[discuss] [bestbits] Shoshanna Zuboff: Dark Google

Evan Leibovitch evan at telly.org
Wed May 7 07:41:45 UTC 2014

On 7 May 2014 00:58, michael gurstein <gurstein at gmail.com> wrote:

> No, but the comment speaks to the company's long-standing grudge against
> Google. So when you appeal to the gravitas of Springer as somehow being
> relevant to the authenticity (let alone relevance) of its claims,
> Springer's backstory with Google -- and this its subjective motivations --
> also becomes relevant.
> *[MG>] So what… as someone said because the canary in the mine shaft is
> wearing a company jacket doesn’t make it any less of a canary (perhaps even
> more useful because of their special knowledge*

More Chicken Little than canary.

 I have no idea why you speak of this in the future tense. This is already
> happening. Or are the "great firewall of China", recent moves by Turkey to
> throttle Twitter, or even screwing with the DNS to implement DMCA
> "takedowns" in the US just myth?
> *[MG>] As I’m sure you know these above are rather different instances
> with different motivations and different desired outcomes*

Actually, I don't know that. The motivations are actually quite similar,
IMO. In all cases the free flow of information of the Internet has been
impeded to suit a local government initiative based on values that are not
globally shared.

> * and I share your concern with them but responding to them either
> nationally or globally requires a rather different strategy and
> policy/decision making mechanisms… I see little value except the attempt to
> score rhetorical (ideological) points in conflating them…*

My intent is to identify the use of the Springer article to justify attack
on multi-stakeholderism in the name of alarmist Google-bashing. If that
calls for objective rebuttals which, in the absence of rebuttal, are
arbitrarily dismissed and name-called as "rhetorical points", then so be it.

*[MG>] The original question that I posed was--should Google be a
> “stakeholder” in a “multistakeholder” process of regulation of the industry
> in which it is a dominant player… If the answer is yes then we seem to have
> a different perspective on the likely behavior of foxes in hen houses.*

Guilty as charged.

Until Google is found guilty of criminal activity or to be demonstrably
hostile to the public interest, it is a legitimate part of the discussion.
Many developed countries have anti-monopoly regulators; and while Google's
sheer size has attracted their attention (as it should), it has not to my
knowledge been ordered to break-up, divest or otherwise go away. It has a
self-interested point of view and hard bargaining tactics, but that's
hardly unique.

I don't trust Springer, or you, or me, to alone be sufficient judge of
whether Google is guilty of activity that denies it a legitimate place at
the table at which policy is debated. It is not justified to dominate, but
it is certainly entitled to participate.

I prefer the evidence of actual existing (and possibly future) regulatory
regimes, over the doomsday scenario painted by interests fearful of having
their business models disrupted.

*[MG>] One of the more interesting elements of the Springer (and Zuboff)
> arguments was the way in which Google was choking off precisely the type of
> innovation which would allow for a monopoly such as itself to come under
> extraordinary technology competition. Certainly it is possible but blind,
> naïve, mystical, faith in the power of technologists to save us all is not
> something that I (or I would imagine most people in the world) are ready to
> easily subscribe to…*

Just the contrary, I would argue that it is your PoV that is emotional and
based on unfounded belief, On my side is the historical reality that
companies such as IBM and Microsoft, which during their peaks were also
thought to be immortal dynasties (and worked hard to maintain their
respective advantages), have all met their match.

As a front-line open source advocate in the 90s and early 00s I saw
first-hand Microsoft activity that I believed to be anti-competitive,
anti-standards and manipulative. Despite this, Microsoft didn't prevent
Google (and, in a different way, Apple) from overtaking in significant
markets in which it had both more money and first-mover advantage.

If Google is working to stifle innovation, such moves need to be explicitly
(not theoretically) identified and challenged. I invite such revelations,
but the fear-mongering presented so far is insufficient. IMO, we need
better app-level standards to go alongside the existing infrastructure
work; that work (such as standardizing file formats) is currently in the
realm of bodies such as ISO rather than IETF, and needs to be harmonized
better. (Indeed, the ISO/JTC1 shares many of the same multilateral
characteristics that many are right to loathe about the ITU, but we still
need awareness and a relationship.)

That is why the push for openness and standards is so important. (I would
add to that a clear and present need for reform of intellectual property
regimes, but that's a different thread.) Open standards, multistakeholder
governance and transparent processes prevent entities such as Google
crossing the line from innovating to stifling innovation. Protocols on
surveillance and data abuse must not just be targeted towards governments,
but also at private companies interests.

> *If the words “free and open” actually mean anything other than as a PR
> driven slogan then it is worth thinking quite seriously about what a “free
> and open” Internet might mean to a rather wider range of folks than those
> currently deriving extraordinary benefits from its current configurations.*

Last week I was in a moving car, showing family members real-time video of
my newborn granddaughter from a location on the other side of the
continent. At times like that I am aware that *I* am one of those folks
"deriving extraordinary benefits from [] current configurations". So are
you. So are the other readers of this mail. This is not a zero-sum game.

- Evan

PS: As for "thinking quite seriously about what a 'free and open' Internet
might mean", I would think that most of the participants here, by their
very presence and consumed time, are already engaging in that very effort,
Accusing those who disagree with you of not being serious is poor debating
style. Just my opinion.
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