Zuckerberg cannot be allowed to control the future of the Internet
J:ohn Oliver’s master explanation of technological monopolies— and how Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is blocking legislation for them to reign in is must-see TV for anyone who cares about innovation and competition in America. He explained in detail how Apple, Google and Amazon are using their core products and their market share to crush competitors and enter new businesses while taking advantage of everyday Americans.
It’s easy for anyone to see that it’s unfair when Amazon copies bag, which is gaining popularity on its website and offers its own, identical version through Amazon Basics. This is one example of the “self-preference” used to describe the behavior of monopolists who take control of a market to the detriment of players in that market, which Mr. Oliver ably described.
But Oliver didn’t talk about Metta, who is likely the biggest winner if Sen. Chuck Schumer decides not to raise his actually keep American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICO), bipartisan reform legislation currently before the Senate that would limit market owners’ ability to exercise their power over market participants. For example: Amazon has been accused of copying top sellers on its marketplace and then using its control of the platform to drive traffic to its copy.
Meta’s platforms—Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp—operate markets that are, at first glance, different from those of Google, Amazon, and Apple. So why does Meta put it? unprecedented resources in murder AICO, which appears to be targeting the other Big Tech Monopolies. Because, like other Big Tech monopolies, Meta is using its own preference to undermine the viability of the smaller companies that depend on it.
AICO threatens to expose Meta’s little-known anti-competitive practices. For example, Facebook blocks users on its chat platforms from communicating with users on other chat platforms. One chat startup CEO says “There’s very little innovation in chat” because companies like Facebook “block people from using their products.” You don’t have to take that CEO’s word for it. Facebook for real to cut Another messaging service’s access to its infrastructure for fear it could become a competitor.
The deeper reason why Meta is fighting AICO tooth and nail is this. AICO will be an obstacle for Meta to realize its long-term goal of controlling what Mark Zuckerberg describes as the next Internet revolution: metaversion.
From 2006 to 2009, I was Zuckerberg’s advisor. I also led my company’s early investments in Facebook. Since then, I written and: spoken (again and: again) about how the company has lost its way, how its culture, business practices, and algorithms are undermining public health, democracy, privacy, and competition in our economy.
In over forty years in technology, I’ve witnessed the industry transform from a culture of empowering customers with technology to exploiting human weakness. An industry that was once dynamic and revolutionary is now controlled by half a dozen monopolies whose idea of innovation is to add enough functionality to keep customers locked up. In many ways, Facebook is the poster child for that change. His journey from dorm room startup to trillion dollar company took just sixteen years.
Along the way, Facebook created a whole new industry, giving people really new and useful products. Now it’s behaving the way aging monopolists always do, protecting its turf, copying the best ideas from emerging players and exploiting consumers instead of serving them. I had a front row seat to the transformation, and I’m here to tell you that Zuckerberg needs to be stopped.
The transformation of America’s technology industry from an engine of growth to a collection of parasitic monopolies has occurred over the past fifteen years, slowly at first, then decisively. This happened at a time when there is almost no control over tech companies. Facebook rose to the top of our economy by destroying potential rivals WhatsApp and Instagram before they posed a real threat, allowing it to corner the global market in both messaging and photo sharing, creating giant moats to extend its social monopoly and to protect. media.
Facebook later added the Stories feature, copied from its smaller rival Snapchat, and was able to corner the market with a new way of sharing photos and videos made possible by its ownership of Instagram. Facebook confessIf that strategy is replicated, try to look and feel more like TikTok, hoping to prevent this emerging competitor from loosening its social media monopoly.
Last fall, Facebook suddenly changed its name to Meta, and Zuckerberg gave a demo of the metaverse, which he described as “the next chapter of the Internet.” The timing was unexpected and seemed rushed. As it came in the wake of whistleblower Francis Haugen’s world-shattering revelations, analysts like myself speculated that the name change was a desperate effort to change the subject. It worked great.
When Zuckerberg says he wants to create “immersive, 24/7 experiences” and sayThe metaverse will “become the main way we live our lives and spend our time,” what he’s actually saying is that he’ll build a platform where every participant, from users to corporate partners to merchants, will be at his mercy. If AICO is not accepted, Meta will be able to disrupt the business of any company or manipulate the choice of any user in the metaverse. AICO’s philosophy is that a company must be able to own a market or participate in a market, but not both.
Meta has an incentive to be open in the early days of the metaverse to attract partners and users, but Facebook’s history suggests that once it reaches critical mass, the company will engage in anti-competitive behavior. The most likely endgame is a metaverse where you can only participate with Oculus VR technology, which already belongs to Meta; log in only with a Facebook account already owned by Meta; only chat with Messenger, which already belongs to Meta; and pay for coffee with WhatsApp’s new payment feature, also owned by Meta. Meta will likely repeat its past behavior of buying the most promising innovators around the metaverse and then use its market power to bury the rest, just like Google and Amazon have done with their platforms.
It is not in the world’s best interest for any one Big Tech firm or company to control the “next chapter” of the Internet. But that is exactly what is likely if we continue to sit on our hands.
The good news is that Schumer can partially rein in Zuckerberg and other tech monopolists with the snap of a finger. AICO will drive technological innovation and give consumers better products by suppressing self-preference. The Senate Judiciary Committee has already approved it in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote. The bill is polling well in red and blue states.
Senator Schumer can and should call a vote on AICO. In doing so, he has the opportunity to make the Internet better and sharpen America’s technological advantage.
Will he take the opportunity or do Big Tech’s bidding?
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