Thursday, July 16, 2009

"Monopoly" can occur in both content and device portability areas: Does Facebook pose a neutrality question?


Here’s some more reasons that “liberals” are concerned about monopoly business practices on the Net, even if the owners and management of these companies are probably much closer to the Democratic Party than the Republicans.

Facebook is getting sued by Power (back) for restricting access to Facebook for purposes of scraping and consolidating profiles. The summary story (by Nicholas Carlson) appears on July 10 in Business Insider here. True, if you go to Power.com, you’ll see Twitter, LinkedIn, Orkut and MySpace, but no Facebook.

Electronic Frontier Foundation, in an article by Jennifer Granlick, points out that Facebook closed down a “controversial” (or perhaps “risqué”) medical marijuana group (in its home California, it’s supposed to be legal, and the new administration is supposed to be backing down on this – so I don’t get the fear factor) and then adds that Facebook is making it harder for users to take their content elsewhere. That sounds like the “discriminatory monopoly” ideas floated around in the net neutrality debate. The EFF article is here. EFF also points out that Facebook would be the eight largest country in the world if measured by its user count; that's how much asymmetric power its founder generated by hitting "Enter" in his dorm room in 2004!

EFF goes on with a good metaphor about the telecommunications. The CTIA, it says, is trying to keep customers of major “phone companies” from taking their devices with them when they want to switch carriers. That flies is the face of some adventurous or enterprising teenage reverse engineering of these devices reported before here.

The CTIA is the acronym for “The Wireless Association” and its Policy Topics page is here. It has a brief policy paper link there that opposes formal net neutrality legislation.

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