Former music and film producer Jonathan Taplin, now director emeritus of the content industry’s Annenberg Innovation Lab, waxes poetic on faux antitrust policy in the continuing promotional tour for his book Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy. Appearing in DC a few weeks ago, Taplin morphed a thin veneer of anti-Trump rhetoric and some self-selected statistics into this remarkable non sequitur: “Facebook, Google and Amazon have created powerful monopolies that now control the economic success of the journalism, music, video and book industries.” Taplin is way out of his element, merging two distinct issues into a superficial “#resistance” meme that contradicts the central tenets of U.S. antitrust law.
The headline of Taplin’s speech at that New America event in Washington — “Have Internet Giants Taken Over Creative Culture?” — is illuminating. Creative culture and antitrust bear no relation to one another. Taplin’s thesis that Internet platform providers are monopolies is factually inaccurate and devoid of real antitrust analysis. His call to break up these supposed “monopolies” is not only “spectacularly wrong,” it turns the political wars in America over “fake news” and the like on their head. In an odd juxtaposition, Taplin explained that because Google and other digital platforms have experienced unprecedented revenue growth over the past decade, while content creators witnessed a decrease in their own earnings, users should mount a “#resistance” to YouTube “for what it has done to the music business” and punish Facebook “for the election of Donald Trump.”