App stores, such as Google Play and Apple’s App Store, have been good for consumers and independent developers in a number of ways. When they work well, they provide consumers with a convenient way to find and buy software that is safe and functional. I remember when my non-technical friends would never install software on their PCs, assuming that it was all a scam or malware of some kind. Now these same people can confidently install, use, and uninstall apps without fearing that it will ruin their devices or steal their personal information. Again, this is when things are working right. There are always bad actors to be vigilant against, and different app store curators do their jobs more and less well.
The Federal Communications Commission is required by law to review its media ownership rules every four years to determine whether they remain “necessary in the public interest.” If they do not, the FCC is to “repeal or modify” the regulations. Contrary to the apparent belief of the FCC, the Quadrennial Review is not simply about eliminating or relaxing rules. Rather, the purpose of the review is to serve the public interest. Therefore, when the FCC decides whether to keep, repeal, or modify current rules, some rules may need to be enhanced.
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.
Last week, the New York Times reported that Facebook has decided to integrate the back-end infrastructures of its three fully-owned messaging products: Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram. At Public Knowledge, aware of the different nature, features, and conditions of use of these three services, we are carefully following the possible privacy and security and competition implications of this market-changing move.
Today, the Federal Trade Commission announced a consent decree in the Staples-Essendant merger. Commissioners Slaughter and Chopra dissented, arguing the consent decree would be insufficient to address their competitive concerns with the merger.