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Last Week Online #58 – Is Internet a public space?

Anna Loverus
Anna Loverus
2 min read

A as in Amazon or as in Anticompetitive practices?

5.3 million US union members formally requested the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Amazon for anticompetitive practices. They say "Amazon is unique, not only in its current size and growth trajectory but in the breadth of its interests across markets and its expansion into all levels of the supply chain".

The union members want the FTC to look into Amazon's effect on the economy, through its control over prices, search engine rankings, data collection from competitors, and worker wages. They want to understand if Amazon has unfair advantages in the marketplace.

Earlier in February, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it is looking into the quiet acquisitions and acquihires made by big tech companies over the latest decennium, this investigation includes Amazon. The purpose of that investigation is to keep tech markets open and competitive, according to Joe Simons, the Republican FTC chair.

Platforms against censorship or regulation?

Facebook, Google and Twitter joined together to oppose the Pakistan "Citizen Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020" with a letter addressed to Pakistan's prime minister Imran Kahn. Threatening to leave the country if the law was accepted, the internet-giants together with local pressure and lawsuits have brought officials to review the proposed regulation.

The suggested "censorship law" would enable the government to remove, block, prevent and label content. It also forces the companies to have local offices in Islamabad and store all data within the country. While it's normal for the internet-companies to protest these types of laws, threatening to leave a country is not, and neither is big companies like these working together to change the regulation.

Over the last years, several companies have had to trade control for continued presence in a country. Several Asian countries - like India, Vietnam, and Singapore - have or are about to accept similar content restrictions that give their governments better control over what is published online. In Singapore the government sometimes use the rules to remove or label content by critics and opposition figures.

YouTube is not a public space

A United States judge decided that YouTube was allowed to remove and restrict content by the US right-wing non-profit group PragerU. The channel, with 2.5 million subscribers, has received a lot of criticism for its videos with very conservative and islamophobic content, and PragerU has earlier fought with both Google and Facebook.

Although it's an essential part of the US constitution's First Amendment, the included declaration of freedom of speech does not apply to private companies. In a fight for its content, PragerU argued that YouTube should be considered a public space because of its size and power. Still, the court ruled that "Despite YouTube's ubiquity and its role as a public-facing platform, it remains a private forum, not a public forum".

The decision is in line with previous interpretations of free speech law in the US. Still, content moderation by actors like Facebook, Google and YouTube are always a concern for many activist groups, and it could become problematic if they have the power to choose what topics should and shouldn't be allowed on the platform.

Tool of the week: Donut Dog

Are you hooked on your smartphone? Donut Dog is a gamified productivity timer that helps you stay far away from Facebook and Instagram when you want to. While most Pomodoro apps are about tomatoes, this one will give you doughnuts when you succeed.

Whenever you want to accomplish something and don't wanna get disturbed by your phone, open the Donut Dog App and focus. You start the timer and will produce doughnuts with the doughnut machine as long as you don't use your phone. You can level up, upgrade your doughnut recipes or machine and compete with friends. The result is less mindless scrolling, more empty calories.

Last Week Online

Anna Loverus Twitter

Thinker and doer. Loves running, wine, and human behaviour.


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