Google, Trump, and the Arrogance of Power

Google’s search engine runs two-thirds of all searches in the United States and 90 percent in Europe.

“Platform monopolies” like this can squelch innovation. Google might favor its own services, such as Google Maps and Google Product Search, for example. This is one reason why the European Commission hit Google with a record 2.42 billion-euro fine in June.

Why hasn’t Google run into similar problems with antitrust authorities in the United States?

It almost did in 2012. The Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition recommended that the Commission sue Google for conduct that “has resulted — and will result — in real harm to … innovation.”

But the commissioners decided not to pursue the case, which was unusual. They didn’t explain their decision, but it may have had to do with Google’s political clout. 

Google is among the largest corporate lobbyists in the United States, and a major campaign donor.

Google also has enough financial power to stifle criticism coming from independent researchers.

Last week the New York Times reported that the New America Foundation, an influential center-left think tank, fired Barry Lynn, a sharp critic of platform monopolies. Lynn had posted a congratulatory note to European officials on their Google decision, and called for American antitrust officials to follow suit.

Since its founding in 1999, the New America Foundation has received more than $21 million from Google (and its parent company, Alphabet) and from the family foundation of Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Alphabet who previously served as chairman of New America’s board.

According to the Times, Schmidt didn’t like Lynn’s comments, and communicated his displeasure to the president of the New America Foundation. She then accused Lynn of “imperiling the institution as a whole,” and fired him and his staff.

Few powerful institutions or people like criticism. But it’s never smart to use power to try to stop it.

Consider Donald J. Trump. It may seem odd to mention Trump at the same time I’m talking about Google. Google’s executives tend to be on the left. Eric Schmidt was a major backer of Hillary Clinton.  

But power is power, and Trump has demonstrated a similar tendency to throw his ever-expanding weight around. Like Google, he doesn’t particularly like to be criticized, if you hadn’t noticed. 

Trump also has a record of paying off politicians. During the 2016 Republican primaries, when attacked by his GOP rivals for having once donated money to Hillary Clinton, Trump explained “as a businessman and a very substantial donor to very important people, when you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do.”

After Trump’s charitable foundation made a $25,000 contribution to a campaign organization linked to Florida’s Attorney General, she decided not to open a fraud investigation of Trump University that her office had been considering. Not quite the Federal Trade Commission, but a similar transaction.

To support his ambitions, Trump has also paid for, shall we say, fake news. His presidential campaign seems to have financed a lot of fictional dirt on Hillary.

Google doesn’t pay for fake news, but it does pay off academics to help sway public opinion and policymakers in its favor.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Google has financed hundreds of professors at places like Harvard and Berkeley to write research papers that help Google defend itself against regulatory challenges of its market dominance. Google’s payments range from $5,000 to $400,000.

This research has been used by Google in courtrooms, regulatory hearings, and congressional hearings.

Some professors have allowed Google to see the papers before they’re published, enabling Google to give them “suggestions,” according to emails obtained by the Journal.

The professors’ research papers don’t disclose that Google sought them out, and don’t necessarily reveal Google’s backing.

I’m not suggesting their research has been faked. But the failure to fully disclose Google’s connection with it does raise questions about its objectivity.

Google and Trump are wildly different, of course, but they’ve been playing much the same game. They’ve used their clout to stifle criticism, paid members of Congress to pull their punches, and bought fake or at least questionable facts to support of their goals.

Whether it’s a giant left-leaning corporation or an unhinged alt-right president, the underlying problem is the same. It imperils our democracy and breeds distrust in our system. Such abuse of power is morally wrong.


8/10 greatest Federer moments of the 2012 Tennis season

↳ Unbelievable shots: (left to right, top to bottom) World Tour Finals: Final against Djokovic, Australian Open: R4 against Tomic, Indian Wells: R2 against Kudla, Wimbledon: Final against Murray, US Open: QF against Berdych, Basel: SF against Mathieu


30 Days Tennis Challenge || Day 6:
Your most memorable match: 2012 Wimbledon Final

“This match was historic on many fronts as it saw Federer win a record-shattering seventeenth major title and a record-tying seventh Wimbledon championship. The victory was also historic as it caused Federer to depose Novak Djokovic as World No. 1 and break Sampras’ record of 286 weeks at the summit of men’s tennis. Additionally, Murray became the first British man to reach the final of Wimbledon since 1938, and was seeking to be the first British Wimbledon champion since 1936.”


Roger is probably one of the best players that ever played the game. He’s been so great to tennis, because he is such a personality. Everybody loves Roger - the way he plays, the way he acts on the court as a sportsman, off the court. Everybody’s got so much respect for him now, and I think the longer he stays in tennis, the better it is for tennis.” - Stefan Edberg

Firms Paid Bill Clinton Millions As They Lobbied Hillary Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton accepted more than $2.5 million in speaking fees from 13 major corporations and trade associations that lobbied the U.S. State Department while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, an International Business Times investigation has found. The fees were paid directly to the former president, and not directed to his philanthropic foundation.

Many of the companies that paid Bill Clinton for these speeches – a roster of global giants that includes Microsoft, Oracle and Dell – engaged him within the same three-month period in which they were also lobbying the State Department in pursuit of their policy aims, federal disclosure documents show. Several companies received millions of dollars in State Department contracts while Hillary Clinton led the institution.

Keep reading


1. Tyndale House Publishers

This Christian book and Bible publisher, which sued the federal government in 2012 over the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to cover contraception, said in a statement provided to HuffPost that it was “delighted” with the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.

“We hope the way is now clear for our court to rule that Tyndale House Publishers is not obligated to provide early abortion-causing items, which we find morally objectionable,” the statement said. Tyndale House, which is based in Illinois, has 260 full-time employees, according to court documents. Among other things, the company is known for publishing the works of evangelical icon and Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.

2. Trijicon
Trijicon, a Michigan-based company that makes rifle scopes, is no stranger to church-versus-state controversies. In 2010, it was revealed that the manufacturer had been stamping Bible verses onto its gun sights, many of which were used by U.S. and British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. (The company later agreed to stop the practice.) In August of last year, a district court granted Trijicon a preliminary injunction in its case challenging the federal government’s mandate that companies with more than 50 employees provide coverage for birth control or pay a fine. Trijicon has more than 200 employees, according to the court filing.

For the full list of companies read on here.

Justice Department Not Charging George Zimmerman In Death Of Trayvon Martin

The Justice Department said Tuesday that it will not bring federal charges against George Zimmerman for the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin:

“The death of Trayvon Martin was a devastating tragedy. It shook an entire community, drew the attention of millions across the nation, and sparked a painful but necessary dialogue throughout the country,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “Though a comprehensive investigation found that the high standard for a federal hate crime prosecution cannot be met under the circumstances here, this young man’s premature death necessitates that we continue the dialogue and be unafraid of confronting the issues and tensions his passing brought to the surface. We, as a nation, must take concrete steps to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future.”

Following the shooting, a team of some of the department’s most experienced civil rights prosecutors and FBI agents conducted a comprehensive, independent investigation of the events of Feb. 26, 2012. The federal investigation was opened and conducted separately from the state of Florida’s investigation of the shooting under local laws. Once the state initiated the second-degree murder prosecution, federal investigators began monitoring the state’s case and halted active investigation in order not to interfere with the state’s trial. Federal investigators provided reports of interviews and other evidence they obtained to the state’s prosecution team.

(Click here for more info from BuzzFeed News)

Google reportedly blackmailed websites into giving it content for free

In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission investigated Google to determine whether the company’s monopoly on the search market violated anti-trust laws. The Commission ultimately accepted a settlement with the search giant, but a confidential FTC report obtained by The Wall Street Journal reveals how deeply divided the Commission was over whether to sue.

As part of the settlement, Google agreed to make minor changes to its business practicesand argued that the report did not show wrongdoing. But key FTC officials, after collecting nine million documents in the course of the investigation, wanted to take direct legal action against the company. The report reveals why.

According to the report, for one example, Google took content from companies like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Amazon. In the latter case, Google lifted product rankings and placed them in their own search results for those products. When the companies complained to Google about the process, Google threatened to remove them entirely from results. TheJournal quotes this section of the report: “It is clear that Google’s threat was intended to produce, and did produce, the desired effect, which was to coerce Yelp and TripAdvisor into backing down.” The Commission ultimately had Google agree to let websites opt outof the process.

The Journal highlights two other concerns from the FTC. For one, Google reportedly restricted websites that published its search results from collaborating with competing search engines. In other cases, Google refused to allow data obtained from its ad campaigns to be used in campaigns with other services. According to the report, Larry Page personally asked this process to continue, before the FTC eventually convinced Google to shut it down. As for search results themselves, according to the report (as quoted in the Journal), Google “adopted a strategy of demoting, or refusing to display, links to certain vertical websites in highly commercial categories.”

Google ultimately made only minor concessions after the FTC’s investigation, and as the Commission decided against more forceful action, it was widely seen as a win for the company. But the report describes what happened more acutely: it was “a close call.”

The Government Is Quietly Giving Way More Housing Aid to Rich People Than Poor People

The Center for Budget Policy Priorities released a number of charts today that shows how much the federal government favors high-income households over low-income ones in housing benefits.

This largely results from the fact that homeowners receive significantly more aid than renters and high-income Americans are much more likely to be homeowners.

In 2012, the federal government gave out $240 billion in housing aid. Income data is not available for all of it, but of what is available, more than half went to those with incomes greater than $100,000 ($81.6 billion). Only $40 billion went to those with incomes less than $50,000.

Overall, high income households receive four times as much in housing aid as low-income ones.