[Plura-list] The ACCESS Act

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Sat Jun 12 11:43:02 EDT 2021

Today's links

* The ACCESS Act: The most significant interop legislation in US history.

* This day in history: 2006, 2011, 2016, 2020

* Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current
writing projects, current reading


❤️‍🔥 The ACCESS Act

Five Big Tech antitrust bills were introduced in the House Judiciary
Committee today; they're the most significant antitrust effort in more
than half a century, and they cover a lot of ground.


There's a bill to ban "self-preferencing" (when a company-run
marketplace pushes its inferior products over its rivals' superior
ones); another to block anticompetitive acquisitions; a bill to block
"walled garden"; and a bill to fund the FTC to police all this stuff.

But I'm most excited about is the ACCESS Act, a bill to force
interoperability on the biggest tech platforms, the kinds of services
people use because they have to, because their friends or communities or
customers (or media) are locked into them.


Under the ACCESS Act, very large companies will be required to offer an
API that allows users to take their data to a rival service, *and* let
them continue to talk to the people they left behind when they quit Big

It's designed to put an end to the Roach Motel business model, where
your data checks in, but never checks out.

Now, interop is a *great* remedy for tech monopolies, but it comes with
risks: first, that new platforms could abuse the data users bring with
them, and second, that the API itself could be abused to steal data.

The ACCESS Act requires good security practices for the API and the
services that connect to it, and it has a "circuit-breaker" cause
allowing big platforms to temporarily shut off the API if someone
figures out how to exploit it (and penalties for pretextual use of this).

And it has good - but not perfect - language protecting user privacy.
The new services that take advantage of these new data flows are bound
by rules prohibiting them from exploiting it or making money from it -
and the law provides for *stonking* fines for rulebreakers.

Sure, "a fine is a price," but this is a steep price: the *larger* of
15% of total global revenue (*not* profit) or 30% of US revenues.

To get a sense of how privacy and interop can help each other check out
today's techno-legal analysis from EFF:


Despite that, there's an important omission from this bill: a private
right of action.

Laws with private rights of action can be enforced by the public - that
is, if a company hurts you, you can sue (or join a class action, or seek
help from a public interest lawfirm).

Without that private right of action, you have to hope that someone at
the FTC, or an attorney general, or some other federal law enforcement
entity decides to stick up for your rights.

Without a private right of action, the ACCESS Act depends on
well-funded, motivated federal agencies.

The problem, of course, is that the GOP doesn't like private rights of
action; they see them as "anti-business," and an invitation to "nuisance

That matters because there's actually a chance that Republicans will
support these. After decades of cheerleading for monopolies, the GOP was
horrified to discover that the whole digital world is controlled by
massive companies with weird, capricious moderation policies.

Once those policies were turned on them - after years of use against
Palestinians, trans people, sex workers, BLM activists, Water
Protectors, etc - Republicans stopped asserting the absolute right of
businesses to set their own policies.

Most of the GOP policy responses to this are, frankly, really stupid,
from state laws prohibiting platforms from terminating politicians'
accounts to "common carrier" (no deleting porn!) and "fairness doctrine"
(every astronomer has to debate an astrologist).

Far better than trying to turn the massive, unweildy monopolists into
*good* monopolists is to *end monopolies*, creating a federated online
world where users can choose the speech norms they're comfortable with
and connect to users on other services.

That's not just a better policy, it's a better *Republican* policy. If
you think it's a free speech violation to force a bakery to make a gay
wedding cake, how the hell can you think it's OK to force a platform to
carry your speech?

Which is to say, there's potential bipartisan support for these bills,
and to secure it, the bills' sponsors are willing to set aside a private
right of action.

I happen to think it's not a good trade-off, and I plan to campaign for
these bills to pass - *after* they're amended to add a private right of

Despite the compromises, these are *very* good bills, the biggest thing
to happen to antitrust in generations.


❤️‍🔥 This day in history

#15yrsago Images from anti-DRM protest at the San Fran Apple Store

#10yrsago Reasons people were arrested at the Toronto G20

#5yrsago Mounties used Stingrays to secretly surveil millions of
Canadians for years

#5yrsago How to be less wrong about the First Amendment

#1yrago MIT dumps Elsevier

#1yrago NY repeals 50-a

#1yrago HBO Max, a monopolist's parable

#1yrago Unauthorized water


❤️‍🔥 Colophon

Today's top sources:

Currently writing:

* Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. Friday's
progress: 264 words (5483 words total).

* A Little Brother short story about remote invigilation.  PLANNING

* A nonfiction book about excessive buyer-power in the arts, co-written
with Rebecca Giblin, "The Shakedown."  FINAL EDITS

* A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause."  FINISHED

* A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues."  FINISHED

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

Latest podcast: How To Destroy Surveillance Capitalism (Part 06)

Upcoming appearances:

Recent appearances:

* Darts and Lasers podcast:

* Nicole Sandler Show:

* Fireside Chat with Beatriz Busaniche (Rightscon)

Latest book:

* "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone
technothriller for adults. The *Washington Post* called it "a political
cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution
and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies

* "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet
analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a
(print edition:
(signed copies:

* "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new
introduction by Edward Snowden:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies

* "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime,
gender, and kicking ass. Order here:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed
copy here:

Upcoming books:

* The Shakedown, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics,
Beacon Press 2022

This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.
That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially,
provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link
to pluralistic.net.


Quotations and images are not included in this license; they are
included either under a limitation or exception to copyright, or on the
basis of a separate license. Please exercise caution.


❤️‍🔥 How to get Pluralistic:

Blog (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):


Newsletter (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):


Mastodon (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):


Medium (no ads, paywalled):


(Latest Medium column: "The Rent’s Too Damned High," about the long con
of convincing Americans that they will grow prosperous through housing
wealth, not labor rights

Twitter (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and


Tumblr (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):


"*When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla*" -Joey "Accordion
Guy" DeVilla

-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: signature.asc
Type: application/pgp-signature
Size: 195 bytes
Desc: OpenPGP digital signature
URL: <http://mail.flarn.com/pipermail/plura-list/attachments/20210612/b579fea2/attachment.sig>

More information about the Plura-list mailing list