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Friday, November 26, 2021

The easy way to rein in Facebook and Google: stop them gobbling up competitors

Few of us who survived the past year are not grateful for technology.

Scaling, email, connected workplaces, and reliable internet connectivity at home have made it possible to work, shop, learn and lead our lives in ways that would not have been possible if the pandemic had struck, say 20 years ago.

But the parts of big technology – the parts that track us and make us think about dangerous and antisocial things, just to keep us clicking – wreak havoc on us.

While it may seem like we can’t have the best of both worlds – communication without damage – I believe we can. But we will have to change the way we think about big technology.

First, it must be recognized that large technologies are inherently weak. Yes, weak. Secondly, he only got stronger every time we let him do it.

By “big technology” I mean Facebook and Google and related companies such as Instagram and YouTube (owned by Facebook and Google, respectively).

The firms that existed before them were indeed weak in the sense that they had no guaranteed future. Think of Netscape, Myspace, MSN and all the other months that we were told then would become natural monopolies.

Afraid of losing your advantage

Last month, Facebook informant Frances Haugen revealed much of the behavior of a market leader who is terrified of losing his edge.

He switched what he showed from news to messages that annoyed and infuriated people in 2018, with “unhealthy side effects for important pieces of public content,” in part because users were less likely to interact with it.

Excerpt from Facebook internal report.
Wall Street Journal, U.S. Senate Trade Committee

Facebook knew that “we were exacerbating body image problems,” as one of its memo said, but did little to change how Instagram worked. This was in part because teens spent 50% more time on Instagram than on Facebook. Instagram looked like the future.

As Instagram activity began to decline, Facebook drew up plans for Instagram Kids, viewing teenage kids as “a valuable but untapped audience.”

This is not like a company that is confident that it will stay on top.

The easy way to rein in Facebook and Google: stop them gobbling up competitors
Facebook bought Instagram to stay on top.
PixieMe / Shutterstock

Like his initial purchase of Instagram in 2012, when he could launch his own mobile photo-sharing service using whatever he had.

Facebook also bought WhatsApp in 2014 because its own messaging platform, Messenger, was losing ground.

It can’t get that big on its own, because when firms grow beyond a certain size, they become sluggish and bureaucratic.

Google got bigger by buying DoubleClick (the platform it uses to sell ads that generate revenue) and all sorts of new platforms including Android, YouTube, Waze, and Quickoffice.

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These are the actions of a hungry company, but not one that is supremely confident that it will stay on top.

Australian academic Stephen King, a former member of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and current member of the Productivity Commission, says we need to apply special tougher rules to takeovers from companies like Google and Facebook.

Large technologies grow through acquisitions

We usually only block takeovers where the target is large. Instagram and WhatsApp were small. At the time of the takeover, Instagram reportedly had 13 full-time employees and WhatsApp 55. However, Facebook paid billions for them.

In the US and UK, both takeovers were canceled.

Big tech companies can do things with tiny takeover goals that others can’t. Acquisitions can give them access to vast networks of existing users and their data.

According to King, Instagram is big because it was acquired by Facebook, not because Instagram was necessarily the best target.



Read More: We Let Facebook Grow By Worrying About The Wrong Things


In Europe, the authorities considered this possibility and approved the takeover of WhatsApp only after Facebook informed them that “it will not be able to establish a reliable automatic mapping between Facebook user accounts and WhatsApp user accounts.”

This statement was incorrect, Facebook did it and paid the European Commission 110 million euros for providing incorrect or misleading information.

If Australia were tougher, if the US, Britain and the European Commission were tougher, Facebook and Google wouldn’t be the giants they are today. They could peak and lose market share.

We can say no

Their future is largely in our hands. For big tech companies able to leverage the weight of their networks (and only those companies), we could just say no to acquisitions. It’s hard to come up with a reason to act.

If necessary, we could change the law by making “no” the default.



Read more: Why you need to contain Facebook and other social media


It would not be in a hurry to cut companies. Most of the users on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. blocked because their friends are there.

But where friends change every generation.

Facebook and Google are aware of this, which is why they are so eager to grab new competitors and new platforms in areas they never thought of.

If we stopped them, we would not stop their growth immediately, but would make it difficult for them to struggle with the natural order in which the new and the fashionable supplant the old and the predictable. This is their deepest fear.

This article is republished from – The Conversation – Read the – original article.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
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