Time To Prosecute The New Robber Barons

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The Sherman Act, 15 U.S. Code § 2 – Monopolizing trade a felony; penalty:

Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding $100,000,000 if a corporation, or, if any other person, $1,000,000, or by imprisonment not exceeding 10 years, or by both said punishments, in the discretion of the court.”

Sherman Act

The Sherman Act was passed in 1890 in the age of the Robber Barons, unscrupulous industrialists who sought to drive competitors out of business through the employment of unethical and monopolistic practices and corrupt political influence. The Act was perhaps wielded most effectively by President Teddy Roosevelt who used it to go on the offensive and break up monopolies that were unfairly crushing competition, driving up prices, and harming the public.

It is time to employ the Sherman Act again this time against the forces of Big Tech, which are not only crushing competition but waging war on free speech. Their most recent target? Parler.

Parler, for those of you who do not know, is a social media platform, which operates in competition with Twitter, Facebook, and other left-leaning entities. It does not engage in the kind of “thought police” censorship of its content that these other platforms do. Instead, it relies upon that idea at the heart of the First Amendment, that the American people are smart enough to decide for themselves in the “marketplace of ideas” what to believe.

As such Parler is, of course, a threat to Big Tech’s efforts to control what Americans think and say. Perhaps more to the point, however, it is a threat to the cashflow of these corporations. Americans, fed up with censorship, have been leaving Twitter and Facebook in droves recently opting to express themselves someplace free of “fact-checking” and censorship. Only days ago, Parler became the number one downloaded app on Apple’s App Store. On January 8, 2021, there were 210,000 installs of the app, up 281% from the day before. Parler was exploding.

So, the Big Tech companies decided to destroy Parler. Why compete when you can simply drive your competitor into bankruptcy.

In the last few days, Google has dropped Parler from its Google Play Store. Apple has followed suit and cleansed Parler from its App Store. And, now Amazon, which hosts the physical servers on which Parler operates, has announced that it is shutting off those servers and thereby removing Parler completely from the Internet.

In response, Parler CEO John Matze had this to say. “This was a coordinated attack by the tech giants to kill competition in the market place. We were too successful too fast. You can expect the war on competition and free speech to continue, but don’t count us out.”

In October 2020 House Democrats, ironically enough, issued a report regarding the monopoly power wielded by Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. The findings were damning.

“To put it simply, companies that once were scrappy, underdog startups that challenged the status quo have become the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons. Although these firms have delivered clear benefits to society, the dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google has come at a price. These firms typically run the marketplace while also competing in it—a position that enables them to write one set of rules for others, while they play by another, or to engage in a form of their own private quasi regulation that is unaccountable to anyone but themselves.

The effects of this significant and durable market power are costly. The Subcommittee’s series of hearings produced significant evidence that these firms wield their dominance in ways that erode entrepreneurship, degrade Americans’ privacy online, and undermine the vibrancy of the free and diverse press. The result is less innovation, fewer choices for consumers, and a weakened democracy.

Nearly a century ago, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote: “We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.” Those words speak to us with great urgency today.”

U.S. House Report

Amen.

The law is clear. There can be no doubt but that the actions of Google, Apple, and Amazon are in direct violation of the provisions of the Sherman Act. Just as clearly, this means those companies and their owners are subject to criminal punishment, including imprisonment for what they have done.

The arrogance behind the actions of these corporations is breathtaking. These are precisely the kinds of men that Teddy Roosevelt went after over a hundred years ago, bloated with obscene wealth, convinced of their own omnipotence and contemptuous of the average Americans over whom they believed they held sway. It is time to regain control over these new “Robber Barons” and restore balance in the marketplace.

Charges should be drafted today. Trials should follow. The people must regain control.

Now, all we have to do is find a U.S. Attorney with the integrity and courage to take the lead.

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