I’m all for making Big Tech small again and fixing the internet so that it’s not just five giant websites filled with screenshots from the other four, not to mention doing something about market dominance, corporate bullying, rampant privacy invasions and so on.
But a persistent thread in the past year’s efforts to “fix the internet” has been to pass out badly constructed regulations that only the very biggest companies can afford to comply with, making it that much harder to enact policies that might shrink those companies down to size, and ensuring that small companies will be forced out of business by compliance costs long before they grow big enough to challenge the big guys.
In a column I just published inThe Economist, I try to show how rules about harassment, sex trafficking, copyright infringement, terrorist recruiting and stopping kids from seeing porn have backfired, making the big platforms much stronger. Unless we do something about this — like clarifying patent, copyright and other rules to allow little companies to plug their tools into the big companies’ silos to help users escape them — the big platforms will only get bigger, stronger, and harder to topple.
As has been the case so often in the internet’s brief life, humanity has entered uncharted territory. People (sort of) know how to break up a railway or an oil company and America once barely managed to break up a phone company. No one is sure how to break up a tech monopolist. Depending on how this moment plays out, that option may be lost altogether.
But competition is too important to give up on.
One exciting possibility is to create an absolute legal defence for companies that make “interoperable” products that plug into the dominant companies’ offerings, from third-party printer ink to unauthorised Facebook readers that slurp up all the messages waiting for you there and filter them to your specifications, not Mark Zuckerberg’s. This interoperability defence would have to shield digital toolsmiths from all manner of claims: tortious interference, bypassing copyright locks, patent infringement and, of course, violating terms of service.
Interoperability is a competitive lever that is crying to be used, hard. After all, the problem with YouTube isn’t that it makes a lot of interesting videos available—it is that it uses search and suggestion filters that lead viewers into hateful, extreme bubbles. The problem with Facebook isn’t that they have made a place where all your friends can be found—it is that it tries to “maximise engagement” by poisoning your interactions with inflammatory or hoax material.
In a monopolised market, sellers get to bargain by fiat. But interoperability—from ad-blocking to switching app stores—is a means by which customers can assay real counteroffers.
Regulating Big Tech makes them stronger, so they need competition instead [Cory Doctorow/The Economist]
EU expert panel calls for a ban on AI-based risk-scoring and limits on mass surveillance
The EU Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on AI (AI HLEG) has tabled its Policy and investment recommendations for trustworthy Artificial Intelligence, recommending a ban on the use of machine learning technologies to generate Chinese-style Citizen Scores and limits on the use of the technology in monitoring and analyzing mass surveillance data.
READ THE REST
After viral Youtube denunciations, Germany’s establishment parties falter — so the ruling party’s leader faxed her colleagues demanding action
Ahead of this week’s EU elections, the popular German Youtuber Rezo published a 55-minute video explaining the missteps of the ruling CDU party and other establishment parties in addressing climate change, inequality, rising militarism, and internet freedom (notably, the German support for the wildly unpopular Copyright Directive), a statement he backed up with hundreds of […]
READ THE REST
Poland has asked the European Court of Justice to overturn the #CopyrightDirective
The government of Poland has filed a complaint with the European Court of Justice, arguing that the recently passed Copyright Directive amounts of a form of censorship, “forbidden not only in the Polish constitution but also in the EU treaties.”
READ THE REST
10 eLearning bundles on sale to upgrade your résumé
This Independence Day, how about getting a little more independence? We’ve got 10 e-learning bundles that can teach programming, management, data science – even guitar. And the best part is, they’re all an extra 15% off for the summer holiday. Just use the online code FIREWORK15 to take an additional 15% off the final price […]
READ THE REST
This innovative air fryer is now on sale for over 60% off
If you’re eating healthy, there are more options than ever at restaurants and at home. But we’ll bet the one thing you’re really missing is the taste of deep-fried food on the regular. If so, we’ve got your new favorite cooker: The Power Air Fryer 10-in-1 Pro Elite Oven (Certified-Refurbished). It works by circulating hot […]
READ THE REST
Take an extra 15% off this tech and household gear for the Fourth of July
The Fourth of July is nigh, and what better way to celebrate than with a little dose of capitalism? Here’s a roundup of 10 of our favorite household gadgets and tech toys, all of which are already sale priced – but you can take an extra 15% off the final cost by using the online […]