Regulating Facebook and Google

steve-bannon-435-1

I saw this and went uh-oh. Bannon wants to regulate companies like Google and Facebook. Maybe not completely but a part of them. Regulation in small steps eats away at freedoms just as much as one big regulation. And it’s more insidious because we don’t notice it, or we agree that this small step is worth it or is justified or, even worse, is no big deal. I’m all for reasonable regulation of monopolies or shared monopolies, like mobile service providers in Canada, although we still pay one of the highest rates in the world. But the last time I looked, Google and Facebook weren’t charging their users, at least for all the so called essential services.

And that in itself is funny. The article states “Bannon reportedly stated that companies such as Google and Facebook have become so essential to the internet and to the everyday life of many U.S. citizens that they should be regulated as a natural monopoly.” Are Google and Facebook really essential? For that matter, is the Internet?

So let me get this straight. What he’s proposing is that Google and Facebook are essential, but unsaid, for example, is that universal medical care is not? Strange priorities.

Bob

5 thoughts on “Regulating Facebook and Google

  1. There’s been a whole lot of debate as to whether access to the Internet should be a fundamental right. Most nations recognise a right to communicate / freedom of expression, but it is generally technology-agnostic. Vint Cerf has argued that that is correct — after all, who is to say that today’s design for the Internet is the best one — while Finland has made Internet access a fundamental right. The aim of “universal service” in Europe is geared towards ensuring everyone has phone and Internet access, although the standards stop short of what is actually necessary, in my opinion, and we have woefully slow Internet access on average in the UK.

    For most, yes, I’d think that Google is essential, with its search function on par with, say, DNS. Facebook, I’m less convinced. Of course, existing competition law may be sufficient to deal with concerns around abuse of a dominant position and, before jumping to a more specific, probably ex ante, regime, this should be explored first.

  2. I agree that the Internet has become essential to the workings of the modern (Western?) world, just like electricity. However, Google and Facebook are providers of services. If they disappear, others will take their place. There are already lots of competitors. All I want to see it that they don’t become monopolies that take advantage of that position. But that applies to all companies and there are already regulations about that.

      1. I looked up search popularity on Google (ha) and it has over 70% of the world’s searches. Certainly it’s dominant, but not a monopoly. There are lots of alternatives. And it’s not the monopoly that matters so much as monopolistic practices that use an almost monopoly position to kill competition.

  3. Curious – in Europe, competition law bites on abuse of dominance, not abuse of monopoly (even if the two are not the same).

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