As the technological realm becomes more pervasive, whom can we trust? Each week, Liberty Nation brings new insight into the fraudulent use of personal data, breaches of privacy, and attempts to filter our perception.
Gabbard Vs Google on Election Meddling – Russia NOT Involved
Election meddling: According to the media, this is a real danger being perpetrated by the Russians against US citizens. But is it Russia that American voters should be concerned about, or something closer to home? According to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Google may be the real threat to the democratic process. Gabbard has a unique voice in the Democrat presidential field. Known for her anti-war, pro-freedom stance, she is gaining a following on both sides of the aisle – but that doesn’t mean she is a likely contender to become president. Gabbard’s campaign is suing Google for alleged censorship, claiming that the Silicon Valley ad-space seller deliberately suspended her account during a key time period for ad exposure – directly after the first Democrat primary debates.
Gabbard accuses the company of “playing favorites” and sending her communications to gmail spam boxes disproportionately more frequently than for other candidates. “Google supports viewpoints, political causes, and candidates that favor its policy positions over those that do not,” the complaint alleges. “Google’s discrimination against our campaign reveals the danger of their dominance & how the dominance of big tech over public discourse threatens core American values. They threaten our democracy & #Tulsi will fight back on behalf of all Americans,” she tweeted about the incident.
Google claims the suspension was the automated result of suspicious spending patterns from the account, but campaign spokesman Cullen Tiernan countered that “Google may blame this on automated systems, but the reality is that there is no transparency whatsoever, which makes it difficult to determine the truth,” He told The Verge, “The fact is that the account was down for hours as searches for Tulsi were surging, and Google changed its reasoning from one excuse to another during the duration of the suspension.”
As LN author Jeff Charles explores in a report on Gabbard’s case, Google is becoming rather notorious for its executives’ wishes to bend national politics to their will.
Trump Dislikes French Wine
It is rarely mentioned that Silicon Valley is a uniquely American phenomenon and that this provides the country with a huge amount of power and influence around the globe. While the rest of the world races to catch up to US digital dominance, some are taking the step of at least staking a financial claim on revenues earned in their own nations. President Trump has vowed to reciprocate to the recent digital tax imposed in France that sought to eke money out of Silicon Valley giants, known across Europe for their ability to avoid taxes since they do not have physical headquarters across much of the continent. Some predicted a Chinese-style trade war to follow the decision by the Macron government, and indeed Trump said on July 26 that the US would hit France with “substantial reciprocal action.”
“If anybody taxes [tech companies], it should be their home Country, the USA. We will announce a substantial reciprocal action on Macron’s foolishness shortly,” Trump tweeted. “I’ve always said American wine is better than French wine!”
White House spokesman Judd Deere said the United States “is extremely disappointed by France’s decision to adopt a digital services tax at the expense of US companies and workers. France’s unilateral measure appears to target innovative US technology firms that provide services in distinct sectors of the economy.”
The US Trade Representative’s Office (USTR) called the tax an “unreasonable tax policy” that could “amount to de facto discrimination against US companies … while exempting smaller companies, particularly those that operate only in France.” It will hold a hearing in August on the tax.
The US reaction could be intended to prevent other nations from taking similar action, as France is hardly alone in frustration with its inability to earn money from services rendered in its own country by dominant foreign companies; Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Spain, Italy, Austria, and others are pursuing similar levies.
Anti-Trust Probe Aimed at Big Tech
It has been rumored for some time that the Department of Justice was going to launch an antitrust investigation into Silicon Valley. Well, that rumor can now be counted as fact. The DOJ confirmed in a statement on July 23 that it is “reviewing whether and how market-leading online platforms have achieved market power and are engaging in practices that have reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers.”
For the time being, the inquiry seeks to find out whether or not antitrust issues exist. The goal of the review is to, “assess the competitive conditions in the online marketplace in an objective and fair-minded manner and to ensure Americans have access to free markets in which companies compete on their merits to provide services that users want.”
“Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands,” said Assistant Attorney General Makin Delrahim of the Antitrust Division. The department vows to “seek redress” if “violations of law are identified,” but some are skeptical that antitrust laws are equipped to deal with the impact that these companies have on our lives. The Financial Times editorial board published an article arguing that “Since the 1980s, the standard for antitrust legislation has been whether customers are spending more than they should. This is no longer fit for purpose, given digital services increasingly cost long-term privacy rather than money. Modern antitrust should centre on welfare and the threats posed by some of the largest online platforms to users’ political, economic and personal lives.” The paper urges the DOJ to pursue an interventionist, European strategy – indeed, the European Commission has just launched an investigation into “possible anti-competitive conduct” of Amazon. Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the probe would focus on the company’s “dual role” as both a retailer and online marketplace, an idea that seems similar to proposals recently brought up by Democrat presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren.
On the other hand, New York Post Sunday Business Columnist Jonathon Trugman urged the DOJ “not return to the Obama days of excess corporate harassment.”
With the prelude to the 2020 election heating up, it would seem voters cannot expect to gain fair exposure to every candidate’s ideas. Of course, one can’t help but ask the question: Exactly who does Google want to win the next presidency? How much influence should the government have in regulating Google (and other information-controlling corporations like it)? It seems that one day in the not too distant future, those two things may be one and the same.
Life was so much less complicated when all we had to worry about was the Russians.
That’s all for this week from You’re Not Alone. Check back in next Monday to find out what’s happening in the digital realm and how it impacts you.