China Isn’t the Issue. Big Tech Is.

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We have to have a vigorous debate about what Americans may acquire or lose if authorities officers reach forcing modifications to expertise companies and firms as we all know them.

One factor that’s standing in the means of such a debate is fearmongering by tech corporations and their allies. They are likely to decry something that may alter how Big Tech operates as in some way serving to China win the future. It’s an intellectually dishonest tactic and a distraction from essential questions on our future. It bugs the heck out of me.

What prompted my eye rolling was how tech corporations have responded to a current flurry of exercise that would profoundly alter life for America’s tech superstars, and all of us who’re affected by their merchandise. Several Democrats in Congress have proposed new legal guidelines to crack down on large expertise corporations. And the new chair of the Federal Trade Commission, Lina Khan, has advocated for aggressive enforcement of monopoly legal guidelines to cease what she sees as large tech corporations preying on customers.

Those steps may unravel the established order in expertise, or not. We’re in a messy part that makes it difficult to foretell what Congress, states, courts and authorities enforcers may do to alter the guidelines for tech corporations — and whether or not it should do extra good than hurt.

As for the security arguments, the logic doesn’t work if you think about it for more than two seconds. Does preventing Amazon from selling its own brand of batteries — as one congressional bill might do — hold America back from fighting foreign cyberattacks? Nope. How do proposals that might restrain giant companies from doing whatever they want with our personal information weaken America on the world stage? They do not.

There are absolutely legitimate concerns about China shaping global technology or online conversations in ways that clash with America’s values and interests. It’s right to be concerned about China’s participation in swiping America’s secrets. That has almost nothing to do with whether Americans would be better off if Facebook were prohibited from buying the next Instagram or whether Apple shouldn’t be able to give a leg up to its fitness and music services on iPhones.

Restraining U.S. corporate powers from enriching themselves at the expense of Americans doesn’t weaken the country’s ability to restrain abuses by China or support competitive U.S. companies. We can do all of it.

I get worked up about tech lobbyists’ policy statements because I fear that they’re a sign of tech superpowers’ refusal to engage in essential debates about the future.

Remember that behind the chaotic attempts in Washington and beyond to reimagine how these companies operate are meaty questions about technology in our lives: Would we have more control over our personal information, better shopping services and a more fair economy if Big Tech wasn’t so big or if there were more rules about how the companies operate? And how do we limit what we think are downsides from those companies without ruining what we think is helpful?

Those are the kinds of questions that policymakers are wrestling with, and they’re difficult ones. Everyone needs to be involved, including the tech companies that might be affected by new rules. That’s why tech companies do themselves and the public a disservice by distracting us with glib talking points.

Would you describe a moray eel as cute? Maybe? Researchers caught a moray eating on land, using a special set of jaws. Most fish need water to feed. Also it took the researchers more than five years to train the morays to eat this way. (I spotted this in the Today in Tabs newsletter.)

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