Big Tech Can’t Stop Telling On Itself
This Tuesday (September 6) at 7pm, I’ll be hosting Naomi Klein at the LA Public Library for the launch of Doppelganger:
On September 12 at 7pm, I’ll be at Toronto’s Another Story Bookshop with my new book The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation:
In July, the Federal Trade Commission announced a complaint against Amazon over the ways the company has tricked customers into subscribing to its paid Prime service. The Commission argues that Amazon discovered that its customers were accidentally signing up for Prime and were unhappy about it, and that the company nevertheless decided not to fix this confusion because it was making too much money from these accidental signups. To make things worse, Amazon deliberately made it harder to cancel Prime, and celebrated that the new, more complex process resulted in fewer cancellations.
This is historic. Prior to the current administration, the FTC had been in a 40 year decline: underfunded and timid. But the new chair, Lina M. Khan, has brought a muscular, take-no-prisoners approach, working in close coordination with her peers at the DoJ antitrust division and with other agencies to reawaken their long-dormant regulatory powers.,
Many of my peers in the tech-critical world were skeptical, or even derisive. No one is accidentally subscribing to Amazon Prime, after all, nor is it especially hard to cancel service. Why not target the New York Times, which only recently — and reluctantly — ended its practice of forcing you to call a human salesperson and endure a lengthy wheedle in order to cancel the same subscription you had initiated online with just three clicks? Why not go after the Wall Street Journal, which still does this?
If tech bloggers were skeptical, the business lobby got downright conspiratorial. FTC Chair Lina Khan, they said, is pursuing her well-known vendetta against poor…