By Justin Sanders
In July, The New York Times reported on an organization called the Global Antitrust Institute (GAI), a think tank funded by the likes of Google and other Big Tech heavyweights. Its goal, per the newspaper: to wine and dine, cajole, pamper, and influence government officials around the world who enforce competition laws.
Offering opulent meals, fine wine, and paid trips to Oahu, Santa Monica, and Tokyo, the GAI spares no expense as it tries to win over officials who might be, or are already in the process of, conducting investigations into their benefactors’ business practices. Their weeklong conferences held in scenic locales offer an array of classes billed as “continuing education for antitrust regulators,” writes the Times. But the paper concludes it’s really about propaganda, “delivering a clear message to international officials: The best way to foster competition is to maintain a hands-off approach to antitrust law.”
This is a clear case of working the referee, and it cannot stand.
So we at CreativeFuture are breaking our piggy bank and now forming our own think tank, the Global Mistrust Institute (GMI), devoted to spreading the word about the dark side of platform monopolies. We have an exciting lineup of classes planned, designed to help antitrust regulators get out of their economic bubble and really processwhat internet monopolies are doing to people, to communities, to societies, and, yes, to industries – and what they will continue to do, as long as no one can compete with them.
Unfortunately, our piggy bank doesn’t contain enough pennies to fly you to Hawaii, regulators – we’re creatives, not internet giants. But if we ever get to go back to our office, we will have a conference room with decent A/C and all the Keurig coffee pods you can drink. As we all wait for that glorious day to arrive, here’s the GMI course list to get you pumped.
GLOBAL MISTRUST INSTITUTE COURSE LIST:
It’s (Not Just) the Economy, Stupid
The ability of tech monopolies to crush their competition is bad for economic growth, but the fallout from their outsized dominance impact more than just business. This course surveys the many societal harms that flow from the uncontested power of mammoth global digital platforms, and the ethical consequences of that dominance. This mistrust overview will discuss the platforms’ role in human trafficking, thriving white supremacist groups, the threats to free and fair elections, and other concerns of that ilk.
The Death of Democracy I – No News is Bad News
Our democracy couldn’t really die, could it? It sure could, and this course shows how it starts with the destruction of the free press – whose role in society is to help hold un-democratic forces (you know, like giant tech monopolies) accountable. Big Tech monopolies pose an existential threat to journalism. Not only do companies like Google and Facebook now capture the lion’s share of the ad revenue that once supported quality journalistic outlets, but some of that money helps to support the spread of fake news on their platforms, adding toxic fuel to the free press tire fire. The result, as author Matt Stoller recently wrote, is the rise of a “dysfunctional information ecosystem… characterized by polarization, addiction and conspiracy theories.”
The Death of Democracy II – The End of Truth
A functioning democracy depends upon an informed citizenry. The institutions and regulations that keep us safe cannot function if we do not agree on a common set of facts. This course explores Big Tech’s central role in undermining this collective agreement, and even the notion of truth itself. Platforms like Facebook and YouTube perpetuate paranoia and conspiracy theories with filter bubbles that trap users inside a one-way mindset of misinformation. Increasingly sophisticated advertising tools allow politicians and others to target people individually, exploiting psychological vulnerabilities. And the worst part? It’s all part of the Big Tech business model.
Understanding Child Development on YouTube – From Abuse to Addiction
The Big Tech monopoly conversation rarely mentions the monopoly that YouTube holds over our children’s attention. Kids are the platform’s most numerous watchers – and its most-watched. In January, the video giant had to pay a $170 million fine for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) – but that was only the beginning of YouTube’s shameless exploitation of its most loyal audience. This course unpacks the platform’s long track record of serving up pedophilia, child abuse, and just plain weird and disturbing content that probably will haunt the dreams of many young viewers for the rest of their lives. Why do parents put up with this? In part, you will learn, because YouTube and its parent Google basically have a monopoly on free streaming video content for kids, so there isn’t a better option.
Canary in the Coalmine – A History of Internet Piracy
Fact: before Google acquired YouTube, in 2006, its own executives called the video platform a “pirate” site. They knew full well that YouTube was profiting from copyright infringement… and that has never changed. This course offers an overview of piracy in the online era, from Napster’s decimation of the music industry to the weakening of online copyright protections brought about by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). One major sign a company is too big is when it no longer has to play by the same rules as everyone else. Facebook and Google have been dodging the rules since the very beginning, and the rampant theft of creative works on their platforms was an early indicator that it wasn’t going to end well.
Liability Shields 101 – Sections 230 and 512
As an antitrust regulator, you will know your own country’s antitrust laws. But how familiar are you with the U.S. laws that gave Facebook and Google the rocket fuel that boosted their growth… by absolving them of responsibility for harms? This course takes a close look at Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) and Section 512 of the DMCA, two seminal pieces of legislation that helped to give us the immense, and rancid, internet we have today. Many U.S. lawmakers would happily export the language of these laws into international trade agreements, so this is a good chance to understand what you would be doing to yourselves if this happens,
How to Charm, Indoctrinate, and Muzzle Criticism from Advertisers
Big Tech doesn’t just roll out the red carpet for you, antitrust regulators… it does the same thing for its biggest advertisers, too. This course analyzes how Facebook weathers competitions from its rivals, as well as many scandals that would have brought down most other companies, by lavishing high-profile brands and advertising companies with, among other things, birthday cakes, ski trips, and even luxurious dinners at the home of Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. Their tactics amount to a “controlling mechanism,” said one former member of their invitation-only global client council, for “manipulating people to … look over obvious issues.” Take this course and you will understand how a massive company staves off an advertiser boycott that included hundreds of the largest brands in the world.
We hope this Global Mistrust Institute course list has you excited. Pass all seven courses, and we will award you with a Certificate of Completion to frame and put on your wall. Or, you can keep it in your briefcase, so that the next time you attend a lavish dinner put on by a Big Tech think tank, you can pull it out and say, “You’re wrong. I am now an expert in why Big Tech monopolies must, in fact, be regulated – and here’s the proof!”
See you in the conference room.