Our Very Busy Government Regulators

Two things really tweaked me in the past 24 hours.

  1. The FTC rules to regulate product endorsements in blogs
  2. The US Antitrust Inquiry of IBM

The FTC thing is just fucking stupid.  Jeff Jarvis does a better takedown of it than I could ever do on his post FTC Regulates Our Speech.  I’m not a journalist, nor do I pretend to be.  I’m involved in some way in virtually everything I write about on this blog.  While I don’t directly make money when you buy a product or service from one of the private companies I have an investment in, I have the potential of eventually making money if the company is more valuable.  I do get a share of the ad revenue that appears alongside the articles and I get affiliate fees from some services like Amazon whenever I write about a book or movie, link to Amazon, and remember to include my affiliate link.  These are all well known practices among bloggers that adding “disclosure to” in every post is tedious, pointless, and irrelevant.

Is this what the FTC should be spending it’s time on?  I completely agree with Jarvis – this is about “free speech” – presumably I should be able to write about whatever I want on this blog (it is “my blog” after all) and you can decide to ignore me if you want.  Oh – and no one pays me to write this blog so how does it become an FTC issue?  I’ve seen some comments that this is aimed at payola – only impacting bloggers that get paid to write about products and services.  But the language seems to include direct payments and indirect payments.  Call me perplexed and confused.  I wish there was a product called “perplexed and confused” that I could sell.

The The US Antitrust Inquiry of IBM is even weirder.  As I read the NY Times article, it looks like a bunch of companies whining that IBM won’t license their mainframe software to them.  This stems from a complaint filed by the Computer and Communication Industry Association whose members include Google, Microsoft, Oracle, Yahoo, Fujitsu, and a bunch of others. IBM is conspicuously absent from the membership list – I guess they made a mistake not joining since it looks like the argument being made could easily apply – in my experience – to business practices of Google, Microsoft, and Oracle.   Two important quotes from the NY Times article.

“I.B.M.’s opposition to licensing its technology to outsiders is not enough to build a successful government antitrust case, said Andrew I. Gavil, a law professor at Howard University. More likely,


In the ruling in the private case last week, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court in Manhattan found that I.B.M. had invested heavily in its modern mainframe technology and its decision not to license it “does not constitute anticompetitive conduct.”

The only logical conclusion to this one is Gavil’s speculation that “the Justice Department is investigating to see if I.B.M. is engaged in other tactics that might be anticompetitive.”  But based on what actual evidence?

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  • mark macauley

    Seems like a Patriot Act for businesses to me on the IBM thing. If they pay to build it, they can certainly determine that they want to keep it and NOT grow the market exponentially through licensing. They sold DOS to Microsoft, so WTF is the problem now? The thing that concerns me is that it is the equivalent of getting pulled over for speeding and because you are smoking a cigarette you must have open containers, marijuana, and loaded weapons in the car – they just aren't visible, so a search is in order. Slippery slope.

    If the FTC has that much extra time to investigate things that amount to a land grab for new things to monitor and create jobs to monitor something as outside their jurisdiction as free speech, whay can't they cut their staff 50% and bring some focus to the crucial stuff that they are to be held accountable on?

    Couldn't sites just include a blanket disclaimer in their Terms of Service and instead of investigating blogs, they look at blog providers?

  • The blanket disclaimer in the terms of service seems exactly right.

  • Kevin

    I find it interesting that you are complaining about the US Antitrust Inquiry of IBM yet you invest heavily in Zynga.

    How are the two things related? You complain that the Antitrust inquiry of IBM is based on the idea that maybe something happened yet they had no ACTUAL evidence. Zynga has a long track record of taking money from customers and then banning customers based on no Actual evidence.

    Zynga is mind blowing in that they will gladly accept your money yet when, yes it is when and not if, you have an issue that needs support assistance they refuse to actually look at the situation and have an open dialogue with the customer.

    They make decisions not based on fact, but rather belief without ever talking to the customer to find out what is actually taking place. I know you will be no help in matters that are on the table with Zynga, however since you have dropped $10 million into the company I decided to post something on your blog.

    Must be nice to have so much money that it really doesn't matter what the companies you invest in are about. But you really shouldn't complain about IBM being looked at for anti competitive actions with out proof when the company you invest in heavily treat their customers the same way. Blindly making decisions that steal money from their customers with no actual evidence that anything was done outside the TOS of their services.

    Makes you look very hypocritical in this persons opinion.

  • SM2

    The FTC thing seems like Old Media getting Gov to impose higher barriers to entry and costs to their competition.

    • DaveJ

      The shadowy puppet-masters are at it again.

    • DaveJ

      And now they are mucking with my Internet connection… sorry about the duplicates.

  • While I hadn’t thought of that, it’s a logical suspicion.

  • Peter

    Thanks Obama!

  • Apparently for our financial system, over the last few years the Federal government messed up big time by failing to regulate well.

    It appears now that the FTC is regulating badly when they shouldn't regulate at all.

    So, we have two cases of government messing up.

    I was horrified by some of the things President Reagan said, but his "Get government off your back and out of your pocket" seems to be broadly prescient now.

    Broadly a big question is, how to keep government from messing up? From all I can see, some of the best is the Internet and blogs.

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