Sound Strategy: Greater Outer Banks may see fallout from Google antitrust case

Sound Strategy: Greater Outer Banks may see fallout from Google antitrust case

October 12th, 2023

In a time of extraordinary headlines, highlighted just this week with the barbarously shocking assault in Israel, it can be tough to digest the wide range of things happening across the world and understand how these headlines might impact our region.

While Sound Strategy doesn’t claim to be any better at foresight than anyone else, one headline stands out to us in regards to the potential for impacts to the Greater Outer Banks.

In D.C., at the moment, one of the biggest antitrust lawsuits in history is occurring as the U.S. Justice Department seeks to prove the monopolistic powers of Google, the 25 year old search engine giant with more than 90% of the search engine market share on the planet.

Many of the biggest technology players in the world are involved in these proceedings, and the findings of the court will have far-reaching implications for technology users around the world.

More locally, that tendency may impact what has become both the world’s and our own local outrage machine: social media.

No matter the issue, we are in modern times increasingly left to source our information from social media engines programmed to keep us engaged on their platform.

Of course, the temptation to view social media as activism is an alluring one, especially in light of the technology’s intentionally engineered ability to be an echo chamber for entrenched thinking.

With the fullness of historic context, however, and as Lynne Cheney recently points out in her book on the so-called Virginia Dynasty of our first four presidents, history’s most innovative and transformative outrage machine remains the ability to vote.

It’s an interesting dynamic in America, as in other places, that social media engagement has far outstripped political participation as a voice in our current policy debate.

Most people we know have Facebook, for example, and slightly less than a fifth of us vote in primary elections. As a result, our policies are approved, via the ballot box, by the merest fractions of our citizens.

It’s that irony, in a way, that’s under the microscope in Washington in this judicial proceeding.

At its core, the debate is on one side about the free power to choose – as we do when we use social media – and on the other the power to coerce – as Washington claims search engines and social media do as it relates to interpreting our choices for us.

In short, any change to the way our choices are interpreted by our technological search engines has the ability to change the topics of our conversations globally, nationally, and regionally. Perhaps that’s a good thing.

Social media isolation has some bad implications, of course, and echo chambers are tough sledding.

However, it also provides a potentially larger mandate for the government to step into the individual choices of everyday Americans via regulations around search engines. It’s that potential that makes this headline so important to watch.

Politics, as always, is seldom far from the debate although today’s politics would probably be unrecognizable to Presidents even as recent as LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, or even Reagan.

All of this is to say that while we watch – with deepening disappointment – a wide array of local and global headlines, we are tempted, in their absence of drama, to disregard a few of the headlines not in bold or red print.

Sometimes, it’s the quiet headlines that have the biggest potential for change.

Strategy suggests, in other words, any conversation around monopolistic powers – whether it’s local housing laws or Google – are always foundationally important in a republic.

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