Understanding the antitrust claims against Apple and Google

In 2008, Apple launched the app ecosystem by adding the “App Store” to its iPhone. Today that segment of the software industry is huge and growing. The App Store started with 500 different apps; as of October 2020 it had 1.85 million different apps, and the Google Store has more than 2.56 million different available.[1] The sector is worth approximately $1.7 trillion.[2] Over 218 billion apps were downloaded in 2020 (up 7% YoY) — approximately twenty-seven apps for every human on the planet.[3] Users spent more than $143 billion on apps in…

But that doesn’t mean platforms are biased

Photo by Rahul Chakraborty on Unsplash

This is the second installment in a series, find the first here.

We hear a lot about “censorship” by online platforms. A certain vocal segment of right-of-center politicians and commentators regularly accuse Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms of bias against Republicans. Indeed, the Trump Administration recently issued an executive order to determine whether the federal government should maintain certain liability protections for online platforms because of the perception that social-media companies discriminate against conservative speech.

However, social-media companies face complaints of censorship from a diverse array of politicians and speakers on the left and the right. Conservatives might…

Everybody in DC seems to hate Facebook but they can’t agree why

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

It doesn’t take much to find accusations of bias by today’s big tech companies. On one side, tech companies are accused of bias against conservatives for removing too much political speech. At the same time, these companies are accused of favoring conservatives for not taking down enough harmful speech. Even though there is little agreement on the problem, the left and right both seem to agree that using antitrust laws to break up social media companies could fix it. To do so, some academics and politicians even want to re-write the antitrust laws.

This is a very bad idea. As…

Below is the text of my letter originally published on March 19, 2019 in the Wall Street Journal:

Robert Thomson calls for government to tame the “Wild West” of America’s tech industry, to bring it out of “beta” (“Taming the Digital Wild West,” March 13). He seeks a “cyber Solomon,” a philosopher king, to ensure tech reaches its true potential — presumably by threatening to split the tech baby. He claims tech today “gives no true sense of perspective.”

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

Yet he has firmly fixed his own perspective on the past. Mr. Thomson decries the loss of professional content creators, ignoring…

I recently re-read a old edition of the monthly online debate Cato Unbound, “When Corporations Hate Markets.” In the lead essay, Roderick Long notes that defenders of the free market are often accused of being apologists for big business and shills for the corporate elite, and asks if this is a fair charge. His answer? No and yes. Matthew Yglesias, Steven Horwitz, and Dean Baker respond in their own essays. It’s an interesting read.

Serendipitously, I am re-reading F. A. …

When economist F.A. Hayek accepted the Nobel Prize in 1974, he gave a brilliant, insightful speech, “The Pretence of Knowledge.” But Hayek packed that insight into a very dense web of obscure words, long sentences, and economic jargon. Periodically over the past several years I have been drafting and re-drafting a “simplified” version of his speech. (Talk about pretentious!) I have no doubt that this re-write has lost much of the nuance and brilliance of the original. But I hope it retains at least some of the meaning. And I hope you’ll offer your comments about what I got wrong.

Neil Chilson

Lawyer and computer scientist. Senior Research Fellow at Charles Koch Institute. Former Chief Technologist at the Federal Trade Commission. Views are my own.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store