Posted On: Wednesday - March 13th 2019 8:48PM MST
In Topics:   Websites  Liberty/Libertarianism  US Feral Government  Orwellian Stupidity  Legal Stupidity
Did Jeff Bezos slow realization of his dream that Amazon.com be the place for the world buy anything and everything go to his head, or change him in some way? He may not be a totalitarian, but his company is getting that way.*
Beyond the discussion in the previous post about Amazon's book banning ways of recent days, and specifically the very bad idea of having the US Government take charge of anti-censorship, is the more general subject of what to do about these Tech Totalitarians. That is some nice VDare-generated (I think) terminology, though the word "tech" has really been bastardized to wrongly apply now only to computer technology. One can read hundreds of well-written, thought provoking articles on various forms of Tech Totalitarianism on VDare by a multitude of writers.
I found an article by VDare's "Washington Watcher" from last fall, that had caused me to do some thinking at the time about this pernicious problem we have now that Amazon.com is pretty much the place to buy ANYTHING, eBay is by far THE on-line used-goods place, Google has 92% of the search traffic, PayPal controls the payments for the purchases, etc. Yeah, they do monopolize their respective parts of the informational, commerical, and transactional on-line scene.
In Google vs. Trump: “The Good Censor” On Collision Course With The Patriot President, Mr. Watcher argues for Big-Gov to DO SOMETHING. Well, as I argued in the previous post, that could be a very bad idea, well, it pretty much WOULD be. Does anyone remember the "equal time" business in some law from the '70's that said radio stations or shows had to give equal time for opposing views? Yeah, it didn't work out too good. It's easy for the Overton Window to be shifted to where Rachael Maddow is your conservative. That depends on who's in the bureaucracy that runs the shitshow that would result from Feral Government being the arbiter of fairness. No, no, and no!
There are still a lot of ideas in the article however, and others like it. Mr. Watcher brings up this monopoly of service in all these internet-tech areas being broken up by government. That's more reasonable, but can Amazon or Google be broken up like Standard Oil? Even the phone company (yes it was just "the phone company" back in the day), Bell, after being broken up in 1982 into 7 regional companies, your Southern Bell, Bell Atlantic, US West, etc., all kinda came back into place as AT&T some years later. The whole scene had changed by then, first with the various long-distance providers, and later with cell service.
Are these companies basically utilities now, that must be regulated like the regional electric company? I get the idea that, nobody is going to build a new set of high-tension lines parallel to the existing ones to do business. Whoever owns the lines has pretty much got customers over a barrel if they want to squeeze them. Is it really like that with Amazon though? Sure, they have a big market, but there are different sites to buy auto parts, others to buy sports equipment, etc. However, the ability to first find these via a search uses another near-monopoly. Then, the payment system is another monopoly. The internet itself, unlike the high-tension wires, or even the actual fiber optic cables that are the backbone of it, is not really OWNED by anyone. Data can go in all different directions, making it very hard to control the whole deal, not that people aren't trying, cough, China, cough, cough.
Mr. Washington Watcher and others argue that the Libertarian leave-business-alone idea is just not going to cut it when dealing with these big giants of the information world. I have already stated that no, we can't play whiffle ball, when the ctrl-left, Globalists, and Commies are playing hardball. Leaving it be assumes that competition will rise up. That is difficult due to the inherent monopolies formed, as Peak Stupidity has discussed user-generated content and difficulty of entry into one of these markets.
Real Conservatives or any other dissidents that want to really be able to operate productively on the internet would have to build their own world on it - all parts of it. You make a site for selling otherwise-banned books, and the Google hides you. You've got a video channel to help, and youtube (owned by Google) hides you or takes your stuff off. You get the world of mouth finally, and, well, the payment site bans you. No, it's not easy.
Does the reader remember the Alta-Vistas and Lycoses of yesteryear? It was over 20 years back now. There WAS real competition in search engines, but I will give Google credit: Those search engines** all sucked in finding stuff compared to Google's ability now. OTOH, go back a few more years, and I can remember first going on the www. Nobody at my level had the knowledge to explain to me what the browser program was, as compared to the site itself, and how anything at all worked. They just told me to go to some "brown cow" site to find this one thing, and I figured there were a few hundred places to be, ON THE INTERNET. Haha, I was even then probably off by 3 orders of magnitude. The search programs didn't really have that much to work with. It would not have helped any to hide a website, as it probably wouldn't show up either way, and friends just told you the names of good websites. And WE LIKED IT THAT WAY!
OK, enough reminiscing here, but it does make me think of one great part of the software world that seems be old hat now: Open Source. These generous geeks (no sarcasm there) spent months of their lives helping us write software, write documents, work out numbers, run websites - servers, databases, scripting language, all of that with their own open-to-modification software, preventing Microsoft from being quite the evil that they well could have been. What is new with GNU? That will be a topic for another post.
One more thing in this long post, somewhat inspired by the ideas, even that I don't agree with in Washington Watcher's article. This is where Washington, FS comes into the picture, in fact, and is an idea I can positively get behind. There is already a "Communications Decency Act", passed in 1996 as the internet world came to light in the minds of politicians. One particular Section 230 of this bill lets websites off the hook for indecent content, basically preventing them from liability, as "interactive computer services". In the best terminology to explain this, the website is not the "PUBLISHER" of the information on the site, while the actual writer, the "content provider" can be liable. As Peak Stupidity discussed, the excellent idea of letting the users (think Amazon reviews, youtube videos, blurbs in pages found by Google) generate the content, beside being of great benefit in saving an impossible amount of work, gains immunity for these "content providers".
Washington Watcher (I imagine it's not solely his idea) says, take these Tech Totalitarians out of Section 230 immunity. Let them be liable for lawsuits involving all the content, and watch them squirm. The suggestion is that President Trump could push this idea through was made in this article from October of '18. That was before Trump was DEAD TO ME, though.
It's a complex subject, but this Tech Totalitarianism is a 21st century problem, unimaginable 20 years back. What's the solution going to be? I don't know yet, as Peak Stupidity is not really a Solutions Provider.
* BTW if he's gonna be a rich possiblly-evil bastard, he really needs to do better with the chicks. If you're gonna lose $35,000,000,000 by leaving the wife, you really ought to be able pick a 22-y/o hottie. Yes, she would be in it for your money - get over it!
** Now there's another stupid piece of geek-terminology stolen from real life. How, in any manner, does a computer program resemble an engine?