• Sun. Oct 24th, 2021



The Technology 202: Barry Diller is ready for Washington to change the tech industry

Diller says Washington hasn’t yet stepped up to regulate the tech industry, but he’s confident that’s changing. The Justice Department is expected to bring a landmark antitrust suit against Google as early as next week, and just yesterday the White House held a gathering with state attorneys general to discuss allegations of anti-conservative bias in the industry (which the tech giants have denied).

My colleague Rachel Lerman and I spoke with Diller recently about his views on tech regulation, and he specifically raised concerns about the search giant’s dominance. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

What kind of regulation would you want to see the government impose [on the tech industry]?

Google is a monopoly, without question. It’s the only absolute monopoly. What Google has invested every day, year to improve their product on behalf of consumers is absolutely fantastic, and they have vast profits from that. However, they have gone beyond the line in all respects doing what monopolies do. Regulation must set a relatively level playing field, which means that the monopolist cannot compete against its advertisers, primarily, which is what it has been doing without question for several years now.

Are there specific examples of times that Google has acted anti-competitively toward companies in your portfolio? 

There’s no question. Expedia is in the travel business. Expedia spends between $4 [billion] and $5 billion a year advertising its services on Google. Fine, happy to do so. However, when Google has begun to compete with our services, which they have done because they targeted the travel vertical to get closer and closer to the transaction itself. 

Google is essentially competing with our services while taking our money.

It’s not only that we have to advertise, which advertising for clicks is our world. That’s an acceptable path, but when Google continues to restrict our advertising in replacement for ads that are more remunerative to Google, that’s a problem. 

I’ll give you another example. We have a company called Home Advisor. Google decided it would open up the vertical of home services and asked us to be a founding member. However, all the data belongs to them and they would not let us literally advertise the name “Angie Home Advisor” inside that service because they did not want to allow another brand other than Google to have prominence. 

What about this interesting relationship that companies like yours have with Google where they thrive on advertising on Google, but also sort of have this competition with Google. What would you like to see [Google] look like?

I don’t want the person I’m spending billions of dollars with to compete directly against me. I want them to take my advertising money and give me the best return for it. 

As I’ve said to most senior leaders at Google, “We all are serfs in your universe, in your land. We’re serfs on your property. But it’s wise to treat your serfs well, which i think you are increasingly not doing. Because if you let that go on for too long, the serfs tend to rise up and attack in hordes.”

When you think about that relationship where you’re relying on that platform and also competing with it, do you have that concern with Apple as well? 

Yes. We have huge concerns with Apple and their App Store 30 percent hostage payment that they’re demanding from anybody who accesses their service. They’re a distribution platform where you access the App Store and download the app for which they provide some small services. 

Take our Match dating services. I think we pay between $400 [million] and 500 million a year to download the app through the App Store. There’s nobody who pays this 30 percent tribute that does not believe it’s absolutely egregious.

[Apple did not comment on Diller’s remarks, but the company has said the App Store required a “tremendous investment over a decade” to build and run.]

What would you like to see Apple do? 

What Apple should do is stop their absolute policy of 30 percent, and they should reduce it to a reasonable distribution fee. Nobody in the world thinks paying 30 percent to simply be listed in an App Store is fair trade.

Apple is so misguided to me. Apple has a good relationship and imagery everywhere. I think they endanger it by this continued obstinance on this particular policy. It would be wise to reconsider.

Our top tabs

TikTok is asking a federal court to halt Trump’s ban of the app. 

The move suggests TikTok and the Trump administration may not reach a deal this week, Rachel Lerman reports. TikTok is racing to finalize a deal by Sunday, the date that the ban is set to go into place. Trump has said he won’t make a deal if TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance is still involved with the company, but it seems unlikely that Beijing would consent to a deal that cuts out the Chinese owner.

The Justice Department already countered that the emergency stay is unnecessary because only downloads of the app and updates will be banned at that time. 

The White House has expressed concerns TikTok’s Chinese ownership would allow the Chinese government to compel it to share U.S. user data. TikTok says it has never been asked by China for U.S. user data and would decline to provide it if asked. In the company’s filing yesterday, its global chief security officer added it has safeguards in place against any large unauthorized downloads.

A coalition of WeChat users, another Chinese-owned app, recently won a court injunction on Trump’s proposed ban.

The White House is looking at ‘concrete legal steps’ against social media companies allegedly silencing conservatives. 

The threat ratchets up the president’s ongoing attacks against platforms that have increasingly sought to limit his controversial and potentially violence-inciting posts, Tony Romm reports. 

Trump called on nine Republican state attorneys general in attendance at his remarks yesterday to launch their own investigations into political bias against conservatives. 

“The concern we have is the large amount of anecdotal evidence that supports the idea some of these private companies may be treating certain groups differently,” Alan Wilson, the Republican attorney general of South Carolina, said after the gathering. He said the focus of the event, which was partially closed to the public, was on the state’s roles in combating alleged political bias.

The president has long accused Facebook, Twitter and Google of being biased against conservative content, though he’s provided little evidence to support the claim. The companies have denied the allegations by Trump and other high-ranking Republicans.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) was also in attendance:

Researchers say Facebook content inciting violence and praising the suspected shooter in Kenosha, Wis., is still getting millions of views.

Facebook committed to take steps to remove content explicitly linked to militia and extremist movements in recent months. But researchers at global nonprofit Avaaz found dozens of pages still sharing content inciting violence or glorifying Kyle Rittenhouse, a self-identified militia member suspected of killing two people at a protest in Kenosha, Wis.

The shooting came after Facebook failed earlier in the day to remove an event calling for armed people to “protect” citizens during the protests. 

As of yesterday, Facebook had removed four pages and two of the groups flagged by Avaaz. The remaining 71 groups and pages boast more than a combined 25 million interactions since the beginning of the month. 

Facebook is still reviewing the content, spokesperson Sarah Pollack said.

But Facebook’s reactive approach isn’t getting to the heart of the problem and addressing what happens once users are radicalized by the content, Avaaz campaign director Fadi Quran said. Instead, such activity just moves to new groups and pages. Just this week, Avaaz found a post featuring an image of Rittenhouse with a caption calling for a violent civil war over Trump’s nomination for a new justice to the Supreme Court. 

(Facebook confirmed the post was removed last night.)

It’s an issue that’s likely to be front and center as members of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection meet today to discuss the effects of social media platforms on Americans.

Republicans are preparing to reignite accusations of anti-conservative bias at the event. 

“Is Twitter a fair and safe platform free speech and the battle of ideas … or a platform where content bias is acceptable as long as it influences the election in favor of the political whims of the woke mob?” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), the ranking Republican on the subcommittee, will say in opening the hearing. 

She will point to examples of Republicans being doxed and harassed on the platform.

Rant and rave

Twitter will begin testing voice DMs in Brazil, the Verge reports. “Do they even care what users want anymore?” the Internet wondered.

And then there’s the whole harassment issue. Researcher Jane Manchun Wong:

Gen magazine’s Andrea González-Ramírez found a silver lining.

The digital race to 2020

YouTube will add information panels to videos about voting by mail.

The company has used a similar strategy to provide context for subjects ripe for misinformation, such the moon landing and the novel coronavirus, according to a blog post from YouTube’s parent company Google. Any videos that discuss mail voting will have an information panel underneath directing viewers to information from the Bipartisan Policy Center, a think tank.

Information panels will also show up for queries on how to vote and about specific candidates.

YouTube, like Facebook and Twitter, will also start pushing reminders about how to register to vote and how to volunteer at the polls

More digital campaign news:

Inside the industry

Tesla is suing the U.S. government over a Trump tariff on parts from China. 

The electric-car maker is seeking a refund with interest on the parts subjected to additional tariffs by Trump in 2018 and 2019, CNBC reports. Tesla’s lawyers are arguing the U.S. Trade Representative did not provide a meaningful opportunity for outside comment before the decision was made and failed to consider relevant factors when making its decision.”

Tesla was granted several waivers to the tariffs on some parts, but not the car’s computer and screen. The lawsuit doesn’t say how much in tariffs Tesla ultimately paid.



  • The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on social medias role in radicalizing Americans today at 11 a.m.
  • New Americas Open Technology Institute will hold a virtual panel exploring how Internet platforms are addressing the spread of election-related misinformation on Oct. 1 at 1:30 p.m.

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