The Access Act

Yesterday three Senators, Democrats Mark Warner (VA) and Richard Blumenthal (CT) and Republican Sen. Josh Hawley (MO), put forward new legislation aimed at opening up the markets in web services. Their proposed legislation is called The Access Act and you can read it in its entirety here.

First let me say that this is exactly the kind of regulation we need to deal with the growing monopoly powers of companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc, etc.

When Liz Warren came out with her idea to breakup these large monopolies, I wrote here that I thought that would turn out to be bad policy and ineffective. I came back to this issue when Liz starting breaking out of the pack and leading the race to run against the President next year.

As I said in both of those blog posts, it is my view that the monopoly powers that Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, etc have do not stem from their size and market reach, they stem from the data monopolies they own about us and our online activities. Breaking these companies up into smaller parts does not solve that problem. As my partner Albert observed in a blog post last week, spinning Instagram out of Facebook will do nothing to reduce Instagram’s market power, which is massive in its own right.

What we need to do is to allow any company, large or small, to compete on a level playing field with these large monopolies and they way to do that is to force them to open up their platforms and data so that competitors can provide similar services.

Senator Mark Warner put out a long tweetstorm yesterday laying out the ideas behind this bill and I would like to highlight a few of them here.


I am excited about all three of these ideas and they work together. You can’t do just one of them. But I am most excited about the third, delegation. My partner Albert calls this “the right to be represented by a bot” and it is critical to making all of this work.

Just when you thought government was lost and useless, someone inside the walls of power in Washington steps up and puts forward a set of ideas like this and you think “well someone actually gets it.” I am deeply grateful to Senators Warner, Blumenthal, and Hawley (and their staffs where so much of this work gets done) for their leadership here.

Finally, one complaint. The bill defines a term “large communications platform” and that is the entity it seeks to regulate. As currently defined in the bill, a service would have to have 100mm monthly active users to be considered a large communications platform. That number is way to high in my view. We ought to regulate companies in this way at much smaller sizes. 10mm MAUs is where I would start requiring this sort of thing and maybe ratchet up the requirements as they scale to 50mm, 100mm, and beyond.

But all of that can get sorted out as this bill is discussed, debated, and hopefully eventually made into law.

I hope Liz and the other candidates out there who want to use old techniques on new markets will read their colleagues’ bill, understand its importance, and start changing their tune on this issue. It is too important to get wrong.


Comments (Archived):

  1. sigmaalgebra

    For the Democrats, especially Fauxcahontas with her co-sponsorship of the Green New Deal to spend $90+ trillion mostly to fight “climate change”, I want to be sure never to hear any more.So, tough for me to take seriously anything from the Democrats: If I hear a proposal, then from the past I suspect I have only to dig a little under the surface to find that their proposal is just a flim-flam fraud, scam, a hidden agenda to take money, sometimes blood, from the Walmart customers and use it to give money and power to special interests.I trust Fauxcahontas and the Democrats, totally trust them (1) to deceive the vast majority of US citizens with flim-flam, fraud scams with hidden agendas and lies and then (2) to rip them off, take their treasure and sometimes blood. They do this in cahoots with the media, with conniving, with conspiracies, collusion, corruption, cooperation, collaboration, with complicity in the scams, etc.Scams: Wasting blood and treasure on absurd foreign adventures, Viet Nam to Akrapistan and Syria. Destroying no doubt $billions in perfectly good, totally harmless refrigeration equipment do to wack-o hysteria about ozone. Wasting treasure via subsidies and regulations for renewable energy, against fossil fuels, over regulation of cars, attempts at foreign giveaways such as the Paris Accords, wack-o, neurotic, Greenie, destructive nonsense.Dirty business; internal enemies of the people.The Fauxcahontas, Democrat, mainstream media track record STINKS.But I will set aside the dirty, thieving, bloody past and address the proposals directly. I MUST assume that there is a Fauxcahontas, Democrat, media hidden agenda that is nothing less than an enemy of the people and will watch for it, but for now for the superficial parts:ForAs I said in both of those blog posts, it is my view that the monopoly powers that Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, etc have do not stem from their size and market reach, they stem from the data monopolies they own about us and our on-line activities. In no rational, observable, objective, realistic way do I see any such things. If I’m missing something, then I’m eager to learn.I don’t see that Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc. have anything of any significant value about my “on-line activities”.And I see no “monopoly powers”: For Google, Bing seems just as good. For Facebook, I thought that Yahoo Groups was just as good. For Amazon, they have a terrific Web site that saves me LOTS of time and money shopping. For Reddit, it was ugly, and I gave up and don’t miss it. For Instagram, I’ve tried it but see no utility and nothing interesting. For SNAP, from what I’ve heard, I wouldn’t want to try it — I’m not a lonely, not very smart teenage girl sending nude pictures to boys in algebra class. For Twitter, I follow Trump and two more — it’s okay. But for Trump’s more important tweets, they are reported well elsewhere. I like Hacker News, but I see no monopoly powers, threats due my “on-line activities”, or other problems.I do at times see some ads that seem to come from (i) idiots, fools, brain damaged, “machine learning, ad targeting, artificial intelligence” and (ii) computer scientists, data scientists, etc., but with (i) and (ii) I repeat myself. Idiots. Total wastes. Their ad targeting, etc. efforts are right next to worthless. They are wasting effort. I just laugh.E.g., a few weeks ago I went shopping for a floor lamp for my new office. Since then I settled on what to do, got a 4000 lumen, 5000 K corn LED and a big drum shade, fabricated a suitable harp, and built the lamp I wanted. But, now I get lots of ads for floor lamps. Too late, guys — I’m DONE shopping for floor lamps! Same for an all glass, covered casserole dish I wanted for my kitchen — I get lots of ads, but got what I wanted and am done! Dumb de dumb dumb ad targeting.In particular, from my “activities” they have nothing, not even as much as zip, zilch, zero. They have nichts, nil, nada. They certainly have no “monopoly powers” significant for me.No, Fauxcahontas, not this time; no, you will NOT use some absurd scam to get me up on my hind legs to give you power to rip me off. No Fauxcahontas, you are not scaring me about evil, triggering paranoia and/or hysteria. There are NO evil big social media monsters in the dust balls under my bed, lurking in my closets, occupying my attic, or anywhere else. There is NO problem, NO danger, NO evil, except just YOU, the Democrats, and your buddies in the mainstream media, all genuine enemies of the people.No, Fauxcahontas, not this time, not again, once again, over again, yet again come up with yet another cooked up, made up, faked up scary threat — Russia, Russia, Russia, Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine, impeach Trump for this, impeach Trump for that, impeach Trump for whatever, impeach Judge Kavanaugh for kissing a girl in high school, impeach Judge Kavanaugh for drinking more than one beer, impeach Judge Kavanaugh for the delusions of some wack-o psycho, impeach Judge Kavanaugh for this, impeach Judge Kavanaugh for that, impeach Judge Kavanaugh for whatever, the good ozone, the bad ozone, global warming, climate change, evil carbon, the threat of CO2, the threat of China Syndrome, dying coral reefs, the rise of super-storms, the rising ocean levels, too few lobsters, too many lobsters, buried in our trash and garbage, and mainstream media gang up, pile on, giant tech monopolies, fad narrative. Not this time.Oh we got trouble.Trouble, Trouble, Trouble.Right here in River City.Trouble starts with a ‘T’.That rhymes with a ‘C’.And that stands for “climate change”!and we need $90+ trillion to “SAVE THE PLANET!!!!” as redemption from the transgressions of evil humans — the old trilogy of transgression by evil humans, retribution from an angry God, and redemption via sacrifice — just send all your money now!It looks like Fauxcahontas, the Squad, the Democrats all have the same idea: Join with the media to fake up huge problems to scare the public. Propose huge solutions to get MONEY from the gullible, convenient idiot, contemptible deplorable Walmart shoppers. Pass out a lot of the money to special interests and get back campaign donations and other financial goodies. Otherwise spend the money on bridges to nowhere, fighting the bad ozone, stopping the “rise of the super-storms”, etc. Just anything. Once the Democrats have the money, the original huge problems are essentially irrelevant. The goals were just the money and power. It’s like, the hopeless, helpless, useless, worthless deplorables have nothing else better to do with their money and power than to give it to the Democrats in government who, then, will decide what to do with that money and power — BUMMER.Instead, for what I have on social media that I uploaded, I have copies of all the more important parts and could upload them to a different Web site.By the way, I just did an incremental backup last night.And as founder of a Web site that is based on information, I am not concerned about the “monopoly power” of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Instagram, SNAP, etc. Not concerned at all. They are doing their work, and I, mine. We are as different as a French and Italian restaurant that happen to be on the same street.Fauxcahontas, you just have NOT found anything to do worth doing.Not this time. Fauxcahontas, you have run out of effective click bait.

    1. fredwilson

      This is bipartisan legislation. I guessed you missed that in your rush to write a hate rant here

      1. sigmaalgebra

        Sometimes some Republicans go along with the scams. W did a LOT of damage, got a LOT of bad stuff started, that Obama continued. It wasn’t all Obama’s fault.For Gulf War I, maybe I’ll hold off judgment. But for W’s Gulf War II, that was one of the worst considered wastes of US blood and treasure ever — the blood waste was comparatively small and the treasure waste not the largest, but the thinking was a good candidate for the worst. E.g., the Department of Energy clearly told Condi that the aluminum tubes were NOT suitable for centrifuges for uranium isotope separation. In the end, they were bodies of backyard rockets. DUMB.The treasure waste was quite significant for essentially everyone in the US.Your post is not the first I’ve heard recently about breaking up the giant, high tech monopolies. Liz and the three guys you mentioned are not nearly the first. So, the whole thing looks JUST like yet another gang up, pile on, current fad, hot topic, click bait headline, continuing media narrative to grab power, this time via regulation, and, no doubt, as in the usual explanation “follow the money”, make some money for some special interests and along the way scare some convenient idiots into voting Democrat and get some media clicks.You emphasized Liz. So, looks like much the same as the scams I mentioned. Since she was a co-sponsor of the “sense of Congress” or some such about the $90+ trillion Green New Deal, she is close to US economy enemy #1, and I focused on Liz — Faucahontas.Those old scams hurt the US a LOT. The Green New Deal, if it passed, would be the worst on wasted treasure of all time.But this big tech monopoly scam, while it would not be nearly as bad as wasting $90+ trillion, looks like just yet another political special interest, (mostly) Democrat party power grab, media click bait scam, and threat to our economy and even to ME.The scams have HURT, hurt the US and hurt ME. I’m raw and sensitive. So, this time I pushed back.Some of the scams hurt ME.What I wrote does not have to be regarded as a “rant”: I included plenty of background to justify being raw and sensitive to scams. And for the claimed threats of the “monopoly powers” and “on-line activities”, I responded specifically in terms specific to me and at least somewhat general — I just see no threats, not to me personally and not even to my startup. For the proposed regulations, I see potentially harmful special interest, political power grab, and media click bait scams and not real problems to be solved.As I wrote, if I’m missing something, then I’m eager to learn: E.g., Google will take my search and browsing history and do WHAT to me? Google can tell I REALLY like a LOT of classical music, and with that they will do WHAT to me? I see a threat of another scam; I don’t see a threat from Google.

        1. pointsnfigures

          Meh, I think it’s really clear there is a problem. Sen Warren has railed against them for partisan political purposes, but so have many Republicans.Here is a link to an academic study on how to rein in Big Tech-and believe me when I tell you there were some very ardent free market capitalists involved in this along with academics that would be for the Green New Deal and a command and control economy.…This is a sticky issue and it’s going to be hard to keep the politics out of it but we really have to try.

          1. sigmaalgebra

            I have to rush off to a meeting so will have to keep this short and quite incomplete.I just read the page at the link you gave but not the 300+ page report. But the page I read gave their recommendations for changes, and I read those.Nope: Won’t work. Some small parts might work, but in total it would be a disaster.If there were free market guys on the committee, then they had no influence: We’re talking left of left EU stuff here.The main excuse to sell this to the public seems to be some cases of maybe some poor judgment at Google and Facebook, e.g., the rumors that on election night 2016 a lot of Google staff was in tears because their total sweetheart Hildebeest lost. E.g., some claims that some Facebook staff throttled some political ads they didn’t like.Even if those things happened, I’m not concerned. Those just are NOT serious problems. Or, if Google messes up, then maybe I’ll go to Bing. Facebook is a wildly disorganized mob — people communicate in various ways with various audiences however with little uniformity in any sense. Facebook has more variety of interactions than the Amazon jungle, the original one in Brazil.These problems look like a flea on a fly on the back of an elephant, just one elephant in all of Africa, just not worth more effort than we’ve already had, some newsie scandal headlines. That’s ENOUGH. Calm DOWN. Candle is not worth the match.For the recommendations:… Congress should empower the FTC to have access to digital platforms’ internal databases and studies, … NO WAY!!!! The FTC people would have to do code reviews of millions of lines of Facebook source code. Screaming insanity!Now I start to be concerned about MY startup — FTC nerds and flocks and herds of lawyers all over my company. BUMMER. They would be 14 tons of paperwork on my back alone — sole, solo founder — and KILL my startup.Then there is:… allow it to perform its own independent research on how platforms impact different areas of our society … BS. No way. None of the business of the FTC or government. That’s far left of the left EU stuff.So far it’s clear: The intention is a power grab, “MO GUMMENT, MA!!!”, a takeover, more bureaucrats in DC with branch offices all over the country with actual offices even IN MY STARTUP. It’s an effort, dream of a total takeover, just as you put it, a “command economy” for various social objectives — socialism dreams.And STILL I see NO serious problem to be solved.There is:… Establish a new digital regulatory agency, a Digital Authority capable of overseeing all aspects of digital platforms, which would be tasked with “creating general conditions conducive to competition.” … That’s just some wet dreams of big gumment socialists having the FTC directly run the Internet and everything about it. It’s not problem solving but just a power grab.That would convert the business of the Internet to just fighting with bureaucrats and lawyers; the company with the largest legal effort wins. Meanwhile any actual progress STOPS cold.I’ll do one more: There is:… impose interoperability among digital platforms, similar to the way the US forced interoperability among phone companies, as a way of weakening network effects. NONSENSE. The Facebook user interface is complicated, really inscrutable, likely undocumented, from all I can tell awash in undefined and bad behavior, and essentially impossible to convert to an API. E.g., the API would need data structures: Well Zuck doesn’t have what is needed. And data structures would still be only a few percent of the definition of the API because would also have to define the behavior, and so far not even Zuck’s people can do that!Such an API can’t be like the old telephone system or e-mail — no way.If you want an API to Facebook, then get a computer and log in and use the existing user interface — that’s the only way. And it likely won’t work just the same tomorrow as it does today.For some simple purposes, Facebook will send you a ZIP file of your stuff. Or you can just download Web pages, scrape screens, etc.And for what you have uploaded, presumably you have copies.In all of this, the only problem mentioned was the claims of some bias in political ads or some such. It’s a couple of raindrops being treated as a 500 foot high Tsunami wave rolling coast to coast.So, we have to ask what is the real agenda? Well, it’s just to grab power.Well, NOPE: No sale. And no way would Trump sign any such thing.So, the goal is not some new legislation.So, what it the goal? Get headlines! Get attention! Politicians get their names in the media. The media gets some clicks.It’s like apparently 80+% of all the political discourse now: No way will the Green New Deal to spend $90+ trillion pass; so, it is relatively harmless to keep proposing it! Same for the Access whatever.We can dispense with all this with just two characters — BS.What I wrote earlier in this thread already had it right. It’s BS.I’ve heard of colleges being taken over by screaming socialists. As a math student, I never saw any such things, or any politics at all. But apparently at Chicago Booth the screaming socialists have taken over.

      2. jason wright

        More of a pest than a buddha.

  2. John Francis Charles

    What about data privacy? Isn’t there a security risk inherent in that approach?Many applications already have some level of interoperability including this one. Also, I can manage the privacy settings on my iPhone.What would the harm be in breaking up these firms or even splitting their share price?

  3. jason wright

    Is that the sound of faangs i hear being sharpened?Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, Moltke. Recommended bedtime reading for the plucky Senators.

  4. awaldstein

    I need to read the bill while traveling today.Sensible bipartisan legislation seems almost a misnomer in current times so this is heartening.I think that when you focus down on facts, like the ownership of data as the lever to control, there is a place for collaboration on all sides.

    1. pointsnfigures

      After being at the Stigler Center debate on this, you’d be surprised at how it went down-not really party specific. There are some academics that don’t believe there is a problem. Others think that there is. One issue is that years ago antitrust was shaped by a decision around consumer welfare. If a consumer pays a lower price, is there harm? This was before Big Tech where “free” was the cost of the product. It’s very hard to quantify the indirect cost of Google being in your life when all of their products from search to mail to an online suite of software is free. Portability is compelling. I wonder if forcing the various companies to divest of certain acquisitions, not Instagram but something like Doubleclick, would level the playing field even more.

      1. awaldstein

        Dunno.I am intrigued and just educated enough to find some frameworks to think about this.

  5. sigmaalgebra

    I’ll keep it simple: In political reality, the Access Act is nothing real but just an effort at being the top political, media fad of the week. But each week there is room in the media headlines for only 1-3 such fads. And the Access Act fad is already too late: By whatever means, this morning it’s already clear that the next political, media fad is to play on the word lynching. That’s the fad! Sorry, Access Act — you just lost out to lynching!!!!!For one more, the 2020 election will be based on the two, main standard issues — (1) peace and (2) prosperity. On these two, Trump has all the attention. So, no one else can get attention on (1) or (2). So, everyone else has to settle for weekly click bait fads.

  6. jason wright…’This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching Act of 2019’’ or the ‘‘ACCESS Act of 2019’.I congratulate them on their reverse engineering skills in coming up with a mouthful like that to fit the catchy acronym.Do i detect the hidden hand of a lobby firm here?

    1. JLM

      .”Hidden?” Why hidden?That legislation was written by a lobbyist. Period.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. jason wright

        (See above).Which firm?Which client(s)? Naming names?

      2. jason wright

        I assume it’s the hidden hidden (not a typo) hand of Crypto Valley VC firms, now loaded up with their enormous token holdings in crypto networks that are positioned to serve this brave new world of porting, interoperability and delegation. Shake the tree.

  7. John Fitzpatrick

    Why is it ok to refer to one senator as “Senator Mark Warner” and another as “Liz”?

    1. kenberger

      I can’t speak for Fred, but IMO: it’s a compliment to “Liz” giving her a more folksy “handle”, like “Bernie” for example.It’s earned from becoming recognizable in a celebrity sense. Senator Warner isn’t quite as widely recognizable, so the formality for him is more warranted and practical.

      1. John Fitzpatrick

        I can buy that.

        1. kenberger

          just not with tokens just yet 😉

      2. Laura Yecies

        Except Bernie refers to himself that way – even his campaign website says Bernie – Senator Warren’s uses her full name Elizabeth

        1. kenberger

          Whoa… GREAT rebuttal! I should have researched my answer better 🙂

      3. JLM

        .When a sitting Senator announces her candidacy on YouTube and says, “I’m going to get me a beer” and kisses her husband (who just happened to get home from teaching at Harvard) like they’re in sixth grade (no tongue), whatever happens after that is likely to fall outside the norms of gravitas.Oddly enough, I think Sen Warren ends up with the nomination. Mayor Pete is going to show well in Iowa and then he’s finished.Biden is just too old. And, yeah, Pres Obama not rising to sprinkle a bit of Holy Water on his VP is a much bigger deal than anybody wants to believe (inside the party).Bernie is too old. [The Squad, the new chicas on the block, have really thrown in with this geriatric dinosaur with the bum heart to advance a “new” agenda? Holy smokes, Batman.]Wall Street hates Sen Warren. The depth of their displeasure is immeasurable.The Dems need a coalition of the left, the liberal, the anointed victimhood, the LGBT, etc, the Communist Party of America, and Wall Street to fill their seats. Well, I left out the dead. The Dems get the dead vote.Of that bunch, the Wall Street crowd has the money.Remember the Dems have to bayonet the wounded through their primary, anoint a winner, and then — only then — does DJT get a chance to eviscerate their candidate.The Dems have two funding chores, with the second one impacted by all those who funded an opponent during the primary while Pres Trump has been outraising the whole lot of them. You do recall he turned the trick last time with half the money of Madame Secretary, no?I actually think there is a shot for Madame Clinton to slip into the job. She will need a clean bill of health from a reputable psych ward to be competitive. That could be the real stumbling block.Right now, we are looking at a rout. Come November if the House hasn’t passed a bit of legislation and we are on the dark side of impeachment, it will be ugly on an ape. Better impeach this guy Pres Trump right away.If you come to kill the King, make damn sure you kill the King.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    2. Laura Yecies

      I agree – I found it disrepectful – i’m sure it was unintentional but that’s how it came across to me.

    3. jason wright

      It surprises me that Americans can be so fussy about such as this. She’s not HRH. She’s just another citizen.

    4. JLM

      .Fair play. At least he didn’t refer to her as Pierre Delecto, no?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  8. jason wright

    “(i) EFFECTIVE DATEThis Act shall take effect on the date on which the Commission promulgates regulations under subsection (a).””(a) REGULATIONSNot later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Commission shall promulgate regulations to implement section 4(c)(2)(B)(v) and subsections (b), (c), and (d) of section 5.”So how long might it take to pass and enact AA?

  9. jason wright

    Will the provisions of the Act apply only to US citizens?

  10. Mark Gavagan

    Hmm. I don’t know what the law should be, but this seems worth considering.I wonder: (1) what the unintended consequences of this might be; and (2) even though it’s users’ data, is it also, simultaneously, the seizing of the FAANGs’ “private” property?If #2 is the case, perhaps a robust “right to be forgotten” law, similar to EU’s GDPR, is a good option.

  11. Avram

    Genius!First fund companies with the goal of them becoming massive monopolies and make a killing when they do.Then use your money and influence to advance legislation that’ll allow other companies (funded by guess who?) to kill the monopoly power of the companies you funded to become monopolies in the first place.Great business model!

    1. Richard

      There is another term for users who get something free – Facebook, Google dt al. and then require these same platforms to pay the cost of deplatforming. It’s called Chutzpah.This is not just wrong, it’s nuts.

    2. Matt A. Myers

      VC industrial complex will be short lived – real entrepreneurs like Elon Musk will be the replacement.

    3. Matt A. Myers

      Well, it is the snake eating its own tail – but if it can do so, as long as it can still eat outside food sources – it will continue to grow; though it’s technically eating its own shit too – if it can efficiently compost it then I suppose that’s all fine then…

  12. William Mougayar

    If this passes, it would give a chance to new services that want to compete with incumbents. Currently, the switching costs are almost insurmountable.

  13. JaredMermey

    How does this bill impact USV’s investment thesis around network effects?

    1. jason wright

      Yes, what’s the new opportunity?

      1. Matt A. Myers

        Bitcoin of course!The opportunity is what real decentralization was meant to foster. Timing is lining everything up nicely with my plans. Exciting.

        1. jason wright

          I just watched Zuckerberg declare it is Libra;”There is no digital financial architecture to support this innovation that we need”. What a nerve he has to say that.

          1. Matt A. Myers

            I also “enjoyed” how he just this past week took stage to contrast the freedom available on Facebook compared to in China, and then he’s now using China’s blockchain innovation to bolster his Libra cause; I realize technology isn’t inherently evil, however I find it striking, ironic perhaps, that he’s referencing the same tyrant government’s system as both being so great and so terrible within a week’s time.

          2. jason wright

            I just realised who he reminds me of. The Jeff Bridges character in Starman. Not the celestial being aspect.

          3. Matt A. Myers

            Haven’t watched that in forever.

  14. Mike

    Thank you for the break down on this proposed legislation. It seems natural that none of these companies would want to voluntarily share user data, but I’m not convinced they will be overly concerned if they are forced to do so.In the case of Facebook, for example, they are a media company that uses user data largely for precision marketing. This allows them to monetize their property, but is not the main reason users participate in their network. They participate because all of their frends are also on the network. I’m not convined access to user data will make it that much easier for new entrants to peel users away from the platform. Of all the companies mentioned I think Google might be most exposed by this legislation as the quality of their core search function probably depends a lot on user data, search history etc.However, the interpretation and enforcement of the interoperability clause could be quite impactful. i.e. if I could interact with Facebook users from an adjacent platform.From prior discussion, anti-trust law makes it illegal for a company to use non-competitive practices to achieve or maintain a monopoly status (that harms consumers?). But the law is not static and interesting to see the evolution here. The courts will get a vote as well. Not to punish success, but I think more, fair competition is good for the economy, innovation and consumers.

    1. sigmaalgebra

      This is all fake, and your “user data” is a clue: It is not made clear just what data is being discussed. So, we get to imagine that hidden back there in those huge server farms are lots of secrets about us. As long as we leave “user data” unspecific, the Fauxcahontas tribe can keep having people imagine the size of the huge threat.

  15. DJL

    First, I like the idea of targeted legislation rather than huge breakups.Second, I am highly skeptical – like most things government – that this will have the intended effect.”What we need to do is to allow any company, large or small, to compete on a level playing field with these large monopolies and the way to do that is to force them to open up their platforms and data so that competitors can provide similar services”So the way that Google makes billions and cheats the world is by hiding their algorithm that decides what ads to serve and how much to charge. So if they open up that API to another search engine they are dead. So there will be a bunch of selective “opening” to make them look compliant.This will test the new lobbying power of these companies that have all setup shop in DC. K Street is flush with tech millions designed to kill or modify this stuff until it is irrelevant.

    1. sigmaalgebra

      For any gumment people who want to look at my data base, code, algorithms, etc., I will scream trade secret. And I may think of some other protections.

  16. Steven Kane

    Generally in agreement with all this (though I loathe Sen. Blumenthal, but I’ll save that for another day.)But why any minimal usage thresholds at all?That is, why 10MM MAU? Why not 0MM MAU?I don’t think this will create a barrier to entry for startups. These type features/attributes/system specs will just be par for the course, like building a site to be optimized for browsers or an app for a mobile app store or an email client for TCP/IP. Using minimum thresholds just seems to me to be dodging the issue in some way, and an open invitation to the type of regulatory rent seeking and manipulation that we are trying to avoid in the first place

    1. JLM

      .You could not possibly loathe that snaky SOB more than I do.Agree more with you than you do with yourself as to 0MM MAU.Killing the first cockroach is more important than the 1MMth cockroach.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  17. Don Wyper

    Calling Senator Warren “Liz” feels like a dumb persons attempt at discrediting her like the “I’m not a racist I have a black friend” Republicans when they called president obama “Barry.” It is not a compliment so I would love an explanation from Frank. (Ps im supporting whoever comes out of dem primary but Sen Elizabeth Warren is not my first or second or third choice).Regarding the substance of your argument, you clearly have a completely biased opinion on the current monopolistic powers of some of your own portfolio companies and the brand you’ve built so I have a hard time not questioning motives. Regulation of the telecoms created billions in productivity and value. By going after Microsoft, the govt created a protective bubble that allowed companies like google and yahoo to survive (sorry Netscape). Tech and venture have benefited off decades of low cost cash, lack of competition and bribing government officials with that same cheap cash. Ok last one is a little harsh but you get the gist. So if anti trust comes after the monopolies google, amazon and Facebook I’ll be ok with that even as a shareholder. Sometimes you need to bring out the big stick to remind people who have accumulated power/money that they are not omnipotent and the American experiment succeeds because of democracy not unbridled capitalism.

  18. J. Lightfield

    I think what is missing in this is aligmning it with something on data privacy. The recent Zappos “settlement” for a data breach, is a good example of there is no equality in the market when individual data is treated as a disposable commodity.

    1. DJL

      Absolutely. And most of the “laws” to protect data privacy to not allow individuals to sue. They defer to the AG and nothing happens.This Zappos was a total joke.

  19. Adam Parish

    Thanks for breaking this down for us Fred. *High-Five*

  20. Andrew Waine

    This seems fairly related to something I discussed with Albert Wenger on twitter the other day: when are we going to see legislation that requires monopolies such as Facebook, Google, etc. to release their APIs? The positives are apparent, but would anyone share an insight into what the downside could be (for the public)?

  21. Richard

    Ugg, Mark Warner is a sell out. Follow the $$. This issue doesn’t even come up on the evenings 99.99% of voters.

    1. jason wright

      Where do the $$ lead?

      1. sigmaalgebra

        The usual suspects.If you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand.Only grownups know. We don’t tell the children.

        1. jason wright

          but not a hater.

      2. Richard


  22. Lynn Kasel

    There’s a lot to like about the underlying principles of the legislation.- Content creators have the right to move, delete or mirror content. Implicit in this is the idea that content creators can also delegate rights to publish their content.- Web services have a responsibility to provide tools and interoperability to support those rights

  23. sigmaalgebra

    I can see it now: My startup is taking off! I’m a sole, solo founder, out in some rural area, in my 3 bedroom manufactured house in my office in the living room with my server farm in two of the bedrooms, big heat pump HVAC, UPS boxes, Diesel backup generator in a hut on a slab out back; a caravan of big, black SUVs drive up; and there is an excessively loud knock at the door.It’s the local FTC Internet Social Responsibility Office, 30 lawyers, 30 computer guys, 10 guys wearing side arms, with some official looking papers.We’re here to help! We will help you meet your required social responsibilities. Right away we will need office space for 100 people. We won’t get in your way. I anticipated all of this: I smile and out of sight of the front door push a little button. In 25 seconds all the data in the server farm is written over with random garbage and then there is a full shutdown of everything.As the FTC staff enters the dark house, I walk to my garage, get in my loaded SUV, and LEAVE.

  24. JLM

    .This is the kind of targeted vanity legislation that will never, ever see the light of day.It is legislation that is drafted to scratch some big donor’s itch.Proof? It’s sponsored by Sen Warner, a tech guy of some importance but with no real allies (he is toxic because of his fixation on Russian collusion at Intel), Sen Blumenthal, an inconsequential twit with even fewer friends than Sen Warren, and Sen Josh Hawley who hasn’t been in the Senate for a year.That is as weak a set of sponsors as one could find. There is not a more inconsequential Republican Senator — from a legislative perspective — than a first year, know nothing Senator. [And, I like the guy.]Sen Hawley got invited to the party so people could say, “This is BI-PARTISAN legislation.” And some fools actually did.”Hey, sweetie, your naivete is showing.”This is like putting on pine scented cologne and saying, “Hey, I’m a lumberjack, right?”This is some lobbyist with a big client who has a war chest to spend and who is looking for results to spring those dollars free.This legislation will not garner an additional sponsor, will never get a committee hearing, and will go nowhere. Who would sign on to this legislation after these lightweights have exposed themselves. What Republican wants to say, “Yeah, I’m looking to follow my pal Josh Hawley cause he’s a big leader in our caucus.”There is no companion bill in the House.People who comment on this vanity legislation betray their total lack of knowledge of how the Congress really works.A serious bill has deep sponsorship including members from the pertinent committee (like the chair or the ranking member), has real bipartisan sponsorship from people who have been around for a few years, and has a companion bill in the House with similar bi-partisan sponsorship.Compare this to the First Step Act that was wired from the beginning. That was bi-partisan legislation that Presidents had been trying to get done for 40 years. It took a guy like Pres Trump to get beyond the knee jerk party silliness to get it over the finish line. Thanks, Pres Trump.The announcement is made in front of a press gaggle and there is a scheduled committee hearing, day one. Otherwise this is just a pipe dream.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  25. JLM

    .To be perfectly fair, I don’t think anybody has established as a matter of fact that any of these companies, FB, et al, are in fact engaged in illegal monopolistic behavior.The proofs of this type of illegal behavior are more extensive and exhaustive than a quick show of hands of the Illuminati.What vexes us collectively about FB is more than just some notion of pricing misdeeds (which again hasn’t been proven). It is data mishandling, censorship, favoritism, loose data security, a lack of candor, perhaps squashing innovation, ads, the algorithm, secrets, a few lies, Zuck’s meat eating policy, and bad pics on Insta.None of these things are additional proofs of monopolistic behavior. All of them seem to be additional individual beefs.Nobody seems able to describe a changed condition that ends up with a model that works better. What is better about Insta being a second app on my phone?We are treating the patient well before we have agreed on the diagnosis. And, the patient has the right to object to the treatment.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  26. ShanaC

    If we’re talking about delegatability we need to talk about the idea of potentially breaking up ad producers from their respective exchange/auction clearing house.The reason: as soon as you have interoperability, from a data standards perspective, you’ve created a commodity taxonomy from an ad buying perspective. Layer on formats standards, and I question why an ad isn’t a commodity item that wouldn’t need regulation by groups like the CFTC and the treasuryhaving third party exchanges exclusively (and possibly introducing matching futures and options) would simplify the delegatability question, because they would be the controls. It’s clear who is delegated, because the third party control the transaction auction, as opposed to what is happening right now, where the producer is also controlling the transaction auction.

  27. lunarmobiscuit

    Why isn’t anyone pointing out that the total value and speed of innovation both rose dramatically after AT&T was broken up, and that Rockefeller’s fortune grew 5x after Standard Oil broke up?What Warren and other are missing is that we can breakup Google into five identical parts, instantly creating competition and likely increasing total spend. Each Baby Google/5 can be given a copy of the source code tree and a copy of the advertising customer list. becomes a landing page with five links and a search box, that search box randomly selecting a Baby G/5 to present the results.Leave the patents and trademark with Alphabet, but they can’t play favorites amongst the children and each has to have a separate board and can’t merge for 10 years.Facebook’s network effect makes a similar, “horizontal” breakup more challenging, but again how about five Baby Books, with the goverment mandating a central social graph managed by, open by API to the Baby Books, Instagram, and WhatsApp in year 1 and any upstart social network a year later. But no common ad buying across Baby Books, nor across Instagram and WhatsApp, both of which should be sixth and seventh mandated spin-offs.Along these same lines, I’d love a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation tool that didn’t crash every week, so I’d do this same horizontal split up with Microsoft too. Each of those Baby Bills gets a copy of the source tree to Office and Windows. Competition does wonders for innovation, especially when no one has more than 20% of the market.

  28. Pankaj Garg

    UPI is one powerful example of these ideas.