The free market has never been a free-for-all, yet tech companies have long operated with few constraints on their business models. Perhaps the latest Facebook scandal will finally provide the impetus governments need to take effective action – beginning with the implementation of digital operating permits.
Nearly 140 countries have agreed on a tentative deal that would make sweeping changes to how big, multinational companies are taxed in order to deter them from stashing their profits in offshore havens where they pay little or no tax.
Under the agreement announced Friday, countries would enact a global minimum corporate tax of 15 percent on the biggest, internationally active companies. United States President Joe Biden has been one of the driving forces behind the agreement as governments around the world seek to boost revenue following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Five of the ten largest buyers of corporate air travel in the US are technology companies. Microsoft and other Big Tech firms owe it to the planet – and to their shareholders – to commit to maintain permanently their pandemic-affected 2020 flight levels.
Last week, the CEOs of major tech companies appeared before Congress to testify for the first time since the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, which was fueled in part by online misinformation. On this week’s Arbiters of Truth, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic of Lawfare sit down with Issie Lapowsky, a senior reporter at Protocol, to discuss the testimony and platforms’ struggle contain far-right extremism online.
The willingness of the US federal government to share power with Big Tech is a recipe for unharnessed power and corruption. Democracy cannot survive in a country where a handful of technocrats and oligarchs can choose to deny access to information or platforms to political candidates.
James Pethokoukis and Joshua D. Wright
How has the American approach to antitrust evolved over the past 50 years? Will the government finally break up Big Tech? What is the overall future of antitrust doctrine in the United States?
The news: Australians woke up on Thursday to Facebook timelines devoid of any news. Faced with the option of either paying to link back to publishers to comply with an incoming Australian law, or entirely pulling the plug on hosting news, it chose the latter. As it stands, Facebook users in Australia can’t use the platform to see or share content from any news outlets anywhere in the world, and no one can post links to Australian publishers, wherever they are. Users say government websites like fire services and meteorology departments have been caught up in the ban too, most likely due to issues with the machine learning system Facebook uses to enforce it. Users and officials in Australia reacted furiously, with the country’s prime minister describing Facebook’s actions “as arrogant as they were disappointing” and insisting “we will not be intimidated by Big Tech.”
Why? Lawmakers in Australia are in the final stages of passing a proposed new Media Bargaining law. In essence, the law would require the tech platforms would have to pay publishers to host their content. If they couldn’t agree a price, Australia would create an arbitration panel which would set one. Google has taken the opposite approach to Facebook, and has cut numerous deals with publishers in Australia, including News Corp, to ensure it can comply with the law if it passes, and continue linking to their services.
What’s next: Australia has essentially become the latest battleground for the years-long fight between governments, publishers, and Big Tech. Facebook’s move is a big, ugly power flex, but Australia’s law seems pretty crude and unattractive too. It doesn’t require publishers to plough any of the money they receive into journalists’ salaries or original reporting, and could help to further entrench Australia’s already highly concentrated media market. In short, the current situation is unsustainable and undesirable for everyone. Australia’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is in talks with Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and the pressure is on for them to come up with a better solution.