A series of articles in the media across the political spectrum spotlighted the rising political power of Silicon Valley— and Google in particular — in the wake of revelations of the Federal Trade Commission ignoring most of the recommendations and analysis of why antitrust action was needed against Google.
A sampling of headlines:
- The Register: Google and Obama: You’re too close for comfort: This cosy corporatist marriage is crippling the internet
- New York Post: Google controls what we buy, the news we read — and Obama’s policies
- NewsMax: Google 'Second Biggest Donor' to Obama, Has Too Much Power
- TechCrunch: The Most Powerful Force In The Universe
- Financial Times: Wall Street’s finest head for the Silicon Valley: Ruth Porat’s move to Google from Morgan Stanley shows where the US economy’s power is going
Aside from the specifics of the FTC staff report being buried, the reports noted how top technology positions throughout the Obama administration are now staffed by former Google and other Silicon Valley personnel, including as we noted a couple of weeks ago, the particular role of Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt working directly on designing Obama’s election and reelection digital turnout machine.
The articles note not just Google’s economic power and political prominence but the way it has sought to shut down other legal investigations, from running “a ferocious campaign against European data protection laws” to using the arcana of Internet law to shut down an investigation of the company by the Mississippi Attorney General.
Probably the most interesting analysis comes from Danny Crichton at TechCrunch, who puts the Google story in the larger context of the rise of Silicon Valley as the central political and economic force in the global economy. Wall Street is no longer the place top business talent wants to work as Valley firms scoop up major names trekking to the West Coast and as fo Washington, D.C.” “The revolving door between Goldman Sachs and the White House has now been supplanted by a much more technologically-sophisticated revolving door with Silicon Valley.”
Crichton worries that this accumulation of financial and political power is that the incumbents in the technology field will use that power to squash any challengers. Instead of an ecosystem of lots of different companies offering different services on an open Internet, we are seeing the rise of “closed gardens and API access agreements, designed to keep you within the limited experience of our devices and software.”
Without greater political and economic accountability, including a real antitrust watchdog, we are likely to see Silicon Valley growth come at the expense of the rest of the economy and endanger its own dynamic innovation.