Antitrust: DOJ review targets Big Tech

Well they're finally asking the question: Does Big Tech abuse its power? The federal government has unleashed its full investigative powers on the world’s biggest tech firms, according to The New York Times. The Justice Department announced an antitrust review of the dominant players in tech—Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon - known collectively as GAFA.

The DOJ joins the Federal Trade Commission and Congress in examining how these tech firms accumulated market power and whether they acted to reduce competition. The agency has already begun meeting industry experts to learn the kinds of harm the companies have caused, the clearest sign yet that the longtime arguments that helped shield the tech giants from antitrust scrutiny are eroding.

The big question about the tech giants, according to Bloomberg, is whether these companies have used their success to cheat their way into more success. The answer is a resounding YES. Take Google for instance, with the development of their Answer boxes, they've funneled web traffic and ad revenue away from websites because now users can view the content directly on Google.

The giants will protest, as they always do, that they offer free services to consumers, and competition could make them die at any moment. They’ll wave the flag and say their success is a credit to the best of America. But the antitrust cops don’t care about these kinds of displays. Yes, Google, Apple,  Facebook, and Amazon have built worthy businesses, but they still have a responsibility to play fair with their power and keep the competition fair for the good of consumers.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
Subscribe to the NetLingo Blog via Email or RSS here | Subscribe to The Week magazine here



Our Language Is Evolving, 'Because Internet'

What a fantastic book review, Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, as seen on NPR.com! I am super impressed with linguist Gretchen McCulloch's insights and how they relate to all of the potential for miscommunication online - which is what I've been preaching as well. If you are one among us who has wondered whether a message in ALL CAPS meant it was urgent, or furious, or enthusiastic, then my website NetLingo.com and her book can help you!

Below is Gretchen's interview where she says the "new" rules, are "emergent..." so, for example, "The old rules are these top-down, 'here's how you use an apostrophe,' 'here's how you use a semicolon' type of thing." "The new rules are about: How are other people going to interpret your tone of voice? ... The old rules are about using language to demonstrate intellectual superiority, and the new rules are about using language to create connection between people."

Gretchen says a lot of the confusion stems from the fact that people read Internet writing differently, depending on when they first went online. Here are a few excellent examples, enjoy!

On the changing use of LOL

There's a difference between how these different groups use "LOL" ... the acronym which initially stood for "laughing out loud." And if you talk to people in some of these older generations who are, you know, have been using the Internet for 20 years but came online in a less social space, they see it: OK, here's an acronym; they're told it is an acronym; it must mean "laughing out loud." And so they still use it as actual laughter. Whereas when you talk to the youngest groups, LOL may have meant laughter for a very short period of time, but that laughter quickly became aspirational — you know, "Oh, that is kind of funny." And then it became not even real laughter at all. It became more a marker of irony or softening or "I'm not angry at you," "I'm not feeling hostile" — you know, these additional subtle social meanings.

And for the youngest group of people, there's no literal meaning left to LOL at all. ... It's a filler that specifically indicates that there's some sort of double meaning to be found. ... If I say something that could be interpreted as rude or hostile like, "Oh, I hate you" — if I say "I hate you LOL," now I'm joking, so it's fine. I'm not laughing out loud while I hate you, like in a malicious sort of way; I'm undermining my message and saying "I hate you LOL [but I'm not serious about it]." But in the inverse, if you say "I love you LOL," that doesn't soften the message any more. Now that means "Oh no, I fake-love you," like I'm being quite mean about that. So it's not always a softener — it just hints toward some sort of double meaning, which could be good or bad.

On the passive-aggressive period

The period is such an interesting new battleground for Internet language because there's definitely a traditional use which is still found in formal writing. You know, the book contains many periods, and they're not passive-aggressive because it's a formal context. But in an informal context, you don't need the period anymore to distinguish between one sentence or one phrase and the next because you're just going to hit "send" in a chat context. You can just send the message. ... And that makes your messages easier to read than this massive wall of text, particularly on a tiny screen.
And yet that means that the period is now open and available for taking on other sorts of meanings and other connotations. And one of those is that very sense of formality — and you know when you read a formal sentence ... and making your voice deeper at the end of the sentence, like you conventionally do with a period in formal writing, adds a note of solemnity or finality or seriousness to what you're saying. ... But the problem is if you say "OK, sounds good." — and you add that note of seriousness — now you've got positive words and serious punctuation, and the clash between them is what creates that sense of passive aggression.

On the construction "because [noun]," which gives the book its title (Because Internet)

One of the things I really love about Internet language these days is what I call stylistic verbal incoherence mirroring emotional incoherence. So when you're feeling upset or excited or angry or any of these extreme emotions or overwhelmed by how cute something is when you're feeling any of these extreme emotions you make your language get artfully disordered to express that. And so for the title of the book Because Internet, saying: OK, I'm going to truncate this. Instead of "because of the Internet," I'm going to make the shorter version "because Internet" — or "because homework" or "because weather" or any of these types of things, I'm going to make the shorter version because the answer is so self-evident that I can reduce it into this less coherent form. And you'll understand that I'm nodding at this bigger phenomenon that we can share.

On keysmash (i.e. "asdf;lkjasdlf" or similar to represent frustration)

For the youngest group of people, there's no literal meaning left to LOL at all. One new trend that I've seen that I really wish I had been able to spend more space on in the book is the continued evolution of keysmash. So, keysmash is when you mash your fingers against a keyboard to, you know, convey this incoherent emotion. And what I noted in Because Internet is that people have specific stylistic ways of keysmashing. He will write ASDF, etc. and they smash on the home row of keys. And I did a survey, and I asked people: Do you ever adjust or retype your keysmash if it doesn't quite look right to you? And most people said yes. Even though this is random, they still retype it because they want it to look like the right kind of social randomness.


But what I was just noticing as I was writing the book, and didn't quite have enough data to include, is that keysmashing has also been changing as we use mobile phones more. Because when you keysmash on a full mechanical keyboard you do have your fingers on the home row with ASDF and so on. But when you keysmash on a smartphone keyboard, you have your thumbs over like GHSDSK something like that so instead of going ASDF from left or right you might end up with like SKSKSK or GHGHGH, something going back and forth between your thumbs near the center of the keyboard. And so, the way we keysmash has been changing partly in response to the social pressure, partly in response to the devices we're using. And it's such an interesting example for me because it looks like we're just being monkeys typing randomly on a keyboard producing something totally incoherent, and yet there are social patterns to it. There are real linguistic trends to keysmash — even something that looks so random.

On how to avoid misunderstandings

We talk to each other. You can ask people what they mean. ... I mean, you don't have to talk to people by picking up the phone — you can talk to people by saying, "What did you mean by that?" or "Are you actually mad at me?" in the text message. ... Sometimes I say this is associated with older people, and people take that as a criticism. But I think it's just as incumbent on younger people to say: Maybe I shouldn't be overinterpreting hostility or passive-aggression ... maybe I should just be interpreting this with the context of "I know this person is older and so they're not actually being passive-aggressive at me." I think the increased understanding can go both ways.

It's OK to be a bit older. I've accepted I'm not a teenager anymore. ... It doesn't mean that just because this is what the kids are doing means we all have to talk like that. But having increased understanding across different generations can help people avoid miscommunications in their text messaging — which is really what I'm trying to do with Because Internet.  Special thanks to Mallory Yu and Emily Kopp who produced and edited the broadcast version of this interview and Patrick Jarenwattananon and Beth Novey who adapted it for the Web.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
Subscribe to the NetLingo Blog via Email or RSS here | Donate to NPR here



Good for France for Approving Tax On Big Tech

The recent headline "France Approves Tax On Big Tech, And U.S. Threatens To Retaliate" generated  mixed emotions until I drilled down to really understand what's going on. It was recently announced that France will levy a 3% tax on digital companies that make large profits in the country, specifically the U.S. tech behemoths known in France as "Les GAFA" — Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple.

They're doing this because French officials have been frustrated that digital companies are able to avoid taxes by establishing their European headquarters in countries such as Ireland and the Netherlands, which offer corporations low tax rates, and France says it will roll back its tax if an EU levy takes effect. The European Commission calculates that digital businesses pay an effective tax rate of 9.5%, compared with 23.2% paid by traditional companies.

So the point is that France isn't exactly targeting the U.S., it's trying to establish norms in the EU. So if Arkansas and North Dakota want to give GAFA bigger tax breaks on "Federal" laws, (not just their state) it would be illegal in the U.S.  States cannot exempt Federal, so what this means is that the EU is still working out their "Union" and this is one of the areas.

Apparently the United States is very concerned that the digital services tax unfairly targets American companies, according to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. How is the U.S. threatening to retaliate? Last Wednesday, President Trump ordered a probe of the French tax. It's a sign that another trade war (like the one between the U.S. and China) could be stirring – except that it's with one of America's allies, and in this case, it's U.S. companies that are seen as the tax dodges. There's a NetLingo word for that Mr. POTUS: boil the ocean.

I think the EU has every right to do this and it's the OECD that is helping move the world to understanding the necessity of International Tax Laws.  The U.S. or China or whomever, is making profits off of French citizens and should be taxed and vice versa... the question is, at what rate?

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
Subscribe to the NetLingo Blog via Email or RSS here | Subscribe to The Week magazine here

From Airplane Mode to Zombieing - The New Top 50 Online Dating Terms


Lately I've received a huge influx of online dating jargon so I just had to compile this crazy new Top 50 List of Online Dating Terms! Back in the day, online dating was the largest segment of paid content on the Web (other than you guessed it, online porn). As Executive Editor of NetLingo, I knew the online dating jargon was proliferating but I had no idea how funny, yet super insensitive, it's become... check it out! How many of these things have happened to you?


1.     airplane mode - when someone cuts themselves off from the world by not checking their smartphone or social media.
2.     bae - An acronym that means Before Anyone Else... there’s also beob (babe) and baesbo (so back off).
3.     baeless -  One who is single, usually refers to a millennial.
4.     banksying - It's when you're going to break-up with someone and decide to plan an elaborate act far in advance.
5.     benching - Someone who is kept on the sides just in case it doesn't work out with the person you’re already dating.
6.     bird boxed - From the Netflix movie, it’s when someone you’re dating treats you badly and you’re blind to it.
7.     bonk - It used to mean to have sex or hook up in generation x lingo, but in generation y lingo it means you’re too tired!
8.     breadcrumbing - Giving a person just enough attention so they’ll keep interest, but you don't have to invest in a relationship.
9.     buzzerflies - The feeling you get when your phone buzzes, and it is potentially the special someone you want to hear from.
10.  caking - When you’re extra sweet to someone you’re really interested in; flirting, either on the phone or in person.
11.  career-zoned - When someone rejects you romantically but wants to connect professionally.
12.  caspering - A variation of ghosting but doing it nicely by letting people down gently before you ghost them.
13.  catfish - Slang for making romantic online overtures using a fake identity.
14.  cohabidating - When two people are newly dating and move in together for financial reasons.
15.  cushioning - It's when you're in a relationship with someone, but you still chat and flirt with other people on the side.
16.  draculaing - It's when people only hear from the people they are dating at night.
17.  DTR – It means Define The Relationship, that big awkward chat where people discuss "where things are going."
18.  exaggerdate - A portmanteau to describe the act of embellishing a date so as to suggest it went way better than it did.
19.  faux beau - A guy who acts like a boyfriend, but just as a ruse to continue his string of hookups.
20.  feels - Millingo for feelings. Sample this, "OMG! I’m starting to have the feels for my umfriend."
21.  force quit - In online dating it's slang for breaking up, as in "They force quit that relationship last week, about time.”
22.  gaslighting - Slang for when an abuser manipulates in such a way as to make a victim question his or her sanity.
23.  going down in the DMs - When two people begin flirting through direct messages on a social media platform.
24.  grandeing - When a person is grateful for their past lovers and the things they taught them, inspired by Thank U, Next.
25.  haunting - When they aren’t in your life anymore but linger on with their digital presence on your social media.
26.  heart bargain - An intellectual who tries to reason their way into or out of an emotional decision.
27.  HSAY - As in How Single Are You? Many will say they’re single but there is often someone texting them good morning...
28.  instabait - Uploading Instagram stories to prod a FOMO-prone crush to get in touch.
29.  instagator - Using Instagram to make a relationship public or to push it along further.
30.  instagrandstanding – Posting photos and videos to your Instagram story tailored to appeal to a specific person.
31.  iPhony - Online jargon that describes when someone constantly tells you they will text you but you never hear from them.
32.  kittenfish - Less drastic than catfish, it’s when someone uses steps to make someone else like them better.
33.  on ice - When you decide to pause the pace of a relationship and chill out for minute, you're putting it “on ice.”
34.  on the team - A dating candidate squad, singles should have three in rotation until you decide to come off the market.
35.  popsicle - It's when your instinct is to play it the opposite of cool, but you try too hard to play hard to get.
36.  romanceting - It involves texting words or images, but instead of demanding sex, you express appreciation and admiration.
37.  scrooging - When you break up with your girlfriend or boyfriend just before the holidays so you don’t have to buy a gift.
38.  situationship - It's when you're not in a committed relationship but you can’t exactly say you’re single either.
39.  slow fade - When you decide you don't want to continue dating someone, and you slowly start becoming less available.
40.  snack - Slang for a very attractive person, usually a female.
41.  Snap trap - If you’ve sent texts but bae doesn’t reply, you then Snapchat them and if your SO opens it, they’re trapped.
42.  SO stalemate - In a relationship, it's when neither party will start the DTR (define-the-relationship) conversation.
43.  social squatter - Someone who breaks up with you but wants to keep seeing your friends platonically (!)
44.  soul-mining - When someone tries to cram three months of emotional intimacy into your first three hours together.
45.  stashing - Stashing means to date someone, while not telling anyone about them. It's like having a guilty secret.
46.  textual chemistry - When your text connection is hot off-the-charts but in person, your chemistry barely registers.
47.  three-dot disappearing act - ...The act of starting to type a text message on your smartphone and then stopping...
48.  throning - When a person dates someone to elevate his or her own social status, wealth or reputation.
49.  you-turn - Slang for someone who goes from one extreme relationship to the next in the blink of an eye.
50.  zombieing - Similar to ghosting, but the dater reappears in your life and acts as nothing happened after a period of time.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
Subscribe to the NetLingo Blog via Email or RSS here

Big Tech: It's Time to Break Up Facebook

Every now and then an article in The Week comes along that feeds my passion for Internet history and ultimately shakes me to the core. And as always, the articles in The Week include a lively debate from all viewpoints. This time they're reporting about the co-founder of Facebook saying it's time to break it up and I must say, I agree. But even better, it's time to simply walk away.

“It’s time to break up Facebook,” said Chris Hughes in The New York Times. “It’s been 15 years since I co-founded Facebook at Harvard” with Mark Zuckerberg, and a decade since I left the company. In that time, Mark’s power has become “unprecedented and un-American” and his company a “leviathan that crowds out entrepreneurship and restricts consumer choice.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren has advocated for policies that would bust up Big Tech, and I’m joining the growing chorus calling for the government to step in. Mark’s “focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks.” Most worrisome is the control he exerts over the algorithms that determine what gets displayed on the news feed: “There is no precedent for his ability to monitor, organize, and even censor the conversations of 2 billion people.” The government needs to unwind the mergers of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp before they become too intertwined.

Rooting for Facebook is like rooting for the New England Patriots, said Shira Ovide in Bloomberg.com. “But I worry that ‘Break up Facebook’ has become a catchall.” We need to better understand the root problems and prescribe appropriate fixes “before we all back a Standard Oil–style dismantlement” of the tech giants. The argument that Facebook, for instance, can squash all rivals doesn’t really hold true: Facebook missed the popularity of Snapchat and TikTok, while Apple and Google “remain the front doors to smartphones.” Breaking up Facebook would just create “fiercer wars for our attention and data,” said Ezra Klein in Vox.com. The problem is not that “Facebook is blocking competition in its sector.” It’s that the social networks compete to capture our attention and data with addictive algorithms and toxic content. (Right! There's a NetLingo word for that: brain hacking.) Breaking up Facebook doesn’t solve the real issue: The “incentives that shaped Facebook—and Instagram, and Twitter, and Snapchat, and YouTube—lead to dangerous products.”

Sure, everyone is disappointed with Facebook, said Nick Gillespie in Reason.com. That’s how things go with new technologies. First, the utopian stage, “when we’re all jazzed up about the possibilities of a new innovation.” Next, the dystopian period, “when we attribute all our ills to the new thing—TV, or the web, or social media.” Last comes the stage “when we put the technology in its proper place.” With social media, “we’re clearly in the second phase and almost certainly heading to the third.” We’re all growing tired of how much these sites demand our attention. But the idea that government will do a better job of fixing what’s wrong with them is “risible.” Many of Facebook’s users have already found a way to battle all-powerful Zuckerberg and his “unstoppable” Death Star: They’re “simply walking away.”

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
Subscribe to the NetLingo Blog via Email or RSS here | Subscribe to The Week magazine here

YouTube's Porn & Conspiracy Problems: Fix Your Recommendation Engine

YouTube was under fire again in early March, when a video blogger named Matt Watson detailed how pedophiles can enter a “wormhole” of YouTube videos to see “footage of children in sexually suggestive positions” according to CNET.com. They can then jump from video to video, helped by YouTube’s recommendation engine, and fill them with lewd comments. Oh yeah, there's an old NetLingo word for that: flame bait.

In response, brands such as Disney, AT&T, and Epic Games pulled their ads from YouTube, and the company responded by banning more than 400 accounts. Unfortunately, it’s not the first time that Google-owned YouTube has had this kind of child-safety flare-up. In 2017 alone, disturbing knockoffs appeared on the YouTube Kids platform that depicted Disney and Marvel characters in troubling ways; then sexually explicit comments appeared under videos of kids’ gymnastics. “In response to those scandals, CEO Susan Wojcicki overhauled YouTube’s safety guidelines.” Yet two years later, the same problems keep cropping up.

It’s not just the comments that are problematic for YouTube, said The New York Times. The platform has been reckoning with the vast troves of disinformation and extreme content it harbors, such as conspiracy videos and hoaxes that are popular with millions of viewers. Here, again, the recommendation engine is part of the problem: It sends viewers of misinformation to similar videos with more misinformation.

Conspiracy theories and viral hoaxes top the list” of recommendations for viewers of many popular channels. Young people repeatedly battered by these recommendations often start to reject mainstream sources. To fix this, YouTube needs to recognize how deep these problems run and realize that any successful effort may look less like a simple algorithm tweak, and more like deprogramming a generation.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
Subscribe to the NetLingo Blog via Email or RSS here | Subscribe to The Week magazine here

Big Tech Scruples: Why Did Facebook Executives have to be so Ruthless?

Facebook has weathered its share of scandals lately but this item didn't get much coverage and it really got my goat. At the end of 2018, some 250 pages of internal Facebook emails were released by British lawmakers revealing that executives were "ruthless and unsparing" in their ambition to collect more data from users according to The New York Times. The emails, which spanned 2012 to 2015, a time of tremendous expansion for Facebook, show executives including Mark Zuckerberg, discussing ways to undermine their competitors, obscure their collection of user data, and above all, ensure that their products kept growing.

Most of that sounds well and good (not the obscuring of data part) as our current definition of what a business should do, there's even a NetLingo word for it: moneytizing eyeballs.

Until you get to the part that Facebook engineered a way to collect Android users' data without having to alert them, and Zuckerberg personally approved cutting off a video-sharing app's access to Facebook because it was a competitor to Instagram (which they own). The app, called Vine and loved by many, was eventually forced to shut down. C'mon executives of Big Tech, speak out! Especially you spiritual ones... there's more than enough to go around.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
Subscribe to the NetLingo Blog via Email or RSS here | Subscribe to The Week magazine here

Hey Amazon :( If Coastal Elite Turn On You, Go Where You're Needed

Amazon walked away from New York City due to the public outcry over the $2 billion tax incentives. Amazon, with the rest of Big Tech, is facing unprecedented scrutiny from the newly emboldened Left, according to Axios.com. Progressive Democrats have hammered Amazon over its market power and treatment of warehouse and delivery workers.

In fact, the company has become a potent symbol of American inequality but they are moving fast to head off attacks, and sometimes by co-opting the liberal agenda, like by raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour.

But Amazon is popular in Virginia and that doesn't surprise the people in Roanoke, VA according to the Times. Polling shows that more than 90 percent of people in southern Virginia support the company. Why? For the idea of the jobs! Guess what, the red states lost a lot of work due to Big Tech. There's even a NetLingo word for it: You've been Amazonned.

Southern Virginians get why Amazon didn’t locate there: They don’t have 25,000 highly skilled people ready to go to work immediately, but they do have 75,000 college students they'd rather not watch leave. So, Amazon if the coastal elite think you and the other Big Tech companies are wrecking their cities, set up shop in places that will benefit America! I agree with their sentiment, it's tiring to watch politicians in New York City and Seattle gripe about tech companies overrunning their cities, it's like watching two rich people argue.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
Subscribe to the NetLingo Blog via Email or RSS here | Subscribe to The Week magazine here

Working at Google is Not The Dream It’s Supposed To Be

Google has a two-tier workforce, with half of the 170,000 people who work for Google classified as temporary or contract workers, and permanent employees are instructed to treat them differently in a variety of ways. According The Guardian, there's a written company guide that says Google staff are not to reward certain workers with perks like T-shirts, invite them to all-hands meetings, or allow them to engage in professional development training. Ugh! I experienced that same bullying at ADT which was shocking. There's a NetLingo word for it: NQOCD.

The contract workers also don’t get benefits at Google, they can’t list on LinkedIn that they work for Google, and they are still subject to forced arbitration for sexual harassment claims, a policy that changed for full-time workers after a global walkout by Google employees (see below!). According to one employee, Google’s contract worker policy basically amounts to this: We are legally in the clear to treat people like garbage. Coming from one of the most successful companies in history, it only makes Google look like garbage.

As for their employees, Google has also been quietly urging the U.S. government to overturn an Obama-era protection that lets employees use their work email to organize online, according to Bloomberg.com. Google made an argument to the National Labor Relations Board last November, three weeks after 20,000 of its employees walked out to protest the company’s handling of sexual harassment cases. The filing was revealed last week through a Freedom of Information Act request. Busted.

Because Google’s workers are spread around the globe and don’t have most co-workers’ personal emails, its employee email system played a pivotal role in the organizing for that protest.  Google’s push to remove the protection was considered surprising because the company publicly expressed support for the goals of the protest. Busted again. This is yet another instance of Big Tech saying one thing and doing something else, when what they need to do is be more transparent... but not to the degree as Netflix (see previous blog)!

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
Subscribe to the NetLingo Blog via Email or RSS here | Subscribe to The Week magazine here

Still Like Netflix Knowing Their Employees Work in Constant Fear?

Who wants to work at a place where the culture can be ruthless and demoralizing? How about brutal honesty, ritual humiliation, insider lingo, and constant fear? Sure you always dream about how cool it would be to work at Netflix for example, but the reality of working in Big Tech and many other corporations these days is very different.

You don't care you say, you want the salary, the prestige, the experience. Well apparently ruthless and demoralizing and working in constant fear is the Netflix way. What gives? According to The Wall Street Journal at Netflix, they count "radical candor and transparency" among their highest corporate values. OK... So that means when almost every employee can access sensitive information such as viewer numbers for Netflix’s shows, and when 500+ executives can see the salaries of every staffer, they want to demand the same transparency to evaluating performance? The problem with that is you don't treat humans the way you treat data.

Netflix actually encourages team dinners where everyone goes around and gives feedback and criticism about others at the table, and managers are encouraged to apply a "keeper test" to their staff... asking themselves whether they would fight to keep a given employee and firing those for whom the answer is no. In fact, Netflix infamous CEO Reed Hastings uses the keeper test himself, and last year fired one of the company’s first employees, a close friend for decades. One former Netflixer says she saw a fired colleague crying as she packed her boxes while other employees looked away, fearing that helping her would put a target on their back.

It's kill or be killed according to Gizmodo.com. This is the kind of the place where the Chief Human Resources Officer created a 120-slide PowerPoint deck back in 2004 explaining Netflix’s culture of “freedom and responsibility.” She pushed them to keep only highly effective people and devised the keeper test. You can guess how the story ends: Hastings used the keeper test on her in 2011 and fired her. Don't worry, there's a NetLingo word for what she'll do next: ladder bypass.

For those of us who have endured this kind of corporate hell, it's disheartening to see that Big Tech and other corporations still don't care about bullying people to get rid of dead weight. What's even more challenging is that many employees join companies like this with their eyes open and they don't care either! Otherwise Netflix wouldn't have an 87 percent approval rating on Glassdoor. Netflix also took the No. 1 spot on a survey in which knowledge workers were asked which company they most wanted to join.

C'mon gang, we'll never get rid of this corporate culture of fear until people stop accepting it. The answer lies with you, with us... not with Reed Hastings and his cronies who are clearly acting out of fear themselves. Don't "want to work" there just because you spend so much of your valuable free time consuming their product. Better yet, boycott the product... they may not care in their hearts but they will when they feel it in their wallets. Our workplace environment should at least maintain common decency empower professionals to be their best possible versions.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
Subscribe to the NetLingo Blog via Email or RSS here | Subscribe to The Week magazine here

Knowledge Workers: It's Time to Embrace Working Remotely

Employees actually hate open offices, everyone knows that. But's it now been scientifically proven that open offices are doing the opposite of what they were intended and causing us more stress. An article in Fast Company points out that they are too symbolically powerful for companies to abandon. What? It’s not just that open offices are cheap—though they are. OK. Open offices signal that people are collaborating and ideas will spark. Not true!

Open offices have become popular at startups and established companies alike, and Facebook even put all 2,800 employees in one 10-acre building! Ugh. The article goes on to point out that these layouts actually lower the percentage of in-person interactions by 70 percent, while emailing and other electronic messaging rises by 50 percent.

Open offices have also been shown to create stress, especially for women who fell like they are on display all of the time. Check that. While sixty-five percent of creative people have said we need quiet or absolute silence to do our best work. Sure enough, open offices changed everything and there's a NetLingo word for it: disruptive technology.

Even CBS News said yep, the latest research shows that most open office plans fail, and that we didn’t need science to prove how much open offices suck the life out of our workday. I can't believe that seventy percent of Americans now work in open offices! That's a lot of people when, they need to have a real conversation or pitch an important client, they have to find a storage closet.

According to the Financial Times, at the trending WeWork co-working offices, the shared desks seem fairly empty, while the private meeting rooms were full. The ultimate sign that the open office is due for some serious rethinking? Companies are now spending $3,500 for portable soundproof pods to let their employees get away from their colleagues and actually do their work. Gang, if you need to get out from under the fluorescent light, check out job sites like Remote.com.

Dear corporations and businesses alike, the time has come. If you have a productive employee who is capable of performing his or her job offsite, and is equipped with all the office technology and collaboration software as needed, and expresses an interest and desire to do so, then c'mon Big Tech, allow your employees the opportunity to work from home, work remotely, work virtually, telecommute... whatever you want to call it. If not, at least bring back the cube farms.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
Subscribe to the NetLingo Blog via Email or RSS here | Subscribe to The Week magazine here

Why the Gig Economy can be an Online Hell for Workers

Karl Marx would not be surprised by the gig economy, said Leonid Bershidsky in Bloomberg.com. Marx’s proletariat was made up of laborers who were “increasingly impoverished by the rise of machines.” Well guess what? That describes the workers on “digital labor platforms” such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk perfectly.

The “click-worker” jobs on these platforms can include “filling out questionnaires for academic researchers, transcribing audio, even moderating content for social networks.” These jobs are demanding and require education, yet the people who do them earn an average of only $4.43 an hour, according to a survey of 3,500 workers from 75 countries. That number falls to $3.31 an hour when you factor in unpaid time spent looking for orders, researching clients, and taking qualification tests.

It’s not just workers in poor countries who are paid these wages. Two-thirds of U.S. “Turkers” made less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. These are “hellish” jobs without even “basic worker protections.” Should a modern society tolerate jobs that come with no worker rights and no possibility of dignified survival? “And even if such jobs are allowed, should they be offered by huge tech companies that provide outsize returns to shareholders?” Shouldn’t gig workers get to live in a world that feels like 2018, not Marx’s 1848?

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
Subscribe to the NetLingo Blog via Email or RSS here

Congress Doesn't Get Big Tech and Senators Don’t Use E-mail. This Bothers Me.

From Senator Chuck Schumer to Senator Lindsey Graham, many of our elected officials continue to brag about not using email. That's concerning. Even more startling is the fact that Congress doesn't get Big Tech. The Facebook hearing last year made it clear that very few U.S. Senators understand Facebook's business. Most of the questions came from tech-challenged Senators who seemed clueless about how Facebook makes its money and even how the Internet works.

"If a version of Facebook will always be free, how do you sustain a business model in which users don't pay for your service?" Senator Orrin Hatch, the 84-year-old Republican from Utah (who also famously doesn't use email), asked early on in the five-hour hearing. Mark Zuckerberg paused a moment before saying, "Senator, we run ads." He, and his staff sitting behind him, then grinned directly at him. There's a NetLingo word for that Senator Hatch: noob.

Watch this and tell me Congress, do you really want to be laughed at by Big Tech?



Meanwhile Trump is begging Big Tech for free labor to avoid federal hirings, and because of the government shutdown, 45% of employees in the Department of Homeland Security’s newly created Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency have been furloughed, in addition to 85% of workers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

This all bothers me so I try to reach out and voice my concern but apparently you need to call, and not email, your legislators. I'm told even if you don’t speak directly to the lawmaker, staff members will often pass the message along in one form or another. Really? With a can and a line of string?

Congress, you cannot afford to be stuck in 1995. As Catherine Rampell from the Washington Post reminds us, the digital revolution is now decades old, affecting virtually every industry and public policy. Senators help make federal laws regulating technology, privacy, cybersecurity, and the digital economy, and for you, ignoring how everyone else in the nation communicates is a form of political malpractice. If you know little or nothing about technology in a technological age, you shouldn't be in the Senate, but if you are, then please hire a consultant like me.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
Subscribe to the NetLingo Blog via Email or RSS here

Google, Facebook, and Amazon: A Second Gilded Age of New Monopolies

How dominant are Google, Facebook, and Amazon you ask? According to a briefing in my favorite magazine The Week, they are as dominant as Standard Oil, Carnegie Steel, and American Tobacco were at the end of the 19th century.
  • Google dominates search, video, and online ads and has an 885 market share in search advertising in the U.S.
  • Facebook and its major subsidiaries—Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger—account for 77% of mobile social media traffic.
  • Almost $1 of every $2 in online retail sales goes through Amazon.


Flush with revenues of tens of billions of dollars, each company has heavily expanded into other industries:
  • Google dominates video (through YouTube), mapping, and personal email;
  • Facebook is building consumer drones and virtual reality sets;
  • Amazon recently bought the upscale grocery chain Whole Foods for $13.4 billion.
Digital enthusiasts once predicted that the internet would democratize business and industry; instead, it’s enabled a handful of firms to have such dominant market shares that it’s almost impossible to compete with them. T.J. Stiles, a biographer of the 19th-century business magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, says we are living in a second Gilded Age. “Our lives,” he says, “are channeled once again through fewer and fewer companies controlled by a few men.”

So, what’s wrong with monopolies you may ask? When companies control a market, they tend to use their power to eliminate competition—often to the detriment of consumers. They can force suppliers to lower their prices, cutting their profits, and can bankrupt their rivals by undercutting them—or simply buy them out. Massive companies can also use economies of scale to eliminate jobs—particularly in the digital era, when much work can be automated. All this can result in reduced consumer choice, depressed wages, and a concentration of wealth in the hands of fewer people in fewer locations.

And is that actually occurring? Yes...
  • Amazon accounts for 52% of all U.S. book sales, 43 percent of all online commerce, and 45 percent of the fast-growing cloud-computing market. The Seattle-based company has put most brick-and-mortar bookstores out of business, and last year had online sales six times higher than those of Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Nordstrom, Home Depot, Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Costco combined! The self-proclaimed “Everything Store” has absorbed many of its competitors, buying the largest online shoe retailer (Zappos), the most popular live-streaming video platform (Twitch), and the market leader in baby products (Diapers.com). When the latter initially refused to sell, Amazon simply slashed its prices for its own baby products until Diapers.com capitulated.
  • Facebook boasts 2 billion active users—more than a quarter of the human race. When CEO Mark Zuckerberg saw a social media threat from Instagram and WhatsApp, he spent $20 billion to buy them. A third social media competitor, Snapchat, rejected an offer of $3 billion, so Facebook launched a feature on Instagram essentially replicating Snapchat’s self-deleting videos and photos. Within a year, Instagram Stories has already attracted more daily users than its rival.
  • Google’s parent company, Alphabet, acquires an average of one company a week. More than 1 billion people worldwide use Gmail. For Google, Amazon, and Facebook’s stockholders and executives, this staggering level of success has created enormous wealth, and the companies’ customers benefit from the unprecedented convenience their various services provide.
The domination of these tech giants also has produced plenty of losers, such as:
  • The newspaper industry is one example. Facebook and Google control more than 70% of the $73 billion digital advertising market in the U.S. Many of those dollars used to go to media companies: Between 2006 and 2016, U.S. newspaper advertising revenue plummeted from $50 billion to $18 billion, and the number of jobs in the industry has been cut by more than half, from 411,000 in 2001 to 174,000 in 2016. Journalism websites, too, are struggling to survive, because Facebook and Google eat up most of the online ad dollars.
  • Department stores and malls are another example. Hundreds of major retail stores have shut their doors because of the shift to online shopping, and dozens of malls have gone dark or are half empty. That, in turn, has damaged the vitality of downtowns and surrounding communities. “The communities wither away, and they never come back,” said Howard Davidowitz, an investment banker and consultant to the retail industry.
Is there any pushback? What do you think... in the U.S., not much. The U.S. government generally has used a light hand in regulating tech companies, so as not to stifle innovation and growth in what is now our fastest-growing industry.

Facebook, Google, and Amazon argue that they’re not true monopolies, because their much smaller competitors are only a click away—something that wasn’t the case with, say, AT&T before it was broken up. And the Big Tech beasts spend vast sums keeping lawmakers on their side: Facebook alone poured $3.2 million into federal lobbying in one quarter alone. But this is neither true nor fair to the American public.

Ultimately, consumers will have to rebel en masse against these companies before U.S. lawmakers or regulators will take any action—and there’s no sign that will happen, so one of my New Year's resolutions will be to figure out a way to contact elected officials and educate you as to how the Internet actually works and why Big Tech needs regulation.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
Subscribe to the NetLingo Blog via Email or RSS here