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In this week’s PPCChat session, host Sam sought experts’ reactions on the recent news regarding the justice department suing Google for violating federal antitrust laws, its effect on the entire tech industry & how it is affecting the PPC industry.

Here is a screencap of the entire chat

Q0.5: OK, so breaking news time:… Begun, the tech wars have. Immediate reactions, anyone?

My immediate reaction is this will take YEARS to resolve and so we’re okay for a bit. Also, that as a marketer while there are things I love about Google’s tech, there are also probably things that should be curbed. I just don’t trust politicians to know. @amaliaefowler

Given the way some of these hearings have gone when big tech companies are held to account, I’m not too hopeful of a positive outcome for the industry at the moment! @AzeemDigital

Expected – I believe something has to happen, not sure what the solution is but things need to improve for a fair competition and for the consumer’s privacy. @andreacruz92

This is the pre-amble to regulation. Which needs to happen, but could be a disaster if people who don’t understand how this all works or lobbyists write the legislation. @NeptuneMoon

I’m torn because the government doesn’t always (usually?) understand the subtleties of things. A blunt hammer rather than a surgeon’s scalpel. That being said, I’m sick of Google acting like they can do whatever they want. We’ll see. @PPCKirk

Also, legislating or policing tech, with its malleable / cross-border presence, is always going to be a trick. Its a new frontier. @amaliaefowler

LOVE IT. Google needs some humbling to do. I oppose monopolies as a rule and I think they have trampled over users and marketers for years. I also can’t wait for FB, Amazon, and Apple to get theirs. @360vardi

I’m worried that the Trump DOJ is going to try to rush this thing and actually end up screwing the whole thing up in an effort to look like they did something before election day. If not, I think it’s many years of litigation. @CJSlattery

So my initial reaction is that this is a narrow lawsuit focused on TAC that really doesn’t have a strong foundation to stand on. Honestly, seems like a bit of political move before an election vs. a serious case. @DigitalSamIAm

I was kind of hoping that they’d hit ’em on the Urchin or DoubleClick acquisitions, or on the broader acquire-to-kill process in silicon valley but nah. Like literally everything, a tempest in a teacup. @ferkungamaboobo

1. Yayyyyy Google is Evil 2. Noooooo more platforms mean more work and diluted data 3. I don’t have faith that any Government official understands anything about our industry 4. Basically we want Google to play nice instead of fragmenting the market. @markpgus

I think something has to happen since Google is literally running with scissors. There is nobody really watching them. I am also not sure politicians can make those choices as they are not tech experts. @lchasse

Not to be overly dramatic, but without search, aside from family and friends, you and/or your business no longer exist to the outside world. @JonKagan

Q1: Did you read the House Report on Antitrust or any coverage of it? What are your preliminary thoughts? Do you agree or disagree with the broad strokes?

I read your wonderful breakdown of it :). As much as I hate monopolies personally, it made me realize that heavy regulation and forcing players to play nice is probably the better solution for me in my profession than breaking them up. @markpgus

I read your summation of it @DigitalSamIAm. Nothing else. @amaliaefowler

I read your monster thread on the Antitrust @DigitalSamIAm – it seems like the wheels have actually begun turning for something to change, whether it be via lawsuits or legislation. The issue of digital/social platform unchecked power is a significant one. @NeptuneMoon

Haven’t gotten through much other than the broad findings, but in general it’s spot-on The darlings of the early 2000s are largely monopolistic and are a textbook example of the post-90s deregulation in antitrust Again, advertising is a footnote – it’s acquisitions. @ferkungamaboobo

I understand it, I don’t 100% disagree with it. But if the wrong people read it, it spells disaster for us all. @JonKagan

Q2 (since we’re here already): One big takeaway from the report: it’s pretty clear regulators think that G, Apple, Amazon + FB have outsized influence within the digital economy. Do you think that’s right? Wrong? Why?

I don’t think that it is wrong, but like you pointed out in your thread, I think some of the logic/assumptions they used to get there or make their point are off. @amaliaefowler

I’m not sure I’d agree with you actually! I think the case can certainly be made that the centralized role the Google plays in the economy and the stranglehold it has on it’s centralized position is quite similar. @CJSlattery

I agree with the sentiment, but I disagree with the people in charge of questioning/holding them to account. It’s like when your client asks you why they can’t see search terms when they are searching from an area you aren’t even targeting. @AzeemDigital

They absolutely have outsized influence, not just in the digital economy but in our lives. I have said before if most people knew what we know about digital data & how it is used, they would be losing their minds. @NeptuneMoon

I think the entire digital economy is warped by Google and Facebook primarily. I think Apple shouldn’t really fall into the conversation TBH (though there are arguments to be had about the app store) Ultimately, almost every business conducts digital around FB&G. @CJSlattery

They are the best at what they do so it’s right. However, using their power to prevent competition is too much. In the eyes of an advertiser I love it (just not the data obfuscation). As an individual I think it’s hard to catch up to their data set and thus compete. @markpgus

At some point there is always a tipping point where normal small businesses can no longer make a business case to try to compete. We might not feel like we are there yet, but at that point its too late to do anything. Think local hardware store, Radio Shack, etc. @ynotweb

Anyone know another mainstream mobile OS than Android or iOS? Another cloud provider as big as Amazon or Google? Facebook’s the weakest argument imo, but to take it back to ads, another social ads provider even half as big? @ferkungamaboobo

It isn’t wrong, but it is so much more complicated. Basically, you have to shift consumer sentiment, not a company. @JonKagan

Academics & tech writers have written much on how successful internet players have outsized winnings, slanting playing field beyond what industrial giants ever could. Would be wrong if they singled Google out & stopped there. @heyglenns

Outside of their acquisition practices, I’m sure Facebook was added into this because of political ad spend and how much of a mess they are from the elections, hate speeches, and really bad optics. @360vardi

Q3: While the House report didn’t really touch PPC or Digital Advertising, plenty of previous reports have covered it (most recently, the UK’s CMA). This included a discussion that vertical integration leads to conflicts of interest. What do you think?

I think that’s why it’s been a while to come to actual cases. The vertical integration stuff isn’t what can stick – from 10 years ago again (sorry I just realized these weren’t totally shameful…) @ferkungamaboobo

It makes sense that a search engine would vertically integrate & provide ads & develop a knowledge graph & promote their own stuff over someone else’s, no matter the size What doesn’t make sense is a search engine making a browser that they then buy placement for. @ferkungamaboobo

Vertical integrations lead to bigger entities that control more of the landscape and can both direct resources to their own elements (Google & FB & Apple – though differently) or they use data they are privy to to undercut or cut out others (Amazon). @NeptuneMoon

People who dont know what they are speaking about are judging things. @JonKagan

So I actually don’t have a problem with vertical integration on its own, only insofar as it creates an environment where a business can capture a monopoly on one level due to the lower costs from controlling other levels. @CJSlattery

Q4: A second PPC-related criticism leveled involves Platforms (G, FB, Amazon) withholding relevant data from advertisers + publishers that would allow them to make more informed decisions.

I mean they do it already, and I hate it. @JonKagan

Can I just share my blogposts? Okay:…… @PPCKirk

Another flexing of unchecked power to take decision influencing data away from paying customers. And the privacy argument is complete BS, but a noble cause to wrap their self-protective actions in. @NeptuneMoon

So I view the withholding of information on what you’re paying for to be very much along the lines of food labeling. Like, people are paying for something, and they should get to know WHAT they’re getting. @CJSlattery

I think having a single data platform that anyone can target based off of (I can already hear whisperings of someone in SF doing this via Blockchain) would level the playing field. Standardizing the depth of tracking too. @markpgus

1 Like, if I buy a hotdog, I get to know what went into it. If I’m buying advertising, I want to know what I’m actually paying for. “Trust us that there isn’t sawdust in these hotdogs” is not how I want to play. @CJSlattery

I also want to bring up how much we complain about G is the by-product of them having been transparent. Social platforms hide SOOOOO much data but that has always been the norm for them so we don’t complain/notice. @markpgus

Q5: So, one of the big things about antitrust is the idea of tradeoffs and problems. IMO, I think there are 4-5 core “issues” that various people have with “Big Tech” — some of these are antitrust problems, and some aren’t. But we lump them all together. there’s basically: (1) Tech being mean to people (i.e. privacy, user choice) (2) Bad People using tech (i.e. misinformation) (3) Tech being bad to downstream (advertisers) (4) Tech being mean to “competitors” (App Store, marketplace, browsers, etc.) I don’t think all of these are anti-trust issues. And I also don’t think most people care about (3) + (4)…but they care a lot about (1) + (2). The question is: does antitrust action solve that?

Definitely depends on the people. As you said, our antitrust laws are archaic and the US federal government doesn’t really have an adequate toolbox. People bitch at California regulations but at least it tries to keep up with the times. @ynotweb

I also think there is a difference between what people think and what businesses and/or advertisers think about these things. Their answers would not be the same. @NeptuneMoon

It’s a start, IMO. 3 + 4 will come into consideration more as during this pandemic more people have turned their “side hustle” into their main source of income, and are going out of their way to shop smaller. (1/2) @AzeemDigital

HOWEVER – This is something that I think will take years to take effect. Lots of smaller ££/$$ being spent with smaller online advertisers could slowly take away from bigger orgs. @AzeemDigital

1. I hate this. Free platforms have a price. call me evil 2. Yeah, Idk how tf this is solved 3. I think regulation here is important. Sucking money/profits/revenue from small companies and Funneling to big ones is BAD 4. Separate Trains & Tracks. @markpgus

Well, no. Antitrust solves unfair competition. The rest is smokescreens, noise, and MAYBE a little of campaign boosting for anti-trust. It’s why the hearings were so frustrating. @ferkungamaboobo

Q6.1: So, do you think that the social media landscape should be more regulated? Do platforms have an obligation to take down misinformation? What levels of speech does this fall to?

Until they legally have to act, platforms will continue to be slow to regulate content on their networks. Because to do so opens the door to legal arguments about their ultimate responsibility for it. They DO NOT WANT THAT. Wish they would though! @NeptuneMoon

100% social media platforms should have accountability. I believe in free speech. I don’t believe in free hate and misinformation that is designed to hurt people. @360vardi

Re: Misinformation – Either declare social the public square and use similar regulation to freedom of speech (but can’t yell fire in theater etc) or It’s a publication and thus has editorial duties. Define them. Gov needs to make this distinction IMO. @markpgus

Q7: There has been discussion previously about regulating core internet functions (i.e. Search) as a utility (i.e. under the common carrier or public utilities doctrine)? Do you think search and social media should be regulated like utilities?

I think this is what happens for better and for worse. This does scare me though…..@markpgus

This seems like something worth exploring, but as with all regulation, the devil would be in the details. Those unintended consequences can be quite terrible. Just ask gig workers in CA… @NeptuneMoon

What’s the question? If we could go back to the early 90s and make the internet a utility, that would have been amazing. Can’t go back, too late to buy them out. Regulation is the only tool left, I fear. @ynotweb

So I ultimately think that this is what will happen. Especially with the increasing reliance on machine learning, the astronomical amounts of data necessary to compete will essentially make natural monopolies inevitable in certain places like search. @CJSlattery

Yes, the results are simply supercharged in the age of data IMO. A beginning dataset is much more advantageous IMO than “Experience & Money” many moons ago aka before the internet. @markpgus

Not related to tech, always just related to innovation. Innovation is good, but stifling the ability for others to monitor or build on that innovation, not great. @ynotweb

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