The Boston Globe Editorial Board: Break up Google

The Boston Globe Editorial Board writes, in part:

Never in the history of the world has a single company had so much control over what people know and think. Yet Washington has been slow to recognize that Google’s power is a problem, much less embrace the obvious solution: breaking the company up.

Google accounts for about 90 percent of all Internet searches; by any honest assessment, it holds a monopoly at the very gateway to information in the modern world. From there, the company’s power radiates outward, dominating everything from maps to smartphone operating systems to video distribution — vacuuming up huge quantities of highly specific data about users along the way.

Along with Facebook, Google owns sites and services that, by some estimates, influence 70 percent of all Internet traffic. Not coincidentally, the two companies also form a duopoly that gets 73 percent of all digital advertising in the United States, and virtually all the growth in ad spending, on the Internet. Once the lifeblood of a vital free press, and later of a vast array of independent sites serving every possible interest, ad dollars increasingly flow to two tech giants that organize information produced at other people’s expense.

…Last year, it spent more on federal lobbying than any other company. By tweaking the way information appears on search pages, Google can already promote its own websites and banish competitors to digital oblivion… Yet the problem at hand is not merely economic. “A handful of people working at a handful of tech companies steer the thoughts of billions of people every day,” notes former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris. A recent study of 10,000 people from 39 countries suggests Google “has likely been determining the outcomes of upwards of 25 percent of the national elections in the world for several years now, with increasing impact each year as Internet penetration has grown.” Why is a breakup of Google so unthinkable?

MacDailyNews Take: You guys answered your own question at the start of the paragraph. “Last year, it spent more on federal lobbying than any other company.”

Google is a monopoly because we’ve allowed it to become one. We’ve allowed it to grow at the expense of copyright holders. At the expense of rival search and advertising ventures. At the expense of startups that might someday challenge the giants. At the expense of a narrowing of the way a society acquires information. Today, the act of searching for an answer is synonymous with Googling. And the first answer for how to rein in this digital giant is also the best: break it up.

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Duh.

Imagine if your livelihood depended on one company that had not only monopolized web search (and, thereby, basically controlled how new customers find you), but also controlled the bulk of online advertising dollars which funded your business and which they could pull, simply threaten to pull, or reduce rates at any time? Now also imagine if you believe this monopolist basically stole the product of another company that is the very subject of your business? How much would you criticize the monopolist thief’s business practices?

You might guess that it would be a tough road to walk. (We’re only imagining, of course!)

That would be a good example of why monopolies are bad for everyone… Stop using Google search and Google products wherever possible. Monopolies are bad for everyone. — MacDailyNews, July 14, 2016

SEE ALSO:
Google’s Eric Schmidt wore staff badge at Hillary Clinton’s ‘victory’ party – November 16, 2016
WikiLeaks emails show extremely close relationship between Clinton campaign and Google’s Eric Schmidt – November 1, 2016
Eric Schmidt-backed startup stealthily working to put Hillary Clinton in the White House – October 9, 2015
Edward Snowden’s privacy tips: ‘Get rid of Dropbox,” avoid Facebook and Google – October 13, 2014
Eric Schmidt says Google ‘far more secure’ than Apple, denies harvesting data – October 3, 2014
Google’s Eric Schmidt spurns Obama cabinet post offer – December 11, 2012
Obama to reward Google’s Schmidt with Cabinet post? – December 5, 2012
Google outfoxes U.S. FCC – April 17, 2012
Google Street View cars grabbed locations of cellphones, computers – July 26, 2011
Glenn Beck: Be wary of Google, they way they think is creepy (with video) – February 17, 2011
Consumer Watchdog calls for probe of Google’s inappropriate relationship with Obama administration – January 25, 2011
FCC cites Android ‘openness’ as reason for neutered ‘Net Neutrality’ – December 22, 2010
U.S. FCC approves so-called ‘net-neutrality’ regulations – December 21, 2010
Google CEO Schmidt: If you don’t like being in Google Street View then ‘just move’ – October 28, 2010
Consumer Watchdog ads mock Google CEO Eric Schmidt (with video) – September 2, 2010
Google CEO Schmidt: Change your name to escape ‘cyber past’ – August 18, 2010
Wired: Google, CIA Invest in ‘future’ of Web monitoring – July 29, 2010
37 states join probe into Google’s questionable Wi-Fi data collection – July 22, 2010
Google Street View Wi-Fi data included passwords and email – June 18, 2010

24 Comments

  1. I searched the web to understand how to respond to this and Google helped me understand this is a bunch of BS. Grab your torches and pitchforks and let’s roll the Boston Globe!

  2. “Imagine if your livelihood depended on one company AMAZON that had not only monopolized publishing & book distribution (and, thereby, basically controlled how new customers find you), but also controlled almost 100% of the market and related online advertising dollars which funded your business and supported your family which they could pull, simply threaten to pull, or reduce your share at any time? Now also imagine if you believe this monopolist basically stole the product of another company that is the very subject of your business? How much would you criticize the monopolist thief’s business practices?”

    Substitute “Amazon” for Google and “books/authors” for web search and this is exactly what Amazon has done to publishing/ writers. authors and creators of the written word.

    Amazon has done exactly what the MDN take suggests Google could do if they wanted to. Amazon has punished, destroyed livelihoods, twisted search algorithms to retaliate against authors, publishers. They have destroyed lives, families, small companies and more for little more reason than obtaining and enforcing monopolistic control over a critical information industry and a key component of freedom.

    Just another technology based monopoly supported by a political system/Supreme Court decision (Citizens vs United) that permits the sale of government to the highest bidder.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. Break up Google AND Amazon for similar reasons. What a joke it was when the DOJ was suing Apple for an e-book pricing when Amazon was the dominant monopolist all along, manipulating the foolish, misguided and clueless DOJ.

        1. Well all politics is corrupt and our political system an abomination and distortion of the Founding Fathers intent. I am not a fan of either party who have lost their way and instead have become an arrogant institution of self-enrichment, graft and corruption. Not to mention political intolerance to “the people’s” misfortune.

  3. MDN suggests “Stop using Google search and Google products wherever possible. Monopolies are bad for everyone.”

    I agree with both sentences, but they don’t go together. If Google were a monopoly, it wouldn’t be possible to stop using it. It is market dominant only because more customers prefer its products to the alternative. Remember when Yahoo! and MySpace dominated those market segments?

    What Google (like Facebook) has done is build what is commonly perceived as a better mousetrap than its competitors. The way to beat that is for another company to build an even better mousetrap, perhaps by marketing privacy over ease of use. We call that free enterprise.

    Imagine what will happen if the Government comes in and splits up Google Search into two or even a dozen competing Baby Googles. They will all start even, but with time, the companies that provide a better product or have a better business model will outcompete the weaklings. After a decade or less of bankruptcies and acquisitions, one of the Baby Googles will be in exactly the same market position that Original Google is in today.

    We don’t even have to imagine it. In 1984, the Government forced the breakup of AT&T into seven independent Baby Bell companies plus a surviving AT&T. Today, those eight companies—and their two largest competitors, GTE and ConTel—have merged down to just three (if you include CenturyLink alongside AT&T and Verizon). There is no more competition than there was before.

    Yes, there is a problem. Google and Facebook have syphoned off the advertising dollars that used to go to other companies like the Boston Globe. However, breaking up the new media companies isn’t going to bring the community newspaper back.

    1. MDN’s simplistic solution is weak and somewhat typical of their approach to anything with a political or business bent to it. I get what you are saying, but find several areas of disagreement in your analysis/opinion.

      You have chosen to ignore what Google spends on political activity to reinforce it’s dominance. Not a word about it in your comment.

      Even Mr. Trump seems to think stepping into controlling the free market is justified when power becomes concentrated on the hands of too few.

      Lots and lots of assumptions about market behavior and applications of history that refer back to a very different time and hold little validity in 2018.

      Your focus on the baby Bells goes back almost 35 years. You also seem to ignore the break up of AT&T was a boon for customers resulting in real competition, price reductions expansion of services, innovation and increased wealth for shareholders/investors. You sound almost as if you are arguing the breakup was a mistake. Do you remember what a “long distance” phone call cost prior to the break up and the fact you had one option for phone services? Apparently not.

      There is far more competition for the sale and delivery of telecommunications services than the three remaining players you mention, but you knew that.

      You have ignored every ISP other than AT&T (yes that business is dominated by large players). Almost every consumer of telecommunications not living in the middle of nowhere has multiple choices where to purchase those services. They also enjoy the option for different delivery mechanisms too. None of that existed nor was it possible prior to the changes spurred by the breakup.

      Over time consolidation is inevitable and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s the abuse of monopolistic behavior and the concentration of power in the hands of so few that raises serious issues even if those few have a better mousetrap.

      You don’t discuss the issue of the control and distribution of information and the ability to influence/control people through that power. You never touch on how that power can influence freedom, elections and an open political process. You don’t say a word about lobbying and the role of money in the political process.

      You reduced the entire article to why bother, it will just happen again and an assumption this editorial is really about breaking up the huge media companies in order to bring back community newspapers. Very dramatic, but bullshit and you know it.

      You have a audience here and many times I enjoy reading your opinions and the thought they stimulate. But you and I and a few others who visit this website know how weak most of that audience is. We also know how many commenters are attracted by management’s hands off policy with respect to what is written on these pages. They troll and provoke in pursuit of clicks and those advertising dollars and those seeking a platform they can’t have elsewhere are glad to help them out. Sometimes you are helping them out.

      Botty is a very smart guy and so is that 2016 clown despite his act having become tiresome a long time ago. Did you ever notice they only show up for those things they deem an opportunity to push their personal political and economic ideologies? Did you ever notice how general population here dances to their tune likes the rats do to the pied piper? Try not to position yourself as a pied piper. At times, pontificating is the product most people here are buying.

      I would think you would know and open state monopoly power does not require 100% of an industry be controlled by the monopoly firm.

      1. “You have chosen to ignore what Google spends on political activity to reinforce it’s dominance. Not a word about it in your comment.”

        Wrong.

        Why is a breakup of Google so unthinkable? – Globe Ed. Board

        MacDailyNews Take: You guys answered your own question at the start of the paragraph. “Last year, it spent more on federal lobbying than any other company.”

        In addition, MDN’s “Duh” signifies their agreement with the Globe’s position: Break up Google.

        1. I went back to double check and Txuser didn’t say any of that. I guess you don’t read/comprehend too well. That would explain why you didn’t seem to understand my comment was a response to his comment. It shouldn’t have been so hard for you to understand that.

          So WRONG is on you little guy!

          1. Oh, right. I got lost in the indentation there. Sorry.

            I believe, as far as the online advertising portion goes, breaking up Google would allow for competition again and publishers would be able to get better rates that would again sustain their businesses instead of forcing them to close.

      2. I agree that Google, Amazon, etc. are using their market positions to maintain their market share. That makes it extremely difficult for competitors to pose a real threat. Splitting them up would certainly improve things in the short run, just as the 1984 Bell Breakup did (and the breakup of Standard Oil did in 1911). As in 1984, there might be an immediate wave of consumer benefits driven by competition. I have much less of a problem with the Reagan-era breakup than with the more recent reconsolidation driven by lax enforcement of the antitrust laws.

        That said, it was comparatively easy to break up the telephone and oil monopolies just by drawing lines on a map. The internet isn’t organized geographically, so how would you break up Google Search?

        More importantly, how do you keep a new monopoly from developing without stifling innovation? How do you keep customers from migrating to the post-Google daughter search company that is perceived to outperform the competition? Similarly, how do you split up Facebook when its perceived value to its users is precisely its popularity? Users will migrate to the biggest daughter, making it even bigger. Almost by definition, advertisers want the largest possible audience, so how do we force them to split up their ad buys?

        I don’t have answers to any of those questions… and neither does The Boston Globe. Until somebody does have answers, throwing the Federal Government into an aimless battle with free markets seems foolish to me.

          1. F*ck BANNED CITIZEN X!!! Who creates several NEW avatar screen names on a daily basis to cover his TRACKS typical of a felon mindset. Now, who is the POS again? …

    2. You CAN use a different engine for search, but you’re forgetting where the monopoly really lies: advertising. Retailers can advertise all over the place, but it just won’t be effective. If you want to make money on the Internet, you have to advertise with Google.

  4. I see Google can even control any critique on your feedback
    boards!!!!!!!!!!
    Closely read some of these e-mails!
    This company has a Monopoly and it is not a good thing.
    Thank god the EEC has woken up to this fact.

  5. I’ve long said, even on these pages, that since you cannot control whether Google makes money off of your internet use, they should be regulated as a public utility.

    I also think Apple should permit the owners of iOS devices to get software elsewhere, or then the App Store should be broken off of Apple.

  6. If that’s the measure to break Google up then Microsoft also needs such consideration since Windows accounts for 90% of all desktop computing and that monopoly has been around for far too long!

    1. the only reason Windows has a defacto monopoly in power computing is because of Apple mismanagement. no government has the ability to get the thumbs out of the fat asses in cupertino.

        1. Counting laptops at your charbucks coffee shop isn’t a good indicator of actual sales. Apple has abandoned education, servers, gaming, scientific, engineering, and many other huge markets in the computing world. Those continue to be filled by the likes of HP and Dell. Global sales — not just US sales — show the Mac in single digits user share. In the US it has climbed to 13% largely thanks to corporate sales to IBM and others.

          By the way, Android outsells iOS, Mac, and Windows put together. Billions of people are suckers for a free price tag.

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