From Barry C. Lynn, Open Markets Institute <[email protected]>
Subject The Corner Newsletter: Open Markets Discusses Conference About How to Protect the Free Press and Democracy, Dan Froomkin’s Expose of How Facebook Funnels Dark Money to The New York Times, and Beth Baltzan Joining Biden Administration
Date April 23, 2021 7:00 PM
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Welcome to The Corner. In this issue, we share highlights from the Open Markets Institute’s all-day conference on how to protect the free press and democracy from Google and Facebook, we highlight Dan Froomkin‘s Open Markets-funded expose of how Facebook funnels dark money to The New York Times, and we celebrate Open Markets fellow Beth Baltzan joining the Biden administration.

Open Markets Convenes World’s Leading Voices in Fight to Protect the Free Press and Democracy from Google and Facebook

On Tuesday, the Open Markets Institute and the Center for Journalism & Liberty hosted a full-day discussion on the state of American journalism in the age of Google and Facebook, and how to rebuild America’s markets for news. The conference — titled “Beyond Facebook and Google: The Future of Journalism & Democracy” — included keynotes by Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. David Cicilline, and presentations by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, U.K. Competition and Markets Authority Director Andrea Coscelli, and Australia’s top competition law enforcer Rod Sims. Financial Times columnist Rana Foroohar, New York Times media columnist Ben Smith, and the Markup editor-in-chief Julia Angwin also participated, along with more than 20 other leading voices on the issue, including executives from The Boston Globe, The Seattle Times, and Star Tribune.

The conference had three main aims. First was to review and critique the most important recent advances in the fight to protect democracy and the free press from Google and Facebook, in the United States and around the world. Second was to identify some of the more pressing political and technological threats posed by these corporations that have yet to be addressed, such as Google’s recent moves to arbitrarily alter the infrastructure of online advertising, through the elimination of cookies. Third was to identify how to structure the news and information markets of the 21st century to ensure the full independence and robust funding for the sort of journalism Americans need if we are to protect, grow, and perfect our democracy.

One highlight of the event was Sen. Klobuchar’s live keynote, in which she noted that “these companies are such monopolies right now that they can literally hold an entire country hostage.” Another was AG Ellison’s statement that “Democracy depends on people knowing what’s happening; if people don’t know what happening, they can’t make good choices about their own governance.” Another was Washington Monthly contributing editor Anne Kim’s statement during a discussion on journalism startups: ”Even if you are not competing with the big guys, sometimes the big guys want to compete with you. … Consolidation is coming to the smaller players and squeezing them out.”

Other standout moments from the event included a discussion among Angwin, privacy expert and OMI senior fellow Johnny Ryan, and OMI director of enforcement strategy Sally Hubbard on the techniques and technologies of control; CJL senior fellow Nikki Usher’s hard-hitting moderation of a discussion about the “dark money” that Google and Facebook are funneling into leading journalism operations; and the conversation among Sims, Smith, Foroohar, and Phillip Longman about the history, structure, and goals of Australia’s new regulatory regime for online journalism and advertising.

The conference is a direct outgrowth of a full-day discussion Open Markets hosted [[link removed]] in June 2018 called Breaking the News. That event, in turn, built on a conference Open Markets hosted in June 2016 [[link removed]] called America’s Monopoly Problem, which featured a keynote by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and a discussion of how Google and Facebook starve and manipulate the news.

The conference was written up in Broadband and Breakfast [[link removed]] and in Vox EU [[link removed]].

Open Markets Article Details How Facebook Payoffs to The New York Times Create a Dangerous Conflict of Interest​

On Monday, journalist and CJL contributor Dan Froomkin published an article that detailed how Facebook is paying many millions of dollars to The New York Times and a few other top news publishers, in ways that appear to create clear conflicts of interest for these companies. The article was commissioned and paid for by the Open Markets Institute and was published in The Washington Monthly.

“People who celebrated that Facebook was finally paying for news need to realize that the way they've done it is inequitable, self-serving, and highly problematic for the news organizations that accept the money and agree to keep the details secret,” Froomkin said of his findings.

Open Markets Executive Director Barry Lynn said the article underscores the importance of immediate regulatory action against Facebook and Google to limit their predatory and dangerous practices. “We know that these publications have placed their private interests over those of America’s free press as a class,” Lynn said. “We look forward to working with all of America’s news publishers to get Facebook and Google entirely out of the advertising business and to ensure that America’s markets for news are once again fully open and free.”

Biden Names Open Markets Fellow Beth Baltzan To USTR​

The Biden administration this week named Beth Baltzan as senior adviser to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai. Baltzan has been a fellow at Open Markets for more than two years, where she has published a series of pioneering articles on the intersection of competition policy and trade policy. Bloomberg reported that the appointment “ strengthening the agency’s progressive bona fides.”

In recent years, Baltzan has emerged as one of the main experts about the dangers created by concentration of capacity and control within international production and financial systems, and as one of the main voices in support of actions to increase the resiliency of supply chains.

Baltzan published a number of important articles while serving as a fellow at Open Markets and also testified before both the Senate and the House. Baltzan’s significant works include:

“ The Old-School Answer to Global Trade: The Alternative to Trumpism Lies in the Forgotten Post-War Liberal Vision [[link removed]],” Washington Monthly, April 2019.

“ Covid-19 and the End of Laissez Faire Globalization [[link removed]],” Open Markets and the Groundwork Collective, August 2020.

“ Economic Liberalism, The Chinese Communist Party, and Free Speech [[link removed]],” Testimony, Senate Finance Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Competitiveness, June 30, 2020.

“ The Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act: Considerations for Renewal [[link removed]],” Testimony, House Ways and Means Subcommittee, September 10, 2020.

Baltzan’s nomination was mentioned in Politico [[link removed]], Bloomberg [[link removed]], International Trade [[link removed]], Agri-Pulse [[link removed]], and World Trade Online [[link removed]].


This week, Columbia Law professor and former OMI legal director Lina Khan testified before the Senate Commerce Committee, for confirmation as a commissioner to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Khan’s nomination signals a tougher approach to antitrust enforcement of the tech industry. Khan worked for the Open Markets Institute for four years, and was a fellow of Open Markets for three years. She has also previously worked as counsel to the House antitrust subcommittee and a staffer at the FTC. (The New York Times [[link removed]])

Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit affirmed the FTC’s decision in Impax v. FTC. The case involved an “pay-for-delay” scheme in which opioid maker Impax struck a deal with a rival company to postpone the rival’s generic drug from entering the market. ( JD [[link removed]] Supra [[link removed]])

Associated Newspapers Limited, the owner of the U.K. newspaper The Daily Mail, filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google in Manhattan federal court this week, alleging that the corporation has harmed online publishers by abusing its market power in online advertising. The lawsuit alleges that Google linked its ad platform and search engine to pressure publishers that don’t sell enough advertising through its marketplace. Publishers that diverted ad traffic away from Google’s platforms were dropped in rankings in Google’s search engines, according to the lawsuit. ( WSJ [[link removed]])

The Butler Eagle, a local newspaper in Pittsburgh, filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google and Facebook for monopolization of the digital advertising market and threatening the profitability of the newspaper industry. The suit alleges advertising revenue of newspapers dropped by $32.5 billion over the course of 11 years. The suit also notes that from 1990 to 2016, 30,000 jobs in the news industry have disappeared as a result. ( Post-Gazette [[link removed]])

Prominent House Democrats, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline, wrote a letter calling for the Justice Department and FTC to investigate Live Nation’s acquisition of Ticketmaster in 2010. The letter argues Live Nation has monopolized the ticket sale market and the secondary market. Live Nation is also believed to have engaged in anticompetitive practices to maintain its monopoly. ( Deadline [[link removed]])


Open Markets published a “ Code [[link removed]] of Conduct [[link removed]],” meant as a public guide for maintaining a harassment-free space for all people of all races, gender identities, sexual orientations, physical abilities, neuro(a)typicalities, socioeconomic statuses, appearances, mental illnesses, and religions. In the statement, the Open Markets team made clear that “One of the things we love most about the antitrust and anti-monopoly movement is the wide range of political, academic, and economic beliefs held within the community. We recognize that such differences can be provocative and difficult to navigate. Respectful disagreements and arguments are productive. Demeaning, discriminatory, harassing, racist, offensive and any other similarly oppressive behaviors are not.”

Open Markets Institute filed an amicus brief [[link removed]] in support of stock photography company Dreamstime in its lawsuit against Google for abusing its monopoly in online search. “In dismissing Dreamstime’s meritorious monopolization lawsuit against Google, Judge Alsup blessed Google’s use of its monopoly power in search to squeeze rivals in adjacent markets.”

Brian Callaci published a piece in Forge Organizing [[link removed]] about the need for the labor movement to embrace anti-monopoly. “The evidence in recent decades points to concentration as harmful for workers and their unions.”

Barry Lynn was interviewed by Andy Fitch in the Los Angeles Review of Books [[link removed]] about his book, book [[link removed]] Liberty from All Masters: The New American Autocracy vs. the Will of the People [[link removed]].

Johnny Ryan was quoted in The Irish Times [[link removed]], Vice [[link removed]], CNBC [[link removed]], Decipher [[link removed]], and [[link removed]] commenting on tech giants refusing to share how many foreign companies to whom they provide sensitive bidstream data from U.S. users. “’Data about (almost) everyone online, where they are and where they have been, what they are reading, watching, and listening to, is being broadcast to thousands of companies without any control at all, ’Ryan added.”

Sally Hubbard was quoted in Fintech Zoom [[link removed]] reiterating that Apple and Amazon are still likely to face legal action even though Google and Facebook have been the focus of current antitrust cases. “The fact that cases were filed against Google and Facebook doesn’t mean [[link removed]]Apple and Amazon are off the hook,” Hubbard said.

Nikki Usher spoke to CNN [[link removed]] about the power dynamics between journalists and police as a source. "Unfortunately those institutions and people who are always quoted have more power than those who are never quoted — it's all knowns vs. unknowns — and the knowns are known because of their power and appearance in the news." She concluded: "How do you dismantle literally 200 years of beat cop reporting?"

Nikki Usher was interviewed in Poynter [[link removed]] about the importance of news outlets’ physical location. “Maybe it would be better to take up storefronts around a city in different neighborhoods, Usher said. Maybe we need taco trucks on regular neighborhood rotations, but with a newsroom inside. ‘We have the tech to do that,’ she said.”

Open Markets was mentioned in Politico [[link removed]] for sending a joint letter to White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients urging the U.S. government to strip pharmaceutical companies’ coronavirus vaccine patents in order to ensure that shots are accessible worldwide. “While the U.S. is nearing the end of its own COVID-19 pandemic, the world at large will still need access to this technology for years to come.”

We appreciate your readership. Please consider making a contribution to support the continued publication of this newsletter.

DONATE [[link removed]] 📈 VITAL STAT: 6%

The percentage [[link removed]]of employees Amazon strives to get rid of annually.

📚 WHAT WE'RE READING: “ Monopolizing Sports Data [[link removed]]” (Marc Edelman and John T. Holden, William & Mary Law Review): The authors argue that U.S. professional sports leagues have attempted to gain exclusive ownership rights over valuable sports betting data by asking legislators to mandate that bookmakers exclusively use data sold through the league. The authors analyze whether the leaguewide sale of sports game data should be viewed as a form of collusion among individual sports teams, and whether leaguewide efforts to secure exclusive rights to sell sports game data should constitute a potential form of exclusionary conduct.




7 Ways Big Corporations Rule Your Life and How to Take Back Control

Simon & Schuster published Monopolies Suck [[link removed]] by Sally Hubbard on Oct. 27. The book is the first by Hubbard, who is Open Markets’ director of enforcement strategy. Hubbard examines how modern monopolies rob Americans of a healthy food supply, the ability to care for the sick, and a habitable planet, because monopolies use business practices that deplete rather than generate. Monopolists also threaten fair elections, our free press, our privacy, and, ultimately, the American Dream, Hubbard shows. In Monopolies Suck, Hubbard reminds readers that antitrust enforcers already have the tools to dismantle corporate power and that decisive action must be taken before monopolies undermine our economy and democracy for generations to come. In Monopolies Suck, Sally provides an important new view of America’s monopoly crisis and of the political and economic harms of concentrated private power. Order your copy here [[link removed]].



Liberty From All Masters

The New American Autocracy vs. The Will of the People

St. Martin’s Press has published Open Markets Executive Director Barry Lynn’s new book, Liberty [[link removed]] f [[link removed]] rom All Masters [[link removed]].

Liberty is Lynn’s first book since 2010’s Cornered. In his new work, Lynn warns of the threat to liberty and democracy posed by Google, Amazon, and Facebook, because of their ability to manipulate the flows of information and business in America. Barry then details how Americans over the course of two centuries built a “System of Liberty,” and shows how we Americans can put this system to work again today. Lynn also offers a hopeful vision for how we can use anti-monopoly law to rebuild our society and our democracy from the ground up.

Liberty from All Masters has already made waves for its empowering call to restore democracy by resurrecting forgotten tools and institutions. “Very few thinkers in recent years have done more to shift debate in Washington than Barry Lynn. In Liberty from All Masters, he proves himself as a lyrical theorist and a bold interpreter of history. This book is an elegant summoning of a forgotten tradition that can help the nation usher in a new freedom,” says Franklin Foer, author of World Without Mind and national correspondent for The Atlantic.

You can order your copy of Lynn’s book here [[link removed]].


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Written and edited by: Barry Lynn, LaRonda Peterson, Jackie Filson, Daniel A. Hanley, Garphil Julien, and Anna Brugmann.

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