The US needs learn from Australia how to regulate Google

Google Sundar Pichai Joe Biden
Google has backed the President-elect’s immigration plans

  • The Australian government has shown that people want big, bold action against the tech companies.
  • With the stroke of a pen, the Biden administration can bring competition to the search engine market.
  • Opening up Google’s web index is how the United States can catch up in the international race to regulate Google.
  • Zack Maril is the founder of the Knuckleheads’ Club, an organization dedicated to opening up Google’s web index.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

It was unthinkable even just a few months ago, but Google and Facebook have decisively lost their fight with the Australian government over its proposed News Media Bargaining Code. The Australian government is getting exactly what it wanted, and this won’t be lost on governments and regulators around the world.

People want their governments to go after tech companies, and this is most clear in America. The backlash against the tech companies over the past five years has washed away the last of the aura of invincibility they once so deftly wore.

Right now, the Biden Administration has an opportunity to give the people what they want. They have the chance to take the lead in the international race to regulate Google and jump leagues ahead of every other government. Just out of sight politically, there’s a hidden heart to Google, something that sits at the center of everything they do, something which classical economics demands be regulated without delay.

A different kind of index fund

The key to understanding and regulating Google is that Google has an immense advantage when it comes to “web crawling.” Web crawling is where Google’s strength flows from and the more you look into it, the more it clarifies the dynamics of the entire tech industry.

Web crawling is the industrial process where search engine operators go out and collect all the information about all the websites on the internet that they can. When you search for something on Google, Google isn’t going out and visiting every website looking for your query, they are looking in their saved cache of copies of all the websites they collected information from while crawling the web.

In order to quickly provide the answers to your search queries, search engine operators like Google and Bing have hundreds of thousands of computers engaging in web crawling day and night. These web crawling computers are browsing the internet and saving a copy of everything they can find. When you search for something on a search engine, the search engine looks in that saved index of all the websites the computers found while they crawled the web.

The better this index, the better the quality of search results that a search engine can provide. A search engine can only provide you links to web pages that it knows about and the more web pages a search engine knows about – and the sooner it knows about them – the more competitive advantage that search engine has over all the other search engines.

Google gets this advantage because it costs websites money when they are crawled by search engines. Naturally, website operators only want to be crawled by search engines that will send them lots of traffic and many website operators will limit who is allowed to crawl their websites to only the major search engines like Google, Bing, and a handful of others.

Website operators have to pay for web servers to serve the extra traffic from the crawlers. It’s an open secret within the industry that some of the major websites spend millions of dollars a year to pay for servers to serve traffic for just Google’s crawlers alone. This makes economic sense because Google will send them enough traffic that they can monetize, thus more than making up for the cost of being crawled.

But other search engines, especially new entrants to the search engine market, are locked out by this dynamic. Without access to many of the most important websites in the world, the quality of the search results that the search engine can provide suffers. Without the ability to provide high quality search results, the search engine has little hope of attracting many users. And without a large number of users, many website operators will limit that search engine’s access to their websites or block them entirely by default. This dynamic is a big reason why it is so hard to compete with Google.

How to fix Google’s monopoly

I’ve been researching this dynamic for over two years now and the evidence keeps piling up that the government needs to step in and open up Google’s index of the web.The New York Times recently published an article detailing how this dynamic plays out, with many search engine operators going on the record that they struggle to compete with Google because of the limits website operators put in place as well as the high costs associated with doing the crawling.

Over the past several decades, the economics of web crawling have become clear enough that we can call it out for what it is: web crawling is a natural monopoly. What this means is that it’s overall more economically efficient to have one firm engaging in web crawling than to have multiple firms all redoing the same amount of work to try and recreate that same index Google has already assembled. All we need to do is apply the well understood principles of regulating natural monopolies that we have been developing for over a century now.

The Biden Administration can jump start a new age in the digital era by ending Google’s unnatural hold on this natural monopoly and opening up Google’s web index to its competitors. With the stroke of a pen, the government can unleash innovations that have been held back for decades just because executives at Google didn’t think it would earn Google enough profits.

What we need now, and what the American people want, is leadership in the fight to take back control of our lives from tech companies. Web crawling is the most under-regulated but major aspect of the technology industry and regulating web crawling is the opportunity just waiting for the Biden administration to seize on.

To start, the administration could direct the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to look into whether Google ever acted anti-competitively in regards to its or another search engine’s web index. Next up, the Biden administration could study and publish a plan for opening up Google’s web index to its competitors. To tie it all together, the Biden administration could work with Congress to pass whatever laws might be needed to give them the tools they need to open up Google’s web index.

Opening up Google’s web index is still just out of sight politically, but not for long if I have anything to say about it. Through my founding of the Knuckleheads’ Club – an organization dedicated to advancing regulation of Google’s web crawling advantageI was able to work with Congress to get this issue highlighted in the Big Tech antitrust report published last year. I’ve been in contact with governments across the world since then and have been excited at the progress already being made on this front. Australia has shown that you can win by going big and me and my colleagues are excited to see who will go after Google next.

Opening up Google’s web index is about the closest thing to a silver bullet that I’ve ever come across in politics. Opening up Google’s web index is how the Biden Administration can cement American’s position as a leader in technological innovation. This would be a bold and highly effective move that would have immense positive economic impact for decades to come.

Opening up Google’s web index is how the United States can catch up in the international race to regulate Google.

Zack Maril is the founder of the Knuckleheads’ Club, an organization dedicated to opening up Google’s web index and bringing back the open web. He is an expert in understanding and regulating Google, with his work having been featured in The New York Times and cited by Congress. He lives and works in Washington DC.

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Uber fined $59 million by California regulators for repeatedly refusing to turn over data about sexual assaults

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An Uber logo is shown on a rideshare vehicle during a statewide day of action to demand that ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft follow California law and grant drivers “basic employee rights”, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., August 20, 2020.

  • Uber must pay a $59.1 million fine in California for repeatedly refusing to turn over data related to its 2019 sexual assault report to the California Public Utilities Commission, an administrative judge ruled Monday.
  • In the ruling, the judge ordered Uber to pay the fine and turn over the data within 30 days or CPUC — which oversees rideshare companies — can revoke Uber’s license to operate in the state.
  • Uber said it refused CPUC’s requests to protect the privacy of survivors, but the judge rejected that argument by noting Uber still wouldn’t hand over the data when given the chance to do so anonymously.
  • The ruling resurfaced Uber’s years-long challenge addressing sexual assault involving its customers and drivers, as well as its history of hardball tactics with regulators.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Uber has been ordered to pay a $59.1 million fine to the California Public Utilities Commission for repeatedly refusing to comply with its requests for data about the company’s 2019 sexual assault report.

On Monday, an administrative law judge ruled that Uber must pay the fine within 30 days and turn over the data or CPUC can revoke Uber’s license to operate within California.

Uber “refused, without any legitimate legal or factual grounds, to comply” with multiple previous administrative rulings ordering it to turn over the data, Monday’s ruling said.

Last December, following intense public pressure, Uber issued a report that said it had received 3,045 reports of sexual assault in the US in 2018 – an average of more than eight per day.

Days later, CPUC – the agency responsible for regulating ridesharing services like Uber – demanded more information from Uber, including the names and contact information for all authors of the safety report, witnesses to the alleged assaults (including victims), and the person at Uber each incident was reported to.

“The CPUC has been insistent in its demands that we release the full names and contact information of sexual assault survivors without their consent. We opposed this shocking violation of privacy, alongside many victims’ rights advocates,” an Uber spokesperson told Business Insider.

Uber had also argued that the data would end up in the hands of “untrained individuals” and that regulators hadn’t asked other rideshare companies for similar information.

In a January ruling, however, an administrative judge addressed Uber’s privacy concerns by allowing the company to submit the information to CPUC under seal to shield it from public view.

Still, Uber refused to comply, and according to Monday’s ruling, “inserted a series of specious legal roadblocks to
frustrate the Commission’s ability to gather information that would allow the Commission to determine if Uber’s TNC operations are being conducted safely.”

An Uber spokesperson blamed the CPUC for delays and adjustments to its data request that resulted in the fine, telling Business Insider: “These punitive and confusing actions will do nothing to improve public safety and will only create a chilling effect as other companies consider releasing their own reports. Transparency should be encouraged, not punished.”

But Monday’s order said that Uber “failed to respect the authority” of the January ruling, instead choosing to “roll the dice” on legal challenges that largely raised the same issues judges had already rejected.

The ruling reflects Uber’s long history of playing hardball with state and local regulators, including by refusing to share data, deceiving authorities, relying on illegal lobbying tactics, and threatening to close up shop when lawmakers try to pass tougher regulations – including regulations aimed at improving rider safety.

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Elon Musk warned against excessive regulations, offered leadership tips, and bemoaned a lack of new candy bars in an interview this week. Here are the 12 best quotes

Elon Musk

  • Elon Musk shared his views on the role of government, the best way to lead a company, and the state of candy-bar innovation in a virtual interview at the WSJ CEO Council Summit.
  • The Tesla and SpaceX CEO also discussed the dangers of memes, the outlook for artificial intelligence, and the need for tunnels in cities.
  • Here are Musk’s 12 best quotes from the interview.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Elon Musk warned against excessive regulations, called on executives to focus on their products and customers, and bemoaned candy companies’ lack of innovation at the WSJ CEO Council Summit this week.

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO also highlighted memes as a worrying source of misinformation, argued machines will eventually surpass humans in every aspect, and touted tunnels as an effective way to reduce urban traffic during the virtual discussion.

Here are Musk’s 12 best quotes from the interview, lightly edited and condensed for clarity:

1. “A lot of the time, the best thing that government can do is just get out of the way.”

2. “Rules and regulations are immortal and if we keep making more every year and do not do something about removing them, then eventually we’ll be able to do nothing.”

3. “It’s government’s responsibility to establish the rules of the game and ensure that those rules are properly enforced. Where I think government does not do a great job is when they want to not just be a referee on the field, they want to be a player on the field.”

Read More: Ron Baron earned a $4.2 billion windfall just from investing in Tesla. The legendary investor told us why he still expects a 30-fold return from Elon Musk – and shared the biggest lessons and mistakes of his career.

4. “The reason that government is often the worst at responding to the customers – being the people – is that they are a monopoly that can’t go bankrupt or usually cannot go bankrupt.”

5. “Big Candy has consolidated into like three companies and they also own all the dog food and the baby food. When’s the last time there was some good candy? What’s the forcing function for a new candy bar? I haven’t seen one in ages.”

6. “Spend less time in meeting rooms, less time on PowerPoint presentations, less time on a spreadsheet, and more time on the factory floor, more time with the customers. Step back and say, ‘Is your product as awesome as it could be?’ Probably not. What could you do to make it great?”

7. “Just be an absolute perfectionist about the product that you make, the service that’s provided. Seek negative feedback from all quarters, from customers, from people who aren’t customers. Ask them, ‘Hey, how can we make this better?'”

Read More: Morgan Stanley is warning that the stock market’s economic recovery trade may soon be over. Here are 4 strategies they recommend for finding the returns that still exist.

8. “There might too many MBAs running companies. There’s the MBA-ization of America, which I think is maybe not that great.”

9. “The troops are gonna fight a lot harder if they see the general on the front lines than if they think the general’s in some cushy situation. Nobody bleeds if the prince is in the palace. Get out there on the goddamn front lines and show them that you care and you’re not just in some plush office somewhere.”

10. “We need to go 3D in cities in order to alleviate traffic congestion, and probably the best way to do that is with tunnels.”

Read More: Emmet Peppers grew his accounts from $30,000 in 2010 to over $70 million this year. The newly minted hedge fund manager breaks down how he spotted early opportunities in Tesla, Facebook, and the COVID-19 market crash – and shared one IPO on his radar.

11. “I think we need to be concerned about mind viruses. Memes that travel very quickly through social media that may, or may not, be correct.”

12. “AI will be able to do everything better than human over time. Everything.”

Read the original article on Business Insider