[Editor Charlie sez: Spoiler alert! The answer is “Yes”!]
With right-wing populists expected to make big gains overall in the European elections, further legislation to rein in Silicon Valley could struggle to pass. In recent months, EU leaders have discussed imposing new digital taxes on the revenues of Big Tech companies; those efforts might not find support among Europe’s new parliamentarians. And the EU’s incipient antitrust crackdown against Big Tech—which now involves probes of Amazon and Google—could face stumbling blocks. Could Big Tech find itself depending on the votes of far-right, populist politicians to defend its corner?
As usual, Henry gives an extremely relevant and literate dissertation on the loss of humanity imposed on us by Big Brother’s youngest sibling, Mark Zuckerberg–the boy who wouldn’t grow up, but who instead created an app for Room 101.
Please listen to T Bone when you have a quiet hour to yourself.
[Editor Charlie sez: As David Lowery says, democracy dies in botness. Even Spotify apologists are skeptical of the Google-backed Pirate Party tactics.]
Before attention formally returns to the draft European Copyright Directive next month, the Pirate Party’s representative in the European Parliament – Julia Reda – is hoping to get opponents to the more controversial elements of the proposals out onto the streets.
The copyright reforming directive has been in development for years, of course. For the wider music industry, the focus has been article thirteen, which seeks to increase the liabilities of user-upload platforms like YouTube….
Since the vote, the music industry has been very critical of tactics employed by the tech lobby, and especially big bad Google, in the weeks prior to the vote. Their campaigning, it’s argued, misrepresented what article thirteen is really about. Meanwhile opponents presented themselves as mere concerned internet users – when many were in fact funded by billion dollar tech giants – and used technology to artificially amplify their voice.
David Lowery’s The Trichordist website has run a number of articles exploring these tactics, all of which make for very interesting reading. Meanwhile The Times reported earlier this month how “Google is helping to fund a website that encourages people to spam politicians and newspapers with automated messages backing its policy goals”.
The newspaper put the spotlight on an organisation called OpenMedia, which counts Google as a platinum supporter, and which was also analysed by The Trichordist.
The Times wrote: “The campaigning site is intended to amplify the extent of public support for policies that benefit Silicon Valley”, before confirming that “the tools were recently used to bombard MEPs with phone calls opposing EU proposals to introduce tighter online copyright rules”….
While calling on people to join these protests, [Pirate] Reda has also hit out at the claims that automated tools – like those offered by OpenMedia – were used to make it look like opposition to the copyright directive was much more widespread than it really is.
She recently wrote on her blog: “We haven’t won yet. After their initial shock at losing the vote in July, the proponents of upload filters and the ‘link tax’ have come up with a convenient narrative to downplay the massive public opposition they faced. They’re claiming the protest was all fake, generated by bots and orchestrated by big internet companies”.
She went on: “According to them, Europeans don’t actually care about their freedom of expression. We don’t actually care about EU lawmaking enough to make our voices heard. We will just stand idly by as our internet is restricted to serve corporate interests. People across Europe are ready to prove them wrong: they’re taking the protest to the streets”. [Nobody said that, the Times and Trichordist just said that there were campaigning tools paid for by Google to create a false impression.]
We all learn about the world through the prism of our own stories. The reason I rage against formats so much is because I don’t fit in any.
Modern America is the king of labeling. It is impossible to get through to the public interface without learning how to squeeze yourself into one of the predefined shapes, leaving the least possible amount of torn raw flesh and blood at the knives of public perception.
What kind of music do you play? What race are you? Who did you vote for? Are you with us, or are you against us?
The interface pulses and dances to the beat of the dollar – primarily – as well as the peer pressure, and it evolves with time. But the principle of the Holy Algorithm remains.
The biggest story of 2017? To my mind, there is no contest — the broad emergence of an awareness that the irresponsibility masquerading as Internet freedom represented a threat to global societies and to cherished aspects of our humanity, and that a course correction was badly needed.
While recognition of the fact that rewarding lack of accountability would likely incentivize anti-social and illegal conduct took longer than it should have, such an awareness came to fruition throughout 2017. Whether motivated by concerns about sex trafficking or the prevalence of other internet-enabled crimes, fake news, foreign government interference in elections, monopoly or monopsony power, or the perceived political or cultural biases of platforms, the question at the end of 2017 wasn’t whether the current legal framework for platform responsibility should be amended, but how.
It became clear that the twin pillars upholding the current lack of accountability in the internet ecosystem — Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and Section 512 of the DMCA, each of which was adopted at the dawn of the commercial internet, would need to be reexamined and a new framework established.
[Editor Charlie sez: Meet the new boss, way, way, way worse than the old boss.]
Google, as with many large companies, has skeletons in its closet that it would probably wish to keep quiet. But after interviewing almost 40 current and previous Google employees, The Information has found that there is an internal culture that has virtually normalized inappropriate relationships. The reasoning for this is primarily because most who have been found in these relationships were not penalized or punished for their actions.
While there are the widely reported and known about relationships like those between Larry Page and Marissa Mayer, Sergey Brin and Amanda Rosenberg, as well as Eric Schmidt and Marcy Simon, The Information was able to identify another previously unreported relationship. This time, it was between David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, and Jennifer Blakely, a paralegal in the legal department.
This relationship was kept secret from the HR department until the two had a child together. At that point, the company was forced to intervene and moved Blakely to the sales department and into a position that was not her specialty. Her then coworkers, as interviewed by The Information, stated that Google handled the situation poorly and unfairly. Blakely ultimately ended up leaving Google and the relationship. [But David Drummond is still Google’s Chief Legal Officer.]
This isn’t the only story of misconduct within Google, though. Throughout multiple interviews, employees discussed the downplaying by male employees whenever a female would get a promotion or get one-on-one time with a high-level manager. In many instances, comments were made about the female employees sleeping with bosses or providing other favors to advance their careers.
Who can forget Zoe Lofgren, the Member from San Mateo (aka Google) who is currently the #3 most senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee? You may remember Ms. Lofgren’s scorched earth campaign against Maria Pallante, the former head of the Copyright Office who I think was the subject of a retaliatory termination by the Librarian of Congress. Lofgren’s campaign went absolutely nowhere and has been on the side of monopoly power emanating from Silicon Valley her entire career. Which company does she favor with unwavering loyalty?
You guessed it–the Leviathan of Mountain View, the multibillion dollar multinational monopolist, Lessig’s long-time benefactor and funder of a host of NGOs–Google. Google wants control of the House Judiciary Committee through their influence over Lofgren.
The current Ranking Member is Rep. John Conyers who has resigned his position as Ranking Member after harassment allegations and some allegations of misuse of funds to settle sexual harassment claims (which are coincidentally also surfacing or resurfacing about top Google executives like Andy Rubin, Larry Page, Sergey Brin and, of course, the notorious “serial womanizer” Eric “Uncle Sugar” Schmidt). This leaves the Ranking Member seat open, although Rep. Jerry Nader is next in line in seniority, you know, like “Ranking Member” implies. Rep. Nadler has long been a staunch ally of the little guy, especially our legacy artists on pre-72 recordings that Google made it their mission to screw over through their price fixing cartel and Lofgren pals, the MIC Coalition.
This is nothing new, of course, as Lofgren has been measuring the curtains for a long time, way before the Conyers story came out. Lofgren didn’t make any friends in her attacks on Maria Pallante after the House overcame the Google smear operation that Lofgren led in the House and voted 378-48 in favor of taking away the Librarian of Congress’s power to appoint the next Register. (Even so, Google has been effective in stalling the Senate version of the bill despite Lofgren’s lopsided loss).
For recent historical reasons, the position of Ranking Member is not automatically filled by the most senior member of the applicable party. That position now requires a vote of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, which Nadler will surely win when his acting position comes for a vote by his colleagues–but–the Member from Google reminded members of her caucus that she wanted the gig real bad in a November 29 letter:
“Whenever an official vacancy at the top Democratic position of the Judiciary Committee may occur in accordance with Caucus Rules, I will put my credentials forward for my colleagues’ consideration.
I am confident that, as a 23-year veteran of the Committee with nearly 9 years of prior staff service, I fully meet all the criteria for the position as outlined in Caucus Rule 21. That rule states that, in selecting a successor to a Ranking Member vacancy, the Democratic Caucus ‘shall consider all relevant factors, including merit, length of service on the committee and degree of commitment to the Democratic agenda, and the diversity of the Caucus,’ and that the top Committee position “need not necessarily follow seniority.”
Had Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., then well into his 80s, retired from Congress, Lofgren would have been well-positioned to claim the top-ranking seat on the Judiciary Committee. Yet he ran for re-election. Again. And again. And again.
He stayed so long that Lofgren’s brand of Silicon Valley politics is now past its expiration date, her once virtuous alliance with the forces of progress and innovation curdling into a protection racket for increasingly unpopular monopolies.
Conyers on Sunday announced he is stepping down as the top-ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, launching a battle for his successor that has pitted two Democratic rivals — Lofgren and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. — against each other. On the one hand, his resignation comes in a politically fortuitous way for Lofgren, with Conyers felled not by age but by allegations of sexual harassment. The political logic of replacing him with a woman is obvious. But then there’s Google.
The race for committee chair threatens to become the first fight over monopoly politics after the rollout of House Democrats’ “Better Deal” platform for 2018, which was built on going after concentrated power, particularly in the tech sector. Elected to Congress in 1994, Lofgren represents San Jose and the Bay Area, and is far and away the most stalwart defender of big Silicon Valley firms among House Democrats.
“It certainly may raise questions to have someone from Silicon Valley in a position where one of the key responsibilities is to oversee the conduct of Silicon Valley,” said Jonathan Kanter, a prominent antitrust attorney.
The problem that The Intercept put their finger on is that very few–and I mean very, very few–in the Congressional leadership believes that the whole SOPA dustup was for real and was instead one of the worst cases of astroturf ever perpetrated against a legislative body and its shell shocked staff. Lofgren associated herself with that assault and has been heard to bring it up as a threat that sounds more hollow by the day.
What we have to realize though is that even if Rep. Nadler–who is one of the truest blue progressives in the Congress–gets the Ranking Member position, in my view Lofgren clearly has her marching orders and will not stop until she’s told to stand down. Her supporters clearly have a lot of cash to hand out and are feeling the consequences of the election which severely curtailed their influence in the Executive Branch. And one of the ways that members get influence is not only raising money for themselves, but having the ability to raise money for other members or their party.