Stop The Antitrust Gerrymandering

from the make-stronger-arguments, dept

The social media app TikTok was reported to have passed more than 3 billion total downloads in July and was the most downloaded app in the first half of the year. This growth is impressive as it not only was banned in India but is the first app not owned by Facebook to pass 3 billion downloads. Yet in the recent antitrust cases from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the states attorneys general against Facebook, there is little mention of the popular app.

This omission is reminiscent of politicians gerrymandering or drawing political lines to benefit their parties? candidates in re-election. Attorneys general and federal agencies have also relied on excluding competitors or narrowly defining markets to make their cases against Google and Facebook.

The FTC led lawsuit against Facebook provides a case in point. The lawsuit accuses Facebook of having a monopoly over ?personal networking services.? The FTC argues that products like LinkedIn or Twitter are different from Facebook and shouldn?t be considered as a personal networking service. TikTok with its 3 billion downloads fails to warrant a mention.

Even with these exclusions, the FTC contends that Facebook only controls approximately 60 percent of the market yet omits whatever company or companies control the other 40 percent. Unsurprisingly the judge was unconvinced of the claim that Facebook controlled 60 percent of the market and gave the FTC 30 days to amend the complaint to show their work.

As other cases against Google move through the process, they will likely face the same struggles at convincing judges due to their gerrymandering. The most recent case filed against Google for allegedly holding a monopoly on app stores in the Android mobile operating system is another example.

The lawsuit immediately fails to pass any logical test since Android is not the only, let alone the dominant, mobile platform in the United States. Apple?s iOS has the majority of users in America and is facing its own antitrust lawsuit from Epic games over its supposed app store monopoly. The states try to get around this by claiming the market is specifically “licensable” operating systems, which excludes iOS, but that only highlights how this is gerrymandering the definition to get to a desired outcome.

Even ignoring Apple, the Android system is extremely open allowing users to download a variety of app stores and even allowing for ?sideloading? or downloading apps directly from the developers without need of an app store. The ?Freedom Phone? which uses the Android operating system and purports to protect users from ?big tech? comes preloaded with its own app store for example.

The problem with these narrow definitions is that it asks judges to ignore the world in which we actually live for ones constructed for the purpose of showing targeted tech companies are monopolies.

Other lawsuits contend that Google holds a monopoly over search when Bing and DuckDuckGo are easily accessible to anyone with an internet connection at no cost. Or that Google faces stiff competition from Facebook, Amazon, and a host of other companies to say nothing of more traditional advertisements.

Like political gerrymandering, elected officials filing these cases seem to believe there is political gain for being tough on big tech. But as with poorly drawn political maps, judges are proving more skeptical. Judges play an important role in protecting a fair in neutral system from political pressure. This is true for both elections and antitrust.

Eric Peterson is the Director if the Pelican Institute for Technology and Innovation. He currently lives in New Orleans

Filed Under: , , ,
Companies: facebook, google

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Stop The Antitrust Gerrymandering”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
20 Comments
That One Guysays:

'We pinky-promise that this case is brought in good faith...'

‘If you ignore all the evidence that proves my case wrong it is clearly right!’ seems to be the order of the day for these cases, which is not only not a good look it is only going to make it harder to win cases over actual issues in the future as legal action against the companies will be tainted by past PR stunts like this and you just know the companies will exploit that.

Anonymoussays:

Exactly! When you consider that both Facebook and Tik Tok have the repeated violations of the 2011 Facebook FTC consent decree, the whole Cambridge Analytica scandal, then you can see that… oh wait, no. Well, I mean they must be similar sized companies, because Facebook’s market cap is around $1,016 Billion, which is almost identical to Bytedance’s… um, $250 Billion, well…

Look, picking of my good friend Facebook is just unfair okay?

Anonymoussays:

Oh, the Pelican Center. They’re the corporate shill group that hates municipal broadband, despises worker’s rights, and Peterson seems to hate net neutrality given the content of this article, which also includes a friendly video chat with enemy of the open Internet Ajit Pai.. And Peterson was responsible for this moronic article that also got posted to Techdirt. Such an amazing organization to let post another piece on Techdirt and give the Center more exposure and attention.

But I digress. Onto the article.

The part about TikTok’s massive size and the antitrust cases against Facebook is whataboutism.

The issue with Android/Google is that Google has leveraged its Google Play Services in anti-competitive ways with OEMs. Europe fined them for a ton of cash after finding that it was indeed anti-competitive. I also believe that when Epic filed their suit against Google, they brought up that Google strongarmed OnePlus away from making a deal with Epic to have a sideloaded Fortnite come preloaded on some OnePlus phones.

The issue with Apple’s iOS is that it’s a walled garden. Apple’s level of control over iOS is bad for developers as well as consumers. Being able to install apps outside of the App Store on an iPhone would be a massive boon. I recall a few weeks back, there was a large spate of malware redirect ads served up on my iPhone. I would’ve loved to be able to install a version of Firefox that’s actually Firefox, instead of a reskinned Safari, and installed uBlock Origin to browse the Internet ad-free and tracker-free.

Mobile OSes being divided between Apple’s Walled Garden and Google’s "Technically open, but we’ll do everything in our power to scare you and OEMs to make sure you stay entirely within our ecosystem" is a bad situation for both consumers and developers to be in.

Google also leveraged their services in anti-competitive ways to press the thumbs in the eyes of the competition. Google blocking development of any YouTube app for the Windows Phone by moving the goalposts, including telling them to code it in HTML5 like nobody else was required to do, while simultaneously giving the green light to YouTube apps for the PlayStation Vita and the Nintendo WiiU, both of which had smaller install bases than the Windows Phone at the time.

There are also issues with how Chromium, which Google is the owner of, is becoming the default browser codebase that websites get developed to work with, and others like Firefox and more are becoming an afterthought. This isn’t good for diversity in browsers. Sure, Chromium can be forked and someone can swap to Firefox and a plethora of other browsers to get away from Google’s influence, but that doesn’t change the fact that Google is the company that’s the principle maintainer and developer of the codebase, and has wielded their other services in anti-competitive ways that should get the FTC to keep a close eye on Chromium.

All in all, this article has the same vibe as when a moronic Republican brings a snowball into the Capitol building to try and prove that climate change is fake. Other apps being popular and having other services to choose from doesn’t invalidate ongoing antitrust scrutiny of corporations that continue to engage in sketchy behavior. Between this piece, the piece by Albrecht on Wednesday, and other corporate-think-tank written arguments against antitrust that’ve been published on TD, it’s kinda sus.

Anonymoussays:

Re:

Do you have some kind of survey or study that shows how many Apple users wish they would throw the doors to their app store wide open? I get why developers hate it, but I’m confident many Apple users would actually be upset if they did that. There is a whole lot of garbage in the Google play store that comes along with the freedom and they likely also perceive the Apple store as safer. No clue if someone has actually researched this but I will go look now too.

madasahattersays:

Re: Re:

I agree. I do not think most consumers are concerned about the percentage Apple, et. al. take from the price. Nor are most wanting to sideload an app. Most of the squawking about app stores come from those who want sideloading to be very easy and developers. The first do not realize the app store serves an imperfect source of apps for users. A source much better than searching the ‘net for an app. The second are mostly complaining about the haircut they are taking at the store.

Thadsays:

A company doesn’t have to be a monopoly to engage in anticompetitive behavior. You’re conflating antitrust with monopoly — they’re related, but they’re not the same thing. (Hint: how do you suppose a company becomes a monopoly?)

I also can’t say as I’m impressed by the "gerrymandering" metaphor. "Gerrymandering definitions"? Sounds to me like somebody’s gerrymandering the definition of "gerrymandering".

NaBUru38says:

Hello, I share Eric’s concerns that politicians are selectively drawing their definitions of markets according to they political motivations.

I also agree that these so-called monopolies aren’t always such. Obvious examples are social networks and search engines, where there are many to choose from.

However, I disagree that that lack of monopolies means that governments should let these companies do whatever they wish.

Many of these companies abuse their market power (which should be measured in daily users and revenue) and do anti-competitive practices to keep competitors away.

  • It’s impossible to download your profile history from one social network and migrate it to another.
  • Facebook, Google, Amazon, TikTok and other companies sell your most intimate information to the highest bidder.
  • Apple bans companies from selling apps outside their own app store.
  • Not to mention political donations (aka bribes) and megamergers.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...
Older Stuff
13:40 It's Great That Winnie The Pooh Is In The Public Domain; But He Should Have Been Free In 1982 (Or Earlier) (35)
12:06 Norton 360 Now Comes With Crypto Mining Capabilities And Sketchy Removal Process (28)
10:45 Chinese Government Dragnet Now Folding In American Social Media Platforms To Silence Dissent (14)
10:40 Daily Deal: The 2022 Ultimate Cybersecurity Analyst Preparation Bundle (0)
09:29 A Fight Between Facebook And The British Medical Journal Highlights The Difficulty Of Moderating 'Medical Misinformation' (9)
06:29 Court Ruling Paves The Way For Better, More Reliable Wi-Fi (4)
20:12 Eighth Circuit (Again) Says There's Nothing Wrong With Detaining Innocent Minors At Gunpoint (15)
15:48 China's Regulatory War On Its Gaming Industry Racks Up 14k Casualties (10)
13:31 Chinese Government Fines Local Car Dealerships For Surveilling While Not Being The Government (5)
12:08 Eric Clapton Pretends To Regret The Decision To Sue Random German Woman Who Listed A Bootleg Of One Of His CDs On Ebay (29)
10:44 ICE Is So Toxic That The DHS's Investigative Wing Is Asking To Be Completely Separated From It (29)
10:39 Daily Deal: The 2022 Complete Raspberry Pi And Arduino Developer Bundle (0)
09:31 Google Blocked An Article About Police From The Intercept... Because The Title Included A Phrase That Was Also A Movie Title (24)
06:22 Wireless Carriers Balk At FAA Demand For 5G Deployment Delays Amid Shaky Safety Concerns (16)
19:53 Tenth Circuit Denies Qualified Immunity To Social Worker Who Fabricated A Mother's Confession Of Child Abuse (35)
15:39 Sci-Hub's Creator Thinks Academic Publishers, Not Her Site, Are The Real Threat To Science, And Says: 'Any Law Against Knowledge Is Fundamentally Unjust' (34)
13:32 Federal Court Tells Proud Boys Defendants That Raiding The Capitol Building Isn't Covered By The First Amendment (25)
12:14 US Courts Realizing They Have A Judge Alan Albright Sized Problem In Waco (17)
10:44 Boston Police Department Used Forfeiture Funds To Hide Purchase Of Surveillance Tech From City Reps (16)
10:39 Daily Deal: The Ultimate Microsoft Excel Training Bundle (0)
09:20 NY Senator Proposes Ridiculously Unconstitutional Social Media Law That Is The Mirror Opposite Of Equally Unconstitutional Laws In Florida & Texas (25)
06:12 Telecom Monopolies Are Exploiting Crappy U.S. Broadband Maps To Block Community Broadband Grant Requests (7)
12:00 Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of 2021 At Techdirt (17)
10:00 Gaming Like It's 1926: Join The Fourth Annual Public Domain Game Jam (6)
09:00 New Year's Message: The Arc Of The Moral Universe Is A Twisty Path (33)
19:39 DHS, ICE Begin Body Camera Pilot Program With Surprisingly Good Policies In Place (7)
15:29 Remembering Techdirt Contributors Sherwin And Elliot (1)
13:32 DC Metro PD's Powerful Review Panel Keeps Giving Bad Cops Their Jobs Back (6)
12:11 Missouri Governor Still Expects Journalists To Be Prosecuted For Showing How His Admin Leaked Teacher Social Security Numbers (39)
10:48 Oversight Board Overturning Instagram Takedown Of Ayahuasca Post Demonstrates The Impossibility Of Content Moderation (10)
More arrow
This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it