Biden and Big Tech
The Anti-Dystoptians #4
To brighten up your Friday morning, we’re excited to say that Podcast #4 is out! (And this one is juicy.) Anjali Katta joined me to talk about the Big Tech issues a Biden Administration will inherit, from the FTC/DOJ anti-monopoly cases against Facebook and Google to the DoD’s cloud computing contract JEDI. We also talked about links between Biden Administration officials and the tech industry. (Is it weird so many people specialize in “bridging the Pentagon-Silicon Valley divide?” Hopefully none of them are Smart Bridges™! )
You can listen to it here or subscribe here (Spotify) or here (Apple Podcasts). If you like our podcast—but not tech monopoly algorithms—give us a rating to let Apple Podcasts’ algorithm know how you feel.
Articles Mentioned in This Podcast
The American Prospect’s big feature on “How Biden’s Foreign Policy Team Got Rich” focusing on Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken and Michele Flournoy. More on WestExec strategic consultants (including ODNI nominee Avril Haines and potential CIA nominee David Cohen) by Politico and the Revolving Door project. Plus some progressives wrote an article arguing against Michele Flournoy for Secretary of Defense in the Project On Government Oversight .
Director of National Intelligence nominee Avril Haines’ link to Palantir (and how her profile was mysteriously scrubbed of this fact), along with reporting about NYPD and NHS contracts with Palantir and who has access/intellectual property rights to that data.
Fantastic ProPublica reporting on the JEDI cloud computing contract and links between DoD and Amazon. Plus an excellent Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report on Cloud Computing security, and a report by Rishi Sunak on how critical undersea cable networks are incredibly insecure.
The extraordinary amounts of money Uber &co spent to avoid giving benefits and protections to drivers, and how Jake Sullivan ended up (sort of) working for Uber. Plus Cory Doctorow on Saudi investment in Uber, and Vox on how Silicon Valley is awash with money from Saudi Arabia and China.
The FTC/AG suits against Facebook and their Mark Zuckerberg email excerpts might explain why Google employees have been instructed not to talk about antitrust in their emails, or ever. You can check out our full (first ever) episode of the Anti-Dystopians where we talk more about the monopoly approach to tech.
We didn’t really get to talk about Google’s Jigsaw and Jared Cohen (that’s another bizarre story), but there’s a great CYBER episode and MotherBoard reporting on how Jigsaw was an incredibly toxic environment that probably didn’t do much for the world as “the internet justice league.”
By the way, Biden’s new coronavirus czar Jeffrey Zients (who was acting director of Office of Management and Budget and a former Facebook Board member) Wikipedia page mysteriously deleted that he “fell in love with the culture at Bain & Co” after joining the Biden campaign. Strange.
Finally, the Biden agency review teams has lots of tech players, Kamala Harris’s campaigns’ links to big tech and Chiara Cordelli’s new book The Privatized State on how government contracting/outsourcing is not good for us.
P.S. It sounds like I say “Netflix” when talking about the Microsoft antitrust case, but I meant “Netscape.” Too many tech companies!
Things I’ve Been Writing
On the Cambridge Minderoo Centre’s Blog, Power Shift: Seeing Like a Social Media Site: The Anarchist’s Approach to Facebook
“Wikipedia is not often thought of as an example of a social media site—but, as many librarians will tell you, it is not an encyclopedia. Yet Wikipedia is not only a remarkable repository of user-generated content, it also has been incredibly resilient to misinformation and extremist content. Indeed, as debates around Facebook wonder whether the site has eroded public discourse to such an extent that democracy itself has been undermined, debates around Wikipedia center around whether it is as accurate as the expert-generated content of Encyclopedia Britannica. (Encyclopedia Britannica says no; Wikipedia says it’s close.) The difference is that Wikipedia empowers users. . . . Instead of a static ruling (such as Facebook’s determination that the iconic photo of Napalm Girl would be banned for child nudity), Wikipedia’s process produces dialogue and deliberation, where communities constantly socially construct meaning and knowledge.”
Things I’ve Been Reading
In more Corporate Interests news, an interesting feature in the American Prospect on Big Ag and the Biden pick for Department of Agriculture. I also highly recommend Michael Lewis’s book the Fifth Risk for interesting (and terrifying) insights about the Trump transition and how the USDA’s big job is, actually, distributing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits—AKA food stamps.
Great Guardian long read about the mysterious Gatwick drone (was there even a drone?!) and how easily airport traffic could be disrupted. Maybe pair it with the LAX ‘man-in-a-jet-pack’ sighting? (Only in LA.)
There’s been some great articles on venture capitalists lately. Here’s the New Yorker with a deep-dive on WeWork, the Intelligencer arguing VCs are the new ‘central planners’ and, for an international perspective, a 1,020 year old Japanese company that has defied Economics Commandments by not prioritizing profit or growth.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX gets $866 million from the FCC to subsidize StarLink satellite broadband to rural homes and businesses across the US. (Do you know that if you joined StarLink Beta, you have to agree to terms of service which declared that Mars was a free planet?)
Daily Beast puts out a new article that—errr—maybe the viral advertisements of the Lincoln Project didn’t, ah, actually work. Which reminds me, Tim Hwang’s book, the Subprime Attention Crisis, about the digital advertising bubble waiting to burst has been on my reading list for ages.
Lina Khan has a great thread on the FTC/AG complaints, and Matt Stoller on how Facebook, Amazon and Google’s monopolies hurt commerce.
Things You’ve Been Reading
Does anyone know whether China’s government uses a private cloud computing provider (like Alibaba’s Cloud Aliyun)? Or have any other insights/reading on governments’ use of private cloud providers?
Or, send me anything else you find interesting!