WTAS: Get The Facts Ahead Of Google CEO’s Testimony
This morning, Google CEO Sundar Pichai will tell members of the House Judiciary Committee, “I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way. To do otherwise would go against our core principles and our business interests.”
Ahead of Pichai’s hearing, consider these key facts in light of tech critics’ demands for a “Fairness Doctrine” for the Internet:
1. Allegations of bias against conservatives don’t represent the views of surveyed Americans and Republicans.
2. Any new regulation should be smart, addressing a gap in the law and avoiding collateral damage as a result of hasty decision-making.
3. Competition in tech is thriving, despite what professional critics and advocates of publishing cartels might say.
Claims of bias against conservatives don’t align with recent polling or traditional conservative values.
New Springboard polling: Consumers don’t think bias affects their products or services – whether in general businesses or in tech.Jim Pethokoukis, AEI: Conservatives should be alarmed by efforts to increase regulation of speech online. “But it isn’t just the vaporous evidence of a diabolical Google conspiracy that should alarm free-thinking Republicans. In the past, conservatives and libertarians have attacked the notion that government should be regulating speech. They celebrated when the FCC in 2011 conclusively eliminated the Fairness Doctrine requiring licensed broadcasters to air opposing views on key public issues. The rule’s revocation in 1987 is thought by some to have helped launch the conservative talk radio revolution. And when Democrats from Nancy Pelosi to John Kerry flirted with reviving the Fairness Doctrine in 2009, Newt Gingrich called the idea ‘affirmative action for liberals’ and Sean Hannity ‘an assault on the First Amendment.'”
Find a roundup of Republican commentary on the issue here.
Any new regulation should be smart – addressing a gap in the law and avoiding collateral damage.
Alden Abbott, General Counsel of the FTC: Existing U.S. antitrust doctrine is sufficient to protect competition without harming companies. “Nevertheless, the premise that antitrust needs to be applied far more aggressively—and perhaps amended—to discipline ‘new economy’ giants is misplaced. Instead, existing U.S. antitrust doctrine, which emphasizes consumer welfare, is perfectly capable of rooting out any anticompetitive abuses by these firms without imposing unwarranted harm on them. The latter point is important, because, as we will see, the new economy giants bestow truly ‘huge’ economic benefits on American society, so excessive and misguided antitrust intervention threatens serious harm to the public good.”
Roger Alford, Deputy AAG for Antitrust: Don’t use a sledgehammer when you should use a scalpel. “But as with any other law enforcement agencies, we as competition law enforcers must be ever vigilant about exercising our power properly, using precise tools rather than blunt instruments. The current debate between the consumer welfare standard and the public interest standard is illustrative of the tendency to trade the scalpel for the sledgehammer.”
David Balto, former Policy Director for the FTC: Before rushing to regulate, consider the harms of hasty regulation on competition. “Regulation may unintentionally hurt competition. For example, incumbents are better situated than new entrants to comply with new regulations. At a congressional hearing, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that ‘part of the challenge with regulation, in general, is that when you add more rules that companies need to follow, that’s something that a larger company like ours has the resources to do.’ Studies confirm that this is a problem, and have shown that privacy regulations impose a much greater cost on smaller and newer companies. Harvard economist Josh Lerner found that European Union privacy regulation had a negative impact on venture capital funded startups and reduced traditional research and development investment by $750 million to $1 billion during the first 8.5 years after passage.”
Competition is thriving in tech, despite what professional critics and advocates of publishing cartels might say.
Springboard and PPI’s respective polling: Consumers are happy. “According to respondents, concern about over-regulation of the tech sector is high and second only to concern about over-regulation of the media. Further, tech boasts a higher net favorability rating than utilities, airlines, the media, health insurance, pharmaceuticals, and the U.S. government. Americans feel positively about the tech sector and acknowledge the myriad of options they have online. These findings mirror a recent Progressive Policy Institute poll, which found high tech companies had a net +34 percent favorability rating, the highest among industries sampled. The PPI polling also found two-thirds of respondents would prefer a candidate who says, ‘We need to be careful about breaking up large American companies…that are innovative and successful.'”
Michael Mandel, PPI: Tech/telecom/ecommerce outperform the rest of the private sector. “The evidence does not indicate that the tech leaders pose a special problem. From the macro perspective, we find that the relative size of the tech/telecom/ecommerce leaders has barely changed since 2000. Revenues at the U.S. tech/telecom/ecommerce leaders did rise from 2000 to 2017 – but no faster than the expansion of the global economy. We also find that the tech/telecom/ecommerce sector has outperformed the rest of the private sector across a wide range of important economic measures since the tech boom started in 2007. Prices in the tech/telecom/ecommerce sector have fallen; productivity has risen much faster than the rest of the private sector; real wage growth has been higher; and job growth has been faster.”
Local media organizations view tech services as partners, not nemeses:
—Local Media Consortium: “Those partnerships align the news industry – print, broadcast and ultimately digital – with tech companies in a symbiotic relationship. The LMC has provided revenue opportunities for all levels of local media – and we’ve done that while leveraging our scale to garner both the attention and respect of the tech platforms. We have built partnerships based on shared value, not entitlement.”
—Local Media Association: “LMA, acting on the direction of our members and board, has actively pursued partnerships with Google and Facebook (as well as other leading technology companies) – partnerships that speak directly to our mission. We have actively engaged top leadership at both organizations, with the belief that a cooperative and collaborative environment is key to providing our members with the tools needed to evolve their businesses. These partnerships are far from one-sided, and we are approaching them very cautiously. Nearly a year ago, the LMA board appointed a committee led by Tom Sly, VP Digital Revenue, E.W. Scripps Company, to specifically work with Facebook. We are pleased with the progress being made, including strategic executive discussions, brainstorming and small project tests. Representatives from most of the country’s largest local media companies participated in these meetings with us.”
Matt Schruers, CCIA: Tech critics within the industry are relying on “swampetition” to attack their competition. “The N.Y. Times’ article on Wednesday connected Yelp’s strategy targeting Google with efforts by Oracle and News Corp to quietly funnel ‘significant resources into funding third-party coalitions and public relations firms to place ads and to lobby lawmakers’, noting particularly Oracle’s contribution to the Campaign for Accountability, a group which Fortune reports ‘refuses to say who pays for its activities.’ Manipulating regulators into attacking one’s competition, or ‘swampetition’ is a strategy with adherents in Washington, Brussels, and beyond, although it is rarely front page news. Hamstringing competitors in the political swamp instead of beating them in the market is often deployed by legacy industries against disruptive upstarts, but as this instance shows, it can also be used by small firms to cripple larger opponents. As a result, leading businesses are common targets of swamp warfare.”