Not a fulsome endorsement but….

You know the argument is more or less over when The Economist agrees with you.  Or at any rate, mostly agrees with you. In this week’s edition, the following words appeared in their leader.

If the internet and some of the firms it has spawned have taken over the world, this is the result not simply of entrepreneurial brilliance but also of an implicit subsidy. In America and Europe online platforms have until now inhabited a parallel legal universe. Broadly speaking, relevant media laws—in particular the CDA—exempt them from liability for what their users do or for the harm that their services can cause.

This made sense in the early days of the internet, when it was still a sideshow. Ruinous lawsuits might have crushed then-infant digital ventures. But today online firms have come to dominate entire industries. 

Elsewhere in the same edition, in a column headed “What if large tech firms were regulated like sewage companies?” (sorry  this bit is behind their paywall so I will have to quote from it for you) certain large platforms are identified as extracting monopoly profits. The Economist thinks this means, inevitably, regulation should be  “regarded as being a long-term threat”.  Here is where The Economist and I agree but I think saying  “long-term” may only be wishful thinking. They are expressing a hope rather than a certainty.

However, ever the friend of big business, the following are advanced as defences to ward off or delay such a dreadful fate. The frankness is to be commended.

First, it is suggested the online monopolists could try

(bundling) their services so tightly that it is impossible for outsiders to isolate products that are monopolies and work out their profits and assets.”

The second tactic is to  “lobby Washington……For tech firms, financial obfuscation and cronyism are the most effective ways to ensure their monopoly profits do not go down the drain.”

I’m guessing you’d run both strategies together.

Several examples of how this has worked in the past are given but I think we can be pretty sure Silicon Valley had already worked this out.

Going back to the timescale, I can almost see it shortening before my very eyes and it would not take much for the whole thing to be put on an extremely fast track.

About John Carr

John Carr is one of the world's leading authorities on children's and young people's use of digital technologies. He is Senior Technical Adviser to Bangkok-based global NGO ECPAT International and is Secretary of the UK's Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety. John is now or has formerly been an Adviser to the Council of Europe, the UN (ITU), the EU and UNICEF. John has advised many of the world's largest technology companies on online child safety. John's skill as a writer has also been widely recognised.
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