- To save the news, shatter ad-tech: Structural separation will help the news claim their fair share.
- Hey look at this: Delights to delectate.
- This day in history: 2003, 2008, 2013, 2018, 2022
- Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current writing projects, current reading
To save the news, shatter ad-tech (permalink)
Big Tech steals from news, but what it steals isn't content. Talking about the news isn't theft, and neither is linking to it, or excerpting it. But stealing money? That's definitely theft.
Big Tech steals money from the news media. 51% of every ad-dollar is claimed by a tech intermediary, a middleman that squats on a chokepoint between advertisers and publishers. Two companies – Google and Meta – dominate this sector, and both of these companies are "full-stack" – which is cutesy techspeak for "vertical monopoly."
Here's what that means: when an advertiser wants to place an ad, it contracts with the "demand-side platform" (DSP) to seek out a chance to put an ad in front of a user based on nonconsensually gathered surveillance data about a potential customer.
The DSP contacts an ad-exchange – a marketplace where advertisers bid against each other to cram their ads into the eyeballs of a user based on surveillance data matches.
The ad-exchange receives a constant stream of chances to place ads. This stream is generated by the "supply-side platform" (SSP), a service that represents publishers who want to sell ads.
Meta/Facebook and Google both the "full stack" of ads: they represent buyers and sellers, and they operate the marketplace. When the sale closes, Googbook collects a commission from the advertiser, another from the publisher, and a fee for running the market. And of course, Google and Facebook are both publishers and advertisers.
This is like a stock exchange where one company operates the exchange, while serving as broker and underwriter for every stock bought or sold, while owning huge amounts of stock in many of the listed companies as well as owning the largest companies on the exchange outright.
It's like a realtor representing the buyer and the seller, while buying and selling millions of homes for its own purposes, bidding against its buyers and also undercutting its sellers, in an opaque auction that only it can see.
It's a single lawyer representing both parties in a divorce, while serving as judge in divorce court, while trying to match one of the divorcing parties on Tinder.
It's incredibly dirty. These companies gobble up the majority of every ad dollar in commissions and other junk fees, and they say it's because they're just really danged good at buying and selling ads. Forgive me if I sound cynical, but I think it's a lot more likely that they're good at cheating.
We could try to make them stop cheating with a bunch of rules about how a company with this kind of gross conflict of interest should conduct itself. But enforcing those rules would be hard – merely detecting cheating would be hard. A simpler – and more effective – approach is to simply remove the conflict of interest.
Writing on EFF's Deeplinks blog this week, I explain how the AMERICA Act – introduced by Senator Mike Lee, with bipartisan cosponsors from Elizabeth Warren to Ted Cruz (!) – can do just that:
The AMERICA Act would require the largest ad-tech companies to sell off two of their three ad-tech divisions – they could be a buyer's agent, a seller's agent or a marketplace – but not all three (not even two!). This is in keeping with a well-established principle in antitrust law: "structural separation," the idea that a company can be a platform owner, or a platform user, but not both.
In the heyday of structural separation, railroad companies were banned from running freight companies that competed with the firms that shipped freight on their rails. Likewise, banks were banned from owning companies that competed with the businesses they loaned money to. Basically, the rule said, "If you want to be the ref in this game, you can't own one of the teams":
Structural separation acknowledges that some conflicts of interest are so consequential and so hard to police that they shouldn't exist at all. A judge won't hear a case if they know one of the litigants – and certainly not if they have a financial stake in the outcome of the case.
The ad-tech duopoly controls a massive slice of the ad market, and holds in its hands the destiny of much of the news and other media we enjoy and rely on. Under the AMERICA Act's structural separation rule, the obvious, glaring conflicts of interest that dominate big ad-tech companies would be abolished.
The AMERICA Act also regulates smaller ad-tech platforms. Companies with $5-20b in turnover would have a duty to "act in the best interests of their customers, including by making the best execution for bids on ads," and maintain transparent systems that are designed to facilitate third-party auditing. If a single company operated brokerages serving both buyers and sellers, it would need to create firewalls between both sides of the business, and would face stiff penalties for failures to uphold their customers' interests.
EFF's endorsement of the AMERICA Act is the first of four proposals we're laying out in a series on saving news media from Big Tech. We introduced those proposals last week in a big "curtain raiser" post:
Next week, we'll publish our proposal for using privacy law to kill surveillance ads, replacing them with "context ads" that let publishers – not ad-tech – control the market.
Hey look at this (permalink)
- There Is No Antitrust Exception To Rules Of Statutory Interpretation https://www.promarket.org/2023/05/19/there-is-no-antitrust-exception-to-rules-of-statutory-interpretation/ (h/t Matt Stoller)
Bandcamp workers have voted to unionize https://www.bandcampunited.org/updates (h/t Slashdot)
Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide Gets a Glorious New Folio Society Edition https://gizmodo.com/hitchhikers-guide-to-galaxy-folio-society-douglas-adams-1850455317
This day in history (permalink)
#20yrsago Turn a floppy into a Klingon ship https://memex.craphound.com/2003/05/25/turn-a-floppy-into-a-klingon-ship/
#20yrsago “Facts” about printing and book-design https://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/002638.html
#20yrsago Dear Hollywood: neener neener neener https://web.archive.org/web/20030524173415/http://www.instapundit.com/archives/009672.php
#20yrsago EFF on Total Info Awareness https://web.archive.org/web/20030528233343/https://www.eff.org/Privacy/TIA/20030523_tia_report_review.php
#15yrsago Villagers from three continents will confront Chevron execs at annual meeting https://web.archive.org/web/20080520120807/https://www.chevrontoxico.com/
#15yrsago Former RIAA CEO is the Huffington Post’s new political director https://www.wired.com/2008/05/the-huffington/
#15yrsago Canadian spooks think punk band “Suicide Pilots” are terrorists https://web.archive.org/web/20080530022051/https://canadiandimension.com/blog/2008/05/csis-spying-on-canadian-punk-band/
#15yrsago Punk House: communal homes of the anarcho-syndicalist lifestyle https://web.archive.org/web/20080526172905/http://www.alarmpress.com/2293/book-reviews/punk-house-interiors-in-anarchy/
#10yrsago Laptop with thermite self-destruct mechanism https://hackaday.com/2013/05/23/laptop-vs-thermite-slow-motion-destruction/
#10yrsago 3D-printable model of the cover of Joy Division’s “Unknown Pleasures” https://web.archive.org/web/20130607163848/http://i.document.m05.de/2013/05/23/joy-divisions-unknown-pleasures-printed-in-3d/
#10yrsago Game designer creates a never-played-by-humans titanium boardgame and buries it for play 2700 years from now https://www.polygon.com/2013/3/28/4157884/game-designer-jason-rohrer-designs-a-game-meant-to-be-played-2000
#10yrsago Hardwood Escher tesselated interlocking lizard tiles https://evolulignum.blogspot.com/2011/02/diseno-geometrico-inspiracion-escher.html
#10yrsago How London cops use social media to spy on protest movements https://www.itnews.com.au/news/police-tap-social-media-in-wake-of-london-attack-344319
#10yrsago Vermont passes anti-patent-troll law https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/vermont-enacts-1st-u-s-law-against-patent-trolling-1.1372639
#10yrsago RIAA losing money, firing employees, giving execs raises https://torrentfreak.com/riaa-makes-drastic-employee-cuts-as-revenue-plummets-130522/
#10yrsago Forging £1 coins is apparently profitable https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-22612487
#10yrsago Globe and Mail: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s family are, variously, a drug kingpin, a gangster, and affiliated with the KKK https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/globe-investigation-the-ford-familys-history-with-drug-dealing/article12153014
#10yrsago Lamps made from cassette tapes http://www.cassetteisnotdead.com
#5yrsago A guide to the valuable electronics inside Bird’s illegal-in-San Francisco scooters https://www.jwz.org/blog/2018/05/landfill-capitalism-you-only-have-two-weeks-to-gather-up-all-those-free-microcontrollers-servos-and-batteries-that-are-littering-the-sidewalks-of-san-francisco/
#5yrsago Facebook is worth much less to its users than search and email, but it keeps a larger share of the value https://timharford.com/2018/05/how-much-would-i-have-to-pay-you-to-quit-facebook/
#5yrsago The paleocomputing miracle of the 76477 Space Invaders sound effects chip https://www.righto.com/2018/05/inside-76477-space-invaders-sound.html
#5yrsago Texas high-school principal fires award-winning, nationally famous journalism teacher to rein in critical student newspaper reporting https://splc.org/2018/05/0522prosper-2/
#5yrsago 500,000 home routers have been infected with VPNFilter, malware that steals data and bricks devices https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2018/05/hackers-infect-500000-consumer-routers-all-over-the-world-with-malware/
#5yrsago The FBI’s mountain of uncrackable crimephones was nearly entirely imaginary https://www.emptywheel.net/2018/05/23/did-the-fbi-have-a-chance-to-fix-their-lies-about-encryption-in-2016/
#5yrsago A free internet is a configurable internet https://www.oreilly.com/content/cory-doctorow-on-the-fight-for-a-configurable-and-free-internet/
#5yrsago The Democratic candidate for the Georgia governorship is a Black woman running on an “unapologetic progressive” platform https://web.archive.org/web/20180523065423/https://politics.myajc.com/news/state–regional-govt–politics/georgia-election-stacey-abrams-wins-democratic-primary/eNWNZU440VRD1tQsZ0XY2K/
#5yrsago A hard look at the wastefulness of “proof of work,” the idea at the core of the blockchain https://davidgerard.co.uk/blockchain/2018/05/22/bitcoins-stupendous-power-waste-is-green-apparently-bad-excuses-for-proof-of-work/
#5yrsago Charlie Stross on the “soft genocide” of eugenics-tainted, alt-right climate dystopia https://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2018/05/happy-21st-century.html
#5yrsago The Computer History Museum just published the sourcecode for Eudora https://computerhistory.org/blog/the-eudora-email-client-source-code/
#5yrsago The company that made Grenfell Tower’s flammable, poisonous insulation used dangerous lies to make hundreds of sales https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/grenfell-tower-fire-latest-inquiry-london-cladding-building-safety-uk-celotex-a8362186.html
#5yrsago Court rules that Trump can’t block people on Twitter https://www.eff.org/press/releases/victory-first-amendment-court-rules-government-officials-who-tweet-public-cant-block
#5yrsago Comcast’s $1.2b/year modem-rental scam picks your pocket, then exposes you to hackers, stalkers and identity thieves https://www.vice.com/en/article/mbkgn8/dont-rent-a-modem-from-comcast
#5yrsago Cable industry attains the impossible: makes Americans hate it even more https://www.vice.com/en/article/7xmxza/america-hates-comcast-more-than-ever
#5yrsago Mining the Panama Papers and other leaks to reveal the hidden looting of West Africa by its corrupt elite https://www.icij.org/investigations/west-africa-leaks/
#5yrsago Why “leftism” is parting ways with “liberalism” and what it means for the future of American politics https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/05/americas-brand-of-capitalism-is-incompatible-with-democracy.html
#5yrsago Debugging AI is a “hard problem” https://ai.stanford.edu/~zayd/why-is-machine-learning-hard.html
#5yrsago FBI sinkholes a key domain used by the malware that infected 500,000 home routers, declares partial victory and Russian attribution https://www.thedailybeast.com/exclusive-fbi-seizes-control-of-russian-botnet
#5yrsago Thoughtful, devastating critique of Jordan Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life” https://web.archive.org/web/20210310135608/https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/jordan-peterson-12-rules-kate-manne-review/
#1yrago HSBC: "Who cares if Miami is underwater?" https://pluralistic.net/2022/05/24/moral-money/#nutjobs-warning-about-the-end-of-the-world
#1yrago SPACs were hugely successful (for banks) https://pluralistic.net/2022/05/23/you-got-spacced/#the-house-always-wins
#1yrago Kim Stanley Robinson's "The High Sierra" https://pluralistic.net/2022/05/25/the-wild-places/#sierra-people
#1yrago Talking with Kim Stanley Robinson about "The High Sierra" https://pluralistic.net/2022/05/25/the-wild-places/#ksr
- A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING
Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EDITORIAL REVIEW
The Bezzle, a Martin Hench noir thriller novel about the prison-tech industry. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EDITORIAL REVIEW
Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. ON SUBMISSION
Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION
Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. ON SUBMISSION
Latest podcast: The Swivel-Eyed Loons Have a Point https://craphound.com/news/2023/05/14/the-swivel-eyed-loons-have-a-point/
- HowTheLightGetsIn (Hay), May 28
HowTheLightGetsIn (Hay), May 29
Red Team Blues event with Tim Harford (Oxford), May 29
Red Team Blues event with Christian Reilly (Nottingham), May 30
Red Team Blues event with Ian Forrester (Manchester), May 31
UCL Peter Kirstein Lecture, Jun 1 (London):
Cymera Festival, Jun 3 (Edinburgh)
Red Team Blues with Martha Lane Fox at the British Library, Jun 5 (London):
Re:publica keynote, Jun 7 (Berlin)
Otherland event for Red Team Blues, Jun 8 (Berlin)
- This Machine Kills
How Big Tech Captured Culture (The Agenda/TVO)
Enshittification Part 3: Saving The Internet (On the Media)
- "Red Team Blues": "A grabby, compulsive thriller that will leave you knowing more about how the world works than you did before." Tor Books http://redteamblues.com
"Chokepoint Capitalism: How to Beat Big Tech, Tame Big Content, and Get Artists Paid, with Rebecca Giblin", on how to unrig the markets for creative labor, Beacon Press/Scribe 2022 https://chokepointcapitalism.com
"Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone technothriller for adults. The Washington Post called it "a political cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1840/Available_Now%3A_Attack_Surface.html
"How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a solution. https://onezero.medium.com/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism-8135e6744d59 (print edition: https://bookshop.org/books/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism/9781736205907) (signed copies: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2024/Available_Now%3A__How_to_Destroy_Surveillance_Capitalism.html)
"Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new introduction by Edward Snowden: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1750/July%3A__Little_Brother_%26_Homeland.html
"Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Order here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed copy here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2682/Corey_Doctorow%3A_Poesy_the_Monster_Slayer_HB.html#/.
- The Internet Con: A nonfiction book about interoperability and Big Tech, Verso, September 2023
The Lost Cause: a post-Green New Deal eco-topian novel about truth and reconciliation with white nationalist militias, Tor Books, November 2023
This work – excluding any serialized fiction – is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially, provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link to pluralistic.net.
Quotations and images are not included in this license; they are included either under a limitation or exception to copyright, or on the basis of a separate license. Please exercise caution.
How to get Pluralistic:
Blog (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):
Newsletter (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):
Mastodon (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):
Medium (no ads, paywalled):
(Latest Medium column: "Rich People's Gain is Worth Less Than Poor People's Pain: A new way to think about utilitarianism, courtesy of the Office of Management and Budget" https://doctorow.medium.com/rich-peoples-gain-is-worth-less-than-poor-people-s-pain-6c3631292841)
Twitter (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):
Tumblr (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):
"When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla