FutureTracker| Tim Wu’s WSJ essay In the Grip of the New Monopolists reminds us that our daily lives now revolve around the Internet’s dominant firms. Giving up shopping at Wal-Mart or foregoing our Starbucks is a whole lot less challenging than going without Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Apple, eBay and Google.
Going to Target rather than Wal-Mart is comparatively easy. But using Microsoft’s Bing instead of Google? Who does that?
Anne of Carversville actually experiences a new kind of 21st century anxiety. We worry if we will have innocently run afoul of Google Images, thereby losing 20-40% of our web traffic without warning or the opportunity for a hearing.
In submitting an ad to Facebook for what we know is a website America and the entire world loves — see our blistering hot web stats — we wonder if somewhere there’s a word in our article that will upset the FB censors. You can’t imagine what is forbidden on Facebook.
We’ve redesigned our language and even website structure to accommodate the fact that if we use the word ‘nude’ on a single article in the left hand column, Google images attaches the word to photos of apple pie and geraniums that might also be in the column.
Overnight, we are cast as an erotic tomato and apple pie website and sent to the search dungeon with the pornographers.
Monopolies and Innovation
Wu’s point is focused on innovation and entrepreneurial viality in America and less so censorship. The Sherman Act states that monopolies are guilty of a felony, but Wu correctly argues that today’s America would never “euthanize a healthy firm like Facebook just because it’s huge and happens to know more about us than the IRS.”
Hopefully, the author of the new book “The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires” continues, we can keep these new Internet superpowers benovolent. But let’s not kid ourselves, he concludes. We are now living in the age of monopolies and they hold enormous powers over our freedoms of self-expression in an interconnected world. Read on at WSJ.