Mark Zuckerberg may well be the one man standing against “The Man.” As the entire leftist anti-free-speech parade passes, each participant punches Zuck in the shoulder for daring not to groupthink.
Every major industry disruptor eventually has to face the music when they are successful in consolidating an industry. “FANG” (Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Google–minus the “N” – Netflix has lots of competition) has successfully built trillions of dollars of value in tech and social media and created an entire galaxy of venture capital vying to be bought up into their universe.
Congressman Jerry Nadler’s biggest complaint is that Facebook succeeded in buying potential competitors, in a market where thousands of companies compete. In other words, Mark Zuckerberg and his management compadres were able to figure out what companies to buy and which ones not to buy, and then to make the ones they bought successful as part of Facebook. Nadler, a New York Democrat who is Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and other anti-Facebook legal eagles, think this is a violation of government anti-trust laws.
Is Facebook a monopoly? Hardly. In video, nobody tops Alphabet/Google’s YouTube. There’s also TikTok, a hot Chinese commodity right now. Twitter gets more earned media mentions than any of its social media competitors, courtesy of President Trump. In the coveted young adult market, Facebook is largely seen as “your dad’s social media.” But Instagram (part of Facebook) is still cool.
What the government doesn’t seem to understand, though I think Nadler likely does and ignores, is that many startups form with the express intention of selling to Facebook (or Google, Amazon, et al.). One of the strategies to get one of the cash-rich tech giants to notice you is to come up with some technology they’d see as a potential threat should one of the other cash-rich tech giants buy it first. This is not a monopolist building a hedge–it’s capitalism working.
I’m much more concerned about how these tech giants manipulate and harvest tens of gigabytes of data about me, you, and everyone who uses the Internet in any form to produce ads, subtly target search results, and autocomplete searches and other data to move me to their preferred behavior. I recently “cut the cord” and went with a Hulu/Disney+ combo to replace cable. After doing so, I noticed that companies and products I’ve searched online tend to be advertised more (or I notice more, but I think it’s the former) in shows I watch on Hulu. Even live TV streams have Hulu ad content stitched in.
Hulu may well buy data (and probably does) from Google, Facebook and other tech companies that use ubiquitous trackers on every single web service. Amazon also keeps track of what we search, and provides convenient “buy me here” services.
If the government wants to look at a company that buys its competitors, and shapes actual news, it should be looking far more at Jeff Bezos and Amazon. It took an hour and a half before the Judiciary Committee asked Bezos a single question. And then, they asked him about using third-party seller data to beat out Amazon’s online competitors.
If you were to list the markets where Amazon owns a significant share, having bought competitors, the list would be long. Zappos (shoes) competed with Amazon before succumbing to acquisition. Of course there’s Whole Foods, AmazonFresh, Ring (doorbell security), Audible, Woot! and a host of clothing and fashion brands.
Amazon Pay does payment processing. Amazon Lending finances the platform’s sellers. Tapzo handles the burgeoning market in India. Twitch is a favorite for online gamers and YouTubers.
In tech, AWS hosts thousands of tech companies. It rivals (and even beats) Microsoft in public data center and cloud services. Amazon bought (and then shut down) Withoutabox, which was for a long time the primary service for indie filmmakers to enter festivals. The company also owns IMDB, the Internet Movie Data Base.
And yes, Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.
But everyone’s piling on Facebook, because Mark Zuckerberg won’t limit free speech as much as the other companies.
The left likes to consider itself a group of upstarts standing up to the “establishment,” but in reality they are the establishment. Over 750 advertisers have joined a boycott on Facebook. A full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times on Thursday reads: “Over 1,100 companies decided to stand against hate this month. One didn’t.”
“Advertisers and brands from around the world are continuing to join our movement, along with nonprofits, labor organizations and advocacy groups, to demand that Facebook makes significant and meaningful changes to their policies on hate and disinformation. Our position has not changed. We’re not going away. The ball is still in Facebook’s court.”
The ad features logos from “Stop Hate For Profit,” the NAACP, the ADL, and a bunch of other left-leaning organizations. They want Facebook to censor groups with whom they disagree. Zuckerberg would rather promote free speech and correct facts when necessary. Even then, Facebook perennially gets accused of left-leaning bias and viewpoint discrimination online.
In tech, and in corporate C-suites, The Man stands decidedly to the Left. Facebook is slightly less to the left, and Zuckerberg at least acknowledges there’s people standing to the right who deserve their turn speaking online. For that failure to groupthink, The Man is trying to cancel him, and cancel Facebook.
Facebook isn’t too big to fail. I don’t think it’s big enough to be broken up in an anti-trust suit, but the government (under a Democrat in the White House) may try. But Zuckerberg is a canny, smart entrepreneur. It’s unlikely in ten years we will be eulogizing Facebook. Like ExxonMobil and other big firms descended from former monopolies, or today’s IBM (after 40 years of a Sherman Act lawsuit), Facebook will likely be here to stay.
But kudos to Zuckerberg for standing up to The Man.