Cory Doctorow #BLM+ Your Authors @doctorow Pre-order the audio- and e-book for ATTACK SURFACE, the third Little Brother book, on my first-ever Kickstarter: Sep. 09, 2020 1 min read + Your Authors

You hear lots about how tech monopolies arose due to supposedly inevitable factors like "network effects," but you don't hear much about banal, sleazy tactics that were banned until the neoliberal era, when Thatcher, Reagan, et al trashed competition law.


Tactics like buying up small companies to prevent them from becoming competitors, or large competitors merging, or creating vertical monopolies - whether that's rail companies running their own freight companies, or sech companies selling apps in their own app stores.


The good news is we have some pretty effective tools for fighting sleazy monopoly tactics: banning mergers, breaking up conglomerates, enforcing "structural separation" so platform companies can't compete with their customers.


And when it comes to tech, network effects are a double-edged sword: if your competitors can interoperate (plug into) your service, they can treat your walled garden as an all-you-can-eat buffet of new customers: 


This week, Germany published a draft competition law that does away with the Reagan (or Kohl) doctrine that monopolies are tolerable, treating market concentration as an evil in and of itself. Here's a machine translation: 


Notably, the law targets interoperability as an important source of competition. Here's @1Br0wn's translation: 


"The Federal Cartel Office (Bundeskartellamt) may prohibit companies [with paramount cross-market importance] from… making the interoperability of products or services or the portability of data difficult and thus hindering competition."


That's a rule that strikes directly at the root of anticompetitive conduct, and also sets the stage for funding businesses and establishing tech co-ops that will hit Big Tech right where it hurts!


You can follow @doctorow.


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