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We need to have a heated debate about what Americans can gain or lose if government officials succeed in forcing change to technology services and companies as we know them.
One thing hindering such debate is the fear of tech companies and their allies. They tend to disparage anything that can change the way Big Tech works because somehow helping China win in the future. It’s an intellectually dishonest tactic and distracts from important questions about our future. It makes me uncomfortable.
What caught my eye was how tech companies have responded to a recent series of activities that could profoundly change the lives of America’s tech superstars and all of us who have been affected. by their products. Some Democrats in Congress have proposed new legislation to crack down on big tech companies. And the new chair of the Federal Trade Commission, Lina Khan, has advocated for aggressive enforcement of monopoly laws to prevent what she sees as big tech companies preying on consumers.
Those steps may or may not shed light on the status quo in technology. We’re in a tumultuous time when predicting what Congress, states, courts, and government enforcement can do to change the rules for tech companies — and whether that’s the case. That is more beneficial than harmful.
But powerful corporations and their supporters don’t have to grapple with the nuances. Publicly at least, they have reacted as they usually do, essentially implying that the railings for some American tech companies facilitate Chinese takeover of the world. By some way. Don’t ask how.
Here’s what an official at NetChoice, a group that represents Google, Facebook, and Amazon, told The Washington Post about Big Tech’s cutting of regulatory bills: “At the same time, Congress is looking to promote greater transparency. American innovation and cybersecurity, legislators should not pass legislation that would make room for foreign competitors and open up American data to dangerous and unreliable actors. “
And here’s what the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a policy group that receives funding from telecommunications and technology companies, said this week about Khan’s appointment as FTC chairman: As global competition increases, antitrust populism will cause self-sufficiency to the detriment of foreign competitors, with less pay. “
Sounds bad! You may have noticed that these statements don’t name China, which is the magic word for making things happen in Washington. But that’s what they mean when they refer to unknown foreign competitors.
Yes, it makes sense for Americans to want strong American companies in a competitive global economy. But making a handful of tech kings play fair is unlikely to break them.
As for the security arguments, the logic won’t work if you think about it for more than two seconds. Would stopping Amazon from selling its own brand of batteries – as a bill of Congress could do – prevent America from fending off foreign cyberattacks? Are not. How do proposals to restrict giant companies from doing whatever they want with our personal information weaken America on the world stage? They do not.
There are perfectly legitimate concerns about China shaping global technology or online conversations in ways that conflict with American values and interests. It is right to be concerned about China’s involvement in exposing American secrets. That has little to do with whether Americans would be better off if Facebook was banned from buying the next Instagram or whether Apple wouldn’t be able to bypass its music and fitness services on the iPhone.
Restricting American powers from enriching at the expense of Americans does not undermine its ability to rein in Chinese abuses or support competitive American companies. We can do it all.
I study the policy statements of tech lobbyists because I fear they are a sign that the tech superpowers refuse to engage in important debates about the future.
Remember that behind the tumultuous efforts in Washington and beyond to reimagine how these companies operate are thorny questions about the technology in our lives: Do we have much control than his personal information, better shopping services and a fairer economy if Big Tech wasn’t so big or if there were more rules about how companies operate? And how do we limit what we think are downsides from those companies without spoiling what we think is useful?
Those are the kinds of questions policymakers are grappling with, and they’re tough questions. Everyone needs to be involved, including tech companies that may be affected by the new rules. That’s why tech companies dissent for themselves and the public by distracting us with floating talking points.
Tip of the week
What to do on Amazon’s Official Day
Prime Day, an online shopping holiday invented by Amazon, will take place this Monday and Tuesday. (Yes, Prime Day rejects the 24-hour limit.) New York Times personal technology columnist, Brian X. Chen, with suggestions on what to consider buying and what to avoid.
Prime Day’s first rule: Most of the deals advertised during annual shopping sprees like these aren’t great deals.
It’s not uncommon to see discounted products that almost no one wants to buy. (Imagine the clearance of the Sur La Table.) And for more desirable items, the discounts are sometimes not as steep as other times of the year.
My general rule for fake shopping holidays is to skip what any company describes as the “sales” part. Instead, jot down a list of the items you want to buy and check if they’re available at a lower price during the shopping event.
To see if you’re getting a good deal, you can use price trackers like Camel Camel Camel, which displays price history for a product listed on Amazon. Our product demo site, Wirecutter, will also scour Amazon and other retail sites during Prime Day to find really good deals – follow its deals page and read more its tips.
Before we go…
She went from an outsider to a boss: While a law student in 2017, Lina Khan published an academic paper that helped sway many powerful Washington brokerages to more aggressively regulate tech giants under antitrust laws. My colleagues David McCabe and Cecilia Kang write that in her new job as chair of the Federal Trade Commission, Khan can find it difficult to execute on her ideas.
“Do you understand who Xi Jinping is?” Doug Guthrie believes in China’s economic potential, and Apple hired him to help the company navigate the country. My colleague Jack Nicas writes that Guthrie’s views have evolved and that he believes that Apple’s dependence on China leaves the company vulnerable to government-imposed compromises that reduce the value of Apple’s products. it.
Are you ready for the ads in virtual reality? Too bad. Facebook says it’s testing ads that pop up in people’s vision when they use Oculus, the company’s virtual reality headset. (After all, Facebook makes 97% of its revenue from advertising sales.)
Can you describe a moray eel as cute? Maybe? Researchers catch a moray eating on land, using a special set of functions. Most fish need water to feed. In addition, the researchers lost more five years to train the mind to eat this way. (I discovered this in the Today in Tabs newsletter.)
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