It seems antitrust is finally having a new moment in the sun. From Attorney General Nominee Bill Barr to Senator Amy Klobuchar, to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to and even President Trump, everyone is talking about antitrust in the context of Internet platforms. While antitrust is a powerful tool and essential to the proper functioning of the economy, antitrust alone cannot eliminate the full array of harms caused by highly concentrated markets. The excessive market concentration and corporate power we see today resulted not only from conservative jurisprudence and lax antitrust enforcement but also excessive deregulation. Antitrust is not sufficient to rectify the very real problems reform advocates identify.
Recently, Microsoft announced that NewsGuard, a service that has helped over 500 news sites improve their reporting and journalism methods and employs professional journalists to create consumer-friendly ratings of the trustworthiness of news sites, will be available by design, but not by default, in its Edge browser for iOS and Android. Although NewsGuard has been available as an extension for the desktop version of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge for some time already, we believe that Microsoft’s latest move is a positive step in the increasingly important mobile news market.
Last month, Facebook announced a draft charter for a future Oversight Board for Content Decisions. When implemented, the Oversight Board for Content Decisions, composed of independent experts, would be the last instance reviewer of important and disputed content moderation cases for the platform.
More details have emerged from the Motherboard investigation into carriers selling their customers’ real-time location data, including assisted GPS (“A-GPS”) data intended only for emergency services. The reports are shocking and illustrate both a brazen disregard for consumer privacy on the part of the companies involved and the disturbing, unregulated behavior of the data brokerage industry. The Federal Communications Commission, led by Chairman Ajit Pai, needs to act immediately to enforce what appears to be a clear violation of the FCC’s rules against the selling of A-GPS data with third parties. In addition, Congress must pass comprehensive privacy legislation that forces the data broker industry out of the shadows and stops the persistent misuse of data at the expense of consumer privacy.
On Friday, Petitioners (including Public Knowledge) finally got to make their case in court that the Federal Communications Commission’s reckless abdication of responsibility over broadband was also illegal. For about five hours, in the ceremonial courtroom of the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse, in front of D.C. Circuit Judges Millett, Williams, and Wilkins, attorneys for Petitioners, for the FCC, and for intervenors on both sides got a grilling in a court that has become a regular forum for disputes over the status of broadband and the lawfulness of net neutrality rules.