Should Google be broken up like AT&T?
Do monopolies lead to censorship? If one company owns the information, can they restrict access to that knowledge? If the restriction is based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin, the answer is no; however, there is no restriction on censoring based on political beliefs. When it comes to politics, companies are free to discriminate as they see fit–the only potential blowback is via capitalism. Should enough people rally-up in arms, then the almighty dollar can force change. However, if it is the communication channels people use to disseminate knowledge that’s being monopolized, can people build enough traction to create a movement? Today’s we’ll explore the history of how we got to this point and then talk with Craig Stadler; and enterprising entrepreneur who is taking it to google with hopes of disrupting the censorship trend.
Craig Stadler owns Peteyvid.com, a video search engine of his creation that is taking on Google’s censorship and providing a valuable service to internet searchers.
In the early ’70s, the telephone system was owned by a single company. Phone lines, research, and development, even the device we plugged into the wall was owned by AT&T. Since there wasn’t anyone else in the market and the cost of entry prevented new businesses from starting up, AT&T could charge what they wanted and dictate service offerings. As a kid, we didn’t have call-waiting until after the break-up. *69, Caller-ID, Call-Forwarding were pipe dreams that AT&T didn’t feel (at the time) was a profitable venture. The funny part about technology, some of you don’t have a clue what *69 is? But I digress.
In 1974 an antitrust suit was filed in district court and in 1982 AT&T agreed to a settlement. By 1984 MaBell had been divided into several smaller companies and the telephone service monopoly was no more…or so we thought, however, for today’s episode that is as far as I’ll go.
Creating the telephone system was a hugely expensive endeavor and the genius behind the communications revolution brought our nation to new heights. Our communication system in the ’70s was the pearl of the world. Other countries could only dream of having a service like ours. A telephone in every house? Are you kidding?
With the telephone, the world got smaller and American’s gained access to parts of the world we otherwise would never have reached. Families were brought together, memories were shared, nations were built. Knowledge was gained. Having the ability to connect people made AT&T rich beyond belief, but having access to new knowledge made Americans more prosperous than the rest of the world.
At no time during MaBell’s reign did service get refused because of political ideology. AT&T didn’t suspend service to people with political beliefs the executives disagreed with. One could argue costs prevented the poor from getting a phone, but that is a different podcast…the idea of using political ideology to qualify for service was not even dreamt. To prove this, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 didn’t even mention politics, no it only covered race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
Life safety brought the government into the telephone system and AT&T was forced to provide telephone service at an affordable rate for the poor so they could have the ability to call 911 (a relatively new service in the ’60s that didn’t really get organized until the invent of the telephone service.) It was for the public benefit that the government stepped in and forced AT&T to offer service to the poor.
Since AT&T was taking it in the shorts by being forced to offer service to people who could not afford it, AT&T slowed down R&D and the telephone system fell behind the technology curve. Never mind corporate profits, the telephone provides a vital public safety service and private company rights be damned.
In the late ‘70s early ’80s, cable TV, TCP/IP (aka the internet), and cell phone services were grabbing hold of the market and the AT&T executives saw the writing on the wall. The break-up of AT&T was really a correction on government regulation that encouraged the monopoly in the first place, but at the core was the consumer’s demand for better (and more affordable) service. AT&T agreed to the break-up because they knew they could capitalize on the new markets, but only if they got into the new markets right away. Which would have been prevented by the federal trade commission had AT&T not been broken into smaller companies.
AT&T did not avoid limiting access to service for political beliefs because they didn’t think of it, no throughout human history, the idea of limiting access to knowledge or preventing the dissemination of different ideas was common practice. For example, America has had several book banning cases, here are just a few examples:
“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”
Mark Twain’s classic has incited objections to its perceived immoral and sacrilegious content since its 1884 publication. One month after its publication, the Concord, MA library banned it, and other libraries followed suit. In the 1950s, the NAACP condemned the book as racist, and one parent even sued a school district in 1998 for making the book required reading. In the suit, Monteiro v. The Tempe Union High School District, the parent of a high school student accused the school district of exacerbating racial tensions at school with the book’s racist overtones. The court refused to ban the book.
The “Harry Potter” Series
J.K. Rowling’s beloved series has encountered virulent opposition since hitting the market. In 2001, a group of parents in Maine planned a book-burning of “Harry Potter” and other books they believed promoted Satanism, violence, and witchcraft. Similarly, disgruntled parents and school districts also objected to the books, and Counts v. Cedarville School District was the result.
There, the court ruled against a school board that required parental permission to read the book because it promoted disobedience and the occult. The court ordered the books returned to unrestricted circulation in the interest of students’ First Amendment rights.
“The Scarlet Letter”
Moralistic objections have plagued Nathaniel Hawthorne’s timeless novel since its publication in 1850. Critics objected to the author’s seemingly sympathetic depiction of an adulteress and caustic criticism of the clergy. Almost 150 years later, parents from one school district called the book pornographic in the 1970s, and a spate of cases in the nineties sought to ban the book for values that conflicted with the community. Nevertheless, the novel remains a staple of sophomore English classes.
I bring up these cases to show that even in America we seek to limit access to the information we find personally offensive. Note, I am not justifying the act, only pointing out it is human nature. The cases above also show how the American system of government works to stamp out censorship. The system may take a while to correct the wrong, but in America, it always gets corrected.
Now enter Google. Arguably the most powerful company in the world. They have acquired more knowledge than any company in the history of America. Heck, the library of congress (the world’s largest collection of books) doesn’t have 1/10th the amount of knowledge. Put another way, Google is the world’s largest privately held library.
In a US News & World Report article written by Robert Epstein and published on June 22, 2016, entitled “The New Censorship”; the methods used by Google to blacklist people, businesses and internet content are well documented. The link to the full article is included with this podcast over at www.cgap.today. Like all of my podcasts, I wish to dwell less on the plight and present options to overcome.
Google is already fighting serval anti-trust and censorship lawsuits. Will the public prevail? At this point I don’t know, I think the courts will rule on the side of knowledge (as they did with the book banning cases), but honestly, it could go either way. No, I choose instead to seek ways around the censorship. While Google has a monopolistic grip on its company database, they don’t have control over the knowledge itself. Let’s unpack that thought a little.
Google sends its spiders to crawl the internet and they visit billions of web pages every day. They copy all of the information and store it in their database. Do they own the data? I say no, they own the database. I am pretty sure it is this little detail that will give them the edge in the courts, but I digress. The data is still out there and accessible to all who seek it.
It might be easier for people from my generation to accept this next part, but back in the ’70s and ‘80s, it wasn’t all that easy to find information either. We had to work to acquire information. We didn’t have powerful computers in our pockets that were always connected and spitting out information. Just like AT&T faced the pressure of competition from cable companies and the internet; Google faces competition from those who seek a business opportunity. We, as American’s need to make a decision. Are we going to favor convenience or liberty? Google created an application to find and read every website on the internet, so to can someone else. Not possible you say?
I have with me on today’s program an entrepreneur who is doing exactly that. He is taking on the 800-pound guerrilla by creating his own search engine and starting a small business to provide full access to knowledge. His name is Craig Stadler and he is the founder of his own privacy-focused, multilingual, video search engine. Craig has 40 years of programming experience and when confronted with the YouTube (aka Google) censorship issue, created petey vid dot com (peteyvid.com), a search engine dedicated to providing unfettered access to videos (especially those Google censors.)
Thank you for joining me today Craig.
For the benefit of my listeners. Can you share with us what was the problem you saw with Google’s search engine practices?
It is said Google can not be challenged because they attack anyone who tries to enter the playing field. Have you had any discussions with Google or has the Google legal department reached out to threaten you?
Additional questions I may or may not ask depending on time and how the discussion goes.
- In your efforts to combat censorship, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
- A venture like yours can not be easy to do alone, do you have people helping you? If so, what does your team look like and how are you making ends meet?
- How did you go about recruiting people to help the cause?
- What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along your journey?
- What impact on the American Constitutional Republic do you feel Google’s censorship might have?
- Google appears to be censoring content in multiple ways (from autocomplete search fields, search engine listings, to even tagging websites as unsafe to visit) what would be your advice to my listeners for how they can get around Google and access the knowledge they need to make an informed decision?
- Since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is so limited in scope and appears to grant Google permission to behave as they do, what advice would you give my listeners to help apply pressure either on Washington DC or American businesses (like Google) to change their discriminatory practices?
- If people wish to help you and your venture, how does one go about investing or helping you out?
Disclaimer: Peteyvid.com did not pay the Conservatives’ Guide for American Politics for placement or inclusion. We do not sponsor Peteyvid.com or provide monetary assistance in any way. Craig reached out to us and asked to be interviewed and we agreed. The content of the interview was written without editorial input by CGAP.