Java programming language, and has published several books on Node.js programming and electric vehicles.