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The Cyberlaw Podcast: Is the Government’s Antitrust Case Against Google Already in Trouble?

Stewart Baker
Tuesday, September 19, 2023, 11:23 AM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
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That’s the question I have after the latest episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast. Jeffery Atik lays out the government’s best case: that it artificially bolstered its dominance in search by paying to be the default search engine everywhere. That’s not exactly an unassailable case, at least in my view, and the government doesn’t inspire confidence when it starts out of the box by suggesting it lacks evidence because Google did such a good job of suppressing “bad” internal corporate messages. Plus, if paying for defaults is bad, what’s the remedy–not paying for them? Assigning default search engines at random? That would set trust-busting back a generation with consumers.  There are still lots of turns to the litigation, but the Justice Department has some work to do.

The other big story of the week was the opening of Schumer University on the Hill, with closed-door Socratic tutorials on AI policy issues for legislators. Sultan Meghji suspects that, for all the kumbaya moments, agreement on a legislative solution will be hard to come by. Jim Dempsey sees more opportunity for agreement, although he too is not optimistic that anything will pass, pointing to the odd-couple proposal by Senators Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) for a framework that denies 230-style immunity and requires registration and audits of AI models overseen by a new agency.

Former Congressman Bob Goodlatte and Matthew Silver launched two separate op-eds attacking me and Michael Ellis by name over FBI searches of Section 702 of FISA data. They think such searches should require probable cause and a warrant if the subject of the search is an American. Michael and I think that’s a stale idea but one that won’t stop real abuses but will hurt national security. We’ll be challenging Goodlatte and Silver to a debate, but in the meantime, watch for our rebuttal, hopefully on the same RealClearPolitics site where the attack was published.

No one ever said that industrial policy was easy, Jeffery tells us. And the release of a new Huawei phone with impressive specs is leading some observers to insist that U.S. controls on chip and AI technology are already failing. Meanwhile, the effort to rebuild U.S. chip manufacturing is also faltering as Taiwan Semiconductor finds that Japan is more competitive than the U.S..

Can the “Sacramento effect” compete with the Brussels effect by imposing California’s notion of good regulation on the world? Jim reports that California’s new privacy agency is making a good run at setting cybersecurity standards for everyone else. Jeffery explains how the DELETE Act could transform (or kill) the personal data brokering business, a result that won’t necessarily protect your privacy but probably will reduce the number of companies exploiting that data.

A Democratic candidate for a hotly contested Virginia legislative seat has been raising as much as $600 thousand by having sex with her husband on the internet for tips. Susanna Gibson, though, is not backing down. She says that it’s a sex crime, or maybe revenge porn, for opposition researchers to criticize her creative approach to campaign funding. 

Finally, in quick hits:


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Stewart A. Baker is a partner in the Washington office of Steptoe & Johnson LLP. He returned to the firm following 3½ years at the Department of Homeland Security as its first Assistant Secretary for Policy. He earlier served as general counsel of the National Security Agency.