Antitrust Advocate Who Coined the Phrase ‘Net Neutrality’ Joins Biden’s White House

Antitrust Advocate Who Coined the Phrase ‘Net Neutrality’ Joins Biden’s White House (



from the Wu-the-day dept.

Tim Wu coined the phrase “net neutrality”. He’s the author of The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age , and Bloomberg calls him an “outspoken advocate for aggressive antitrust enforcement against U.S. technology giants.”

They add that now the Columbia University media law professor “is joining the White House an adviser, signaling that the Biden administration is preparing to square off against the industry’s biggest companies.”

Wu will join the National Economic Council as a special assistant on technology and competition policy, the White House said Friday. Wu’s appointment elevates to a senior position in the administration a leading antitrust expert, favored by progressives, who has assailed the power of dominant tech companies like Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc. Both companies were sued by U.S. antitrust enforcers last year for allegedly abusing their monopoly power…

After the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general sued Facebook in December, Wu wrote a column in the New York Times comparing Facebook’s strategy of buying competitors to Standard Oil’s tactics in the 19th century. “What the federal government and states are doing is reasserting a fundamental rule for all American business: You cannot simply buy your way out of competition,” Wu wrote. “Facebook, led by its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has taken that strategy to a smirking and egregious extreme, acquiring multiple companies to stifle the competitive threat they pose.”

Wu joins the Biden administration as tech giants are grappling with a reckoning in Washington that could transform the industry. The Facebook lawsuit could lead to the breakup of the company, while the Justice Department’s complaint against Google targets the heart of its business — Internet search. Antitrust enforcers have also opened investigations of Apple Inc. and Amazon… Wu argued in his book, The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age, that rising concentration across the economy has led to concentrated wealth and power as well as radicalized politics that threatens American democracy.

A White House press briefing Friday included this response to a question about Biden’s plans for big tech companies:

The President has been clear — on the campaign, and, probably, more recently — that he stands up to the abuse of power, and that includes the abuse of power from big technology companies and their executives. And Tim will help advance the President’s agenda, which includes addressing the economic and social challenges posed by the growing power of tech platforms; promoting competition and addressing monopoly and market power issues; expanding access to broadband for low-income and rural communities across the country…

We don’t have new policy to announce here… Just that the President believes, as he’s talked about before, that it’s important to promote competition and address monopoly and market power issues.

Interestingly, last August Wu also wrote an op-ed in the New York Times titled “A TikTok Ban is Overdue,” arguing that China’s “extensive blocking, censorship and surveillance violate just about every principle of internet openness and decency. China keeps a closed and censorial internet economy at home while its products enjoy full access to open markets abroad…”

The asymmetry is unfair and ought no longer be tolerated. The privilege of full internet access — the open internet — should be extended only to companies from countries that respect that openness themselves…

[China] bans not only most foreign competitors to its tech businesses but also foreign sources of news, religious instruction and other information, while using the internet to promote state propaganda and engage in foreign electoral interference… Few foreign companies are allowed to reach Chinese citizens with ideas or services, but the world is fully open to China’s online companies…

The idealists who thought the internet would automatically create democracy in China were wrong. Some think that it is a tragic mistake for the United States to violate the principles of internet openness that were pioneered in this country. But there is also such a thing as being a sucker. If China refuses to follow the rules of the open internet, why continue to give it access to internet markets around the world…?

We need to wake up to the game we are playing when it comes to the future of the global internet. The idealists of the 1990s and early ’00s believed that building a universal network, a kind of digital cosmopolitanism, would lead to world peace and harmony. No one buys that fantasy any longer. But if we want decency and openness to survive on the internet — surely a more attainable goal — the nations that hold such values need to begin fighting to protect them.

Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.
– Voltaire


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