10 interesting stories served every morning and every evening.
I received an ofﬁcial response from Replit and my open-source
project will be back up soon; please see the bottom of the blog
post for an update. The
rest of the content here will remain as a historical artifact.
Hi, my name is Radon. I graduated college last year and now work as a software engineer in DevOps/Infrastructure. In my free time, I also maintain a number of open-source
While I was in college, I interned at the startup Replit. This blog post is the story of how Replit is using legal threats and their venture-capital funding to bully me into shutting down an open-source project they don’t like.
Replit makes a webapp you can use to run code online in different programming languages. This is nothing new (just Google “run python
online” for proof), so Replit’s value proposition is extra features like sharing your work, installing third-party packages, and hosting webapps.
I worked for Replit in Summer 2019, where I was asked to rebuild Replit’s package management stack and make it open-source. If you like reading about tech stuff, here’s the post I wrote for Replit’s
blog, and here’s the code on GitHub.
I took a job elsewhere in Summer 2020, but still chatted with them occasionally by email when they reached out to tell me about something cool Replit had developed.
The aspect of Replit that I really enjoyed was how it supported lots of different programming languages. (I wrote another blog post for
about how they do that.) That got me thinking: how many programming languages could you possibly cram into a single website?
To explore that question, I put together my own little webapp that could run code online. After about a day, I had something that worked. (If you’re wondering why it was so fast—it turns out you only need
30 lines of code to let people run Python code in a webapp! This may be why there are so many websites for running Python online…)
After it was working, I started adding as many different programming languages as I could. As you can see from this excerpt of my project’s version history, I got a little overexcited:
I eventually ended up with 216 languages, including all 38 languages
all 100 languages from Yusuke Endoh’s “Quine
Relay”, and a good deal more besides. You might ask: Why did I spend so much time adding obscure programming languages to a webapp nobody was going to use? Well, let me put it this way: Is it the weirdest 2020 hobby you’ve seen?
One day, I got an email from Replit letting me know about a new feature they released. I ﬁgured this was a good time to share my open-source project with them, in case they wanted to take inspiration from any of my work:
At ﬁrst, I got a positive response. But then, 30 minutes later, out of nowhere, Replit accused me of unethical behavior and stealing their design:
Now, none of the ideas I used in my open-source project were “internal design decisions”: they’ve all been published publicly on Replit’s blog (I knew this because I’d been asked to write some of those blog posts during my internship). And my project also wasn’t any more of a Replit clone than any of the other websites on the ﬁrst few pages of Google results for “run python online”, most of which look exactly the same:
But I ﬁgured I might have missed something, so I asked for details:
Unfortunately, Replit refused to provide any speciﬁcs on what they were saying I had done wrong, reiterated their previous statements, and threatened me with a lawsuit:
And then just to put a cherry on top, Replit sent me another email reminding me that they just raised $20 million from their investors
month, and they weren’t afraid to use it against me. The “me” in question being one of their previous interns who just graduated from college a year ago, and who isn’t running any kind of commercial operation whatsoever.
I’d like to point out two things about this email:
* The remark about “commits like this”—this is actually misleading.
There’s only one commit in my project that mentions Replit, and it’s
the one I already showed you earlier, from my third day of coding,
when I’d just added all 38 languages that Replit supported, before
moving onto the 178 other languages I wanted to add.
* The remark about me being a “demanding” intern—I’m not actually
sure what this is meant to imply, especially since Replit had just
tried to recruit me earlier that day (see the screenshot of their
ﬁrst email). But I’ll leave it alone because it’s not really
relevant to the issue at hand.
Naturally, I took down my project right away, gave it some time for feelings to cool, and sent Replit an apology. I ﬁgured something might have been lost over email, so I asked to get on a call:
Unfortunately, Replit ignored this email, so I sent them another one following up. This one got a response, but not the one I was hoping for:
Just in case Replit didn’t understand that I wasn’t OK with this situation, I sent three follow-up emails explaining as such over the next few weeks, all of which were ignored.
In other words, Replit stands by its threat: if I re-publish my open-source project, then they will sue me with “top lawyers”.
Replit claimed that my open-source project was:
In developing my project, was I making a clone of Replit?
In developing my project, did I make use of any trade secrets of
Was it unethical for me to develop an open-source project that’s
similar to Replit, after working for them?
Questions 1 and 2 have a fair number of technical details, so I’ve put them in a separate post. The TL;DR is:
My project isn’t any more similar to Replit than the 15 other
(commercial!) ones you can ﬁnd on Google by searching “run python
online” or “online programming environment”.
Every similarity between my project and Replit can be explained by
looking only at GitHub repositories and blog posts that were
published online by Replit itself, making them obviously not any
kind of secret.
Q: Was it unethical for me to develop an open-source project that’s similar to Replit, after working for them?
In my opinion, the answer to this question is no, for a number of reasons:
* Riju is entirely non-commercial. Unlike Replit, I didn’t seek
funding from any source—advertising, donations, fundraising,
subscriptions, whatever. I have no interest in running a business,
and never really wanted Riju to become too popular, since I was
the one paying the server bill.
* Riju wasn’t stealing customers from Replit. Based on my analytics
data, there were 38 visits to Riju during the month of February.
(Half of those were probably me.) Meanwhile, Replit had over 7
There’s obviously no sense in which Riju was competing with Replit.
* Riju wasn’t built as a competitor to Replit, either. Since the
architecture was limited to running on a single server, anyone could
bring the entire system down just by typing in a fork
bomb—and one of my
friends did, just to see what would happen. (The system crashed.) If
I were designing a product to compete with Replit, I certainly
wouldn’t have picked an architecture that could only scale to
* Replit’s core value proposition isn’t letting you run code online
(you can do this in dozens of places for free), it’s the features
they offer on top of running code. Riju categorically lacked all of
these features, including: having a user account, saving your work,
sharing your work, publishing webapps, persistent workspaces,
discussion forums, integration with GitHub, etc. etc.
* I had no bad intentions towards Replit when developing Riju, and
wasn’t trying to hide anything. As proof of these claims, I offer
the fact that I had the project public on my GitHub from the
beginning, and the fact that Replit found out about the project
because I openly shared it with them of my own volition, extending
an offer for them to take inspiration from my work.
* Riju was never intended to be a product, it was intended to be a
personal playground / art piece. As proof of this claim, I offer the
fact that I spent dozens of hours adding languages like
SNOBOL rather making it so you could
save your work(!).
I’m not a business person. I’m just an open-source dev who likes to build weird things for fun. (If you doubt my track record of building things that don’t make money, just check out the list on my
This is the story of how I accidentally discovered what appears to be a sizable SEO scam.
Some highly-ranked online tools for editing or “cleaning” HTML seem to be secretly injecting links into their output to push themselves and afﬁliated sites up the search engine rankings. This scam is highly successful and appears to have gone undetected so far.
Tools which I suspect of doing this are all made by the same people:
Sites that have fallen victim to this include BoingBoing, the ofﬁcial German Football Association and Kaspersky. The delicious irony here is that the affected Kaspersky article is about “staying safe from hackers”.
So here’s a blow-by-blow account of how I made this discovery, along with the evidence I uncovered.
It all began with a mystery concerning a product that I’m building. The product is an online scoreboard, and despite having (what I believe) is a solid SEO strategy, I have been unable to conquer that coveted top spot in the search engine results page. For the last 12 months, a competitor called “Scorecounter” has always been ahead of me.
Now, due to the nature of my product, people are sharing links to it and embedding it in their websites, which means that over time I am accumulating a lot of inbound links. Over time my SEO ranking should become unbeatable. The competitor does not have a significant virality like me, yet is consistently better at me than SEO. What trick are they using? 🤔
So last night I drank 2 glasses of red wine and instead of deleting the production database (like last time) I decided to get to the bottom of it. I paid for an Ahrefs subscription and had a look at the “backlink proﬁle” of Scorecounter. Ahrefs is an excellent tool for SEO research and optimization. This is what I found:
Scorecounter had 3600 incoming links which it had accumulated in a very short time. Impressive!
Then I began to look at the pages that contained the links and this is where I grew suspicious.
For instance, I saw a blog post from the German Football Association containing a link to Scorecounter. The word that was linked was “score” — yet having a link here made absolutely no sense in the context of the article. What was going on? 🤔
Here are some more examples of links I found on random domains (you need to search for “score” on the page).
RICE University (The link has now been removed)
Intuit Quickbooks (The link has now been removed)
There are pages and pages of these (take a look for yourself if you have an Ahrefs account).
So I wrote to some of these sites and asked them why they had these links in their pages. Were they all selling links?
I received the following reply from an online news portal:
Thanks for reaching out. No, we do not sell links at any cost.
I was actually using an HTML cleaner (html-online.com/editor/) since last year, which was working ﬁne as intended in the initial months but a few weeks back I realised that the tool has suddenly started secretly injecting links to the HTML content.
For a few posts, I was not able to spot it, but when I learnt about it, whatever post I could have recall, were cleaned manually. It appears, unfortunately, some of them are still there, as you pointed out. I will today simply ﬁnd-replace this link from the entire database for safer side.
So that was the secret: the creators of Scorecounter also made an online HTML editor which injects links for certain keywords. The beauty of this scam is that by injecting links to their own HTML editor, they have created a brilliant positive feedback loop: the higher the editor rises in the search rankings, the more people use it and the more secret links they can inject.
Now if you are feeling very magnanimous, you could argue that the editor is a freemium tool, and that added links are how you pay for the free version. Well, I’m not feeling magnanimous and neither will Google, I suspect.
Apart from boosting the HTML Editor itself and Scorecounter, I found a third product that was enjoying the limelight:
Ruwix.com is made by the same people and is all about the famous puzzle cube. Again it’s very easy to ﬁnd a large number of backlinks to Ruwix.com on random sites using Ahrefs. Each of these is a non-sequitur in the text into which it’s jammed, which shows me that the authors of these articles had no idea what was going on. Take a look (you need to search for “Rubiks” on the page):
an article about Sex and the City
and my personal favorite: a blog post on Kaspersky.com.
UPDATE: Kaspersky has removed the link (props for the quick reaction), but thankfully I made a screenshot 😅
To see how prevalent this injection is, try this Google search; “Learn how to solve a Rubix Cube with the beginner method”. There are over 600 hits on a wide range of sites. Amazingly, the link even made it into a research paper (It’s on page 24, at the bottom of the References section)!
Digging around in the backlinks I discovered that there is a whole network of tools which are all part of the same operation. All have similar backlink proﬁles. They include:
Doing a Google search for “HTML Editor” reveals that these tools occupy the top three positions of the search results. This demonstrates how immensely successful this scam has been.
It’s true that the terms of at least one tool contain the following:
We show ads and might place randomly a link to the end of the cleaned documents.
I sincerely doubt that this disclaimer is enough to prevent a massive Google penalty. We’ll know soon enough.
That’s all for now. Follow me on Twitter to keep updated.
Our network is all about greater efﬁciency. With our strategically placed points of presence (POPs), you can scale on-demand and deliver seamlessly during major events and trafﬁc spikes. Get the peace of mind that comes with truly reliable performance — wherever users may be browsing, watching, shopping, or doing business.
How Apple Could Help Us Reclaim Our AttentionWe believe technology should help us live well. It can and should be designed to help us be intentional, to do the things that truly matter. Yesterday, iOS 15 was introduced to the world. It’s an exciting update, and includes meaningful steps towards more comprehensive tools for digital wellbeing, like modes and better notiﬁcations. Apple could do a lot more to help us be more intentional. Computers were supposed to be a bicycle for the mindSomewhere along the way, ads got in the way. And with ads came the imperative to maximize engagement. Which led to a trillion-dollar industry built on extracting human attention. For social media companies with an ad-based business model, . Even when it comes at the expense of our shared well-being, democracy, and capacity for solving the world’s hardest problems.. The core of Apple’s DNA is about empowering world-changing creativity. Its business is not built around ads. Our lifetime-value is higher for Apple if we get to live meaningful and creative lives and solve the worlds hardest problems. As the provider of iOS and the AppStore, Apple makes the rules for that ecosystem. We believe Apple can and should give users more awareness and control over how they’re being manipulatedWith “Ask app not to track” Apple recently changed the game of privacy, at the dismay at the global advertisement industry. We think they could go even further: To lead the industry towards technology that is truly respectful of human attention.
To align the incentives for developers with the users best interest.
To change the course of technology once more.is about making technology that changes human behavior. Apps that are using persuasive design could be required to list all the techniques they use, as part of the App Store review process.Apple could then show an onboarding screen that provides the user with relevant information around this app, and the option to turn some of these techniques off.If apps use certain persuasive design techniques, Apple could require developers to offer less distracting settings in order to pass the app review. Inﬁnite feeds could be turned into ﬁnite pages (see below)Autoplay could be turned off via a system settingThere could even be an option to hide the most distracting parts of an app, like Facebooks video tab, Instagram Explore, and non-friend stories in SnapchatInstead of inﬁnite feeds, the user could choose to instead use simple pages with a limited number of content pieces on them.Time-on-site is one of the main metrics that ad-based businesses are optimizing for. In contrast, ‘Time well spent’ is a different kind of metric meant to better account for what really matters to you. After engaging with a certain app, do you feel like it made your life better? Was it time well spent?At the end of an app session of 15 minutes or more, an actionable notiﬁcation could ask you if this was time well spent.A time well spent widget could show your most recent sessions and let you rate your experience.to help you reﬂect on your usage and maybe even make suggested changes to your screen time settings.Apple could aggregate data and show the average time people spend on any given app, and how well spent people report this time.
Apple could highlight those apps that people truly enjoy. Time Well Spent could be the basis for the AppStores editorial process.Apple could introduce a tax for App Store listings below a certain Time Well Spent percentage. This would a) directly incentivize developers to optimize for time well spent and b) could be used to accelerate Humane Tech projects and reward apps with a very high time well spent metric.Do I really want to download an app that people spend more than an hour on a day without even enjoying it?Apple could analyze usage patterns and detect mindless browsing, such as idly switching between apps, opening & closing apps rapidly, scrolling back and forth, … Apple could help us set conditions for how and when we use certain apps.This way, we could set boundaries for ourselves, on our own terms.For example if you’re struggling to use Tinder responsibly, you could create a condition that you can only use the app while FaceTiming with a friend.You could for example make sure that when you’re using Twitter, you’re in a good mental and physical state.While this is more speculative than the previous suggestions, it goes to show just how many possibilities there are to help us do the things that we truly want to do.changes like these could improve millions of lives — helping people focus, be well, sleep well, live more meaningful lives. It’s time to show addiction-based businesses their proper place in the world. You can do it, maybe better than any other entity in the world. Will you?we believe technology can and should help us live well. We believe our digital environment can inspire and enable us to do the things we truly want to do. That’s why we’re working on an app that unlocks better choices on your phone. It helps you be intentional and align your behavior with your aspirations — and some of our early users are excited. They ﬁnd it easier to be mindful with their phones and do more of the things they actually want to be doing. You can join the waiting list below, and we’ll do our best to onboard you as soon as possible.
Sign up today to get weekly updates and alerts from Oceana.
An Oceana analysis found hundreds of foreign ﬁshing vessels, primarily Chinese, pillaging the waters off Argentina and disappearing from public tracking systems. These distant-water ﬂeets mainly ﬁsh for shortﬁn squid, which are vital to Argentina’s economy and the diet of numerous commercial and recreational species, such as tuna and swordﬁsh.
Oceana analyzed the activity of ﬁshing vessels along the border of Argentina’s national waters from January 1, 2018, to April 25, 2021, using Automatic Identiﬁcation System (AIS) data from Global Fishing Watch (GFW), an independent nonproﬁt founded by Oceana in partnership with Google and SkyTruth. AIS devices transmit information such as a vessel’s name, ﬂag state, and location. Of the ﬁshing visible on GFW, Oceana documented over 800 foreign vessels logging more than 900,000 total hours of apparent ﬁshing. The analysis also revealed that 69% of this ﬁshing activity was conducted by more than 400 Chinese vessels. In comparison to the foreign ﬂeets, 145 of Argentina’s ﬁshing vessels conducted 9,269 hours of visible ﬁshing in this area during the same period — less than 1% of the total amount.
As part of this analysis, Oceana documented more than 6,000 gap events, instances where AIS transmissions are not detected for more than 24 hours, which potentially indicates vessels are disabling their public tracking devices. These vessels were invisible for more than 600,000 total hours, hiding ﬁshing vessel locations and masking potentially illegal behavior, such as crossing into Argentina’s national waters to ﬁsh. The Chinese ﬂeet was responsible for 66% of these incidents.
Download the Report
Inside the Tax Records of the .001%
ProPublica is a nonproﬁt newsroom that investigates abuses of power. The Secret IRS Files is an ongoing reporting project. Sign up to be notiﬁed when the next installment publishes.
In 2007, Jeff Bezos, then a multibillionaire and now the world’s richest man, did not pay a penny in federal income taxes. He achieved the feat again in 2011. In 2018, Tesla founder Elon Musk, the second-richest person in the world, also paid no federal income taxes.
Michael Bloomberg managed to do the same in recent years. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn did it twice. George Soros paid no federal income tax three years in a row.
This is an ongoing investigation. Sign up to be notiﬁed when the next story publishes.
Thanks for signing up. If you like our stories, mind sharing this with a friend?
For more ways to keep up, be sure to check out the rest of our newsletters.
Fact-based, independent journalism is needed now more than ever.
ProPublica has obtained a vast trove of Internal Revenue Service data on the tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people, covering more than 15 years. The data provides an unprecedented look inside the ﬁnancial lives of America’s titans, including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch and Mark Zuckerberg. It shows not just their income and taxes, but also their investments, stock trades, gambling winnings and even the results of audits.
Taken together, it demolishes the cornerstone myth of the American tax system: that everyone pays their fair share and the richest Americans pay the most. The IRS records show that the wealthiest can — perfectly legally — pay income taxes that are only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions, if not billions, their fortunes grow each year.
Many Americans live paycheck to paycheck, amassing little wealth and paying the federal government a percentage of their income that rises if they earn more. In recent years, the median American household earned about $70,000 annually and paid 14% in federal taxes. The highest income tax rate, 37%, kicked in this year, for couples, on earnings above $628,300.
The conﬁdential tax records obtained by ProPublica show that the ultrarich effectively sidestep this system.
You May Be Paying a Higher Tax Rate Than a Billionaire
America’s billionaires avail themselves of tax-avoidance strategies beyond the reach of ordinary people. Their wealth derives from the skyrocketing value of their assets, like stock and property. Those gains are not deﬁned by U. S. laws as taxable income unless and until the billionaires sell.
To capture the ﬁnancial reality of the richest Americans, ProPublica undertook an analysis that has never been done before. We compared how much in taxes the 25 richest Americans paid each year to how much Forbes estimated their wealth grew in that same time period.
We’re going to call this their true tax rate.
The results are stark. According to Forbes, those 25 people saw their worth rise a collective $401 billion from 2014 to 2018. They paid a total of $13.6 billion in federal income taxes in those ﬁve years, the IRS data shows. That’s a staggering sum, but it amounts to a true tax rate of only 3.4%.
It’s a completely different picture for middle-class Americans, for example, wage earners in their early 40s who have amassed a typical amount of wealth for people their age. From 2014 to 2018, such households saw their net worth expand by about $65,000 after taxes on average, mostly due to the rise in value of their homes. But because the vast bulk of their earnings were salaries, their tax bills were almost as much, nearly $62,000, over that ﬁve-year period.
The Ultrawealthy by the Numbers
Wealth, income and taxes for four of the richest people in the country from 2014 to 2018.
No one among the 25 wealthiest avoided as much tax as Buffett, the grandfatherly centibillionaire. That’s perhaps surprising, given his public stance as an advocate of higher taxes for the rich. According to Forbes, his riches rose $24.3 billion between 2014 and 2018. Over those years, the data shows, Buffett reported paying $23.7 million in taxes.
Note: Values in the graphic are rounded.
That works out to a true tax rate of 0.1%, or less than 10 cents for every $100 he added to his wealth.
In the coming months, ProPublica will use the IRS data we have obtained to explore in detail how the ultrawealthy avoid taxes, exploit loopholes and escape scrutiny from federal auditors.
Experts have long understood the broad outlines of how little the wealthy are taxed in the United States, and many lay people have long suspected the same thing.
But few speciﬁcs about individuals ever emerge in public. Tax information is among the most zealously guarded secrets in the federal government. ProPublica has decided to reveal individual tax information of some of the wealthiest Americans because it is only by seeing speciﬁcs that the public can understand the realities of the country’s tax system.
Consider Bezos’ 2007, one of the years he paid zero in federal income taxes. Amazon’s stock more than doubled. Bezos’ fortune leapt $3.8 billion, according to Forbes, whose wealth estimates are widely cited. How did a person enjoying that sort of wealth explosion end up paying no income tax?
In that year, Bezos, who ﬁled his taxes jointly with his then-wife, MacKenzie Scott, reported a paltry (for him) $46 million in income, largely from interest and dividend payments on outside investments. He was able to offset every penny he earned with losses from side investments and various deductions, like interest expenses on debts and the vague catchall category of “other expenses.”
In 2011, a year in which his wealth held roughly steady at $18 billion, Bezos ﬁled a tax return reporting he lost money — his income that year was more than offset by investment losses. What’s more, because, according to the tax law, he made so little, he even claimed and received a $4,000 tax credit for his children.
His tax avoidance is even more striking if you examine 2006 to 2018, a period for which ProPublica has complete data. Bezos’ wealth increased by $127 billion, according to Forbes, but he reported a total of $6.5 billion in income. The $1.4 billion he paid in personal federal taxes is a massive number — yet it amounts to a 1.1% true tax rate on the rise in his fortune.
While Bezos’ wealth has grown astronomically over the last decade and he’s paid a minuscule fraction of it in taxes, a typical American household paid more in taxes than it accumulated in wealth.
The revelations provided by the IRS data come at a crucial moment. Wealth inequality has become one of the deﬁning issues of our age. The president and Congress are considering the most ambitious tax increases in decades on those with high incomes. But the American tax conversation has been dominated by debate over incremental changes, such as whether the top tax rate should be 39.6% rather than 37%.
ProPublica’s data shows that while some wealthy Americans, such as hedge fund managers, would pay more taxes under the current Biden administration proposals, the vast majority of the top 25 would see little change.
The tax data was provided to ProPublica after we published a series of articles scrutinizing the IRS. The articles exposed how years of budget cuts have hobbled the agency’s ability to enforce the law and how the largest corporations and the rich have beneﬁted from the IRS’ weakness. They also showed how people in poor regions are now more likely to be audited than those in afﬂuent areas.
Why We Are Publishing the Tax Secrets of the .001%
The Secret IRS Files Short Form: A Quick Guide to What We Uncovered
How We Calculated the True Tax Rates of the Wealthiest
ProPublica is not disclosing how it obtained the data, which was given to us in raw form, with no conditions or conclusions. ProPublica reporters spent months processing and analyzing the material to transform it into a usable database.
We then veriﬁed the information by comparing elements of it with dozens of already public tax details (in court documents, politicians’ ﬁnancial disclosures and news stories) as well as by vetting it with individuals whose tax information is contained in the trove. Every person whose tax information is described in this story was asked to comment. Those who responded, including Buffett, Bloomberg and Icahn, all said they had paid the taxes they owed.
A spokesman for Soros said in a statement: “Between 2016 and 2018 George Soros lost money on his investments, therefore he did not owe federal income taxes in those years. Mr. Soros has long supported higher taxes for wealthy Americans.” Personal and corporate representatives of Bezos declined to receive detailed questions about the matter. ProPublica attempted to reach Scott through her divorce attorney, a personal representative and family members; she did not respond. Musk responded to an initial query with a lone punctuation mark: “?” After we sent detailed questions to him, he did not reply.
One of the billionaires mentioned in this article objected, arguing that publishing personal tax information is a violation of privacy. We have concluded that the public interest in knowing this information at this pivotal moment outweighs that legitimate concern.
The consequences of allowing the most prosperous to game the tax system have been profound. Federal budgets, apart from military spending, have been constrained for decades. Roads and bridges have crumbled, social services have withered and the solvency of Social Security and Medicare is perpetually in question.
There is an even more fundamental issue than which programs get funded or not: Taxes are a kind of collective sacriﬁce. No one loves giving their hard-earned money to the government. But the system works only as long as it’s perceived to be fair.
Our analysis of tax data for the 25 richest Americans quantiﬁes just how unfair the system has become.
By the end of 2018, the 25 were worth $1.1 trillion.
For comparison, it would take 14.3 million ordinary American wage earners put together to equal that same amount of wealth.
The personal federal tax bill for the top 25 in 2018: $1.9 billion.
The bill for the wage earners: $143 billion.
The idea of a regular tax on income, much less on wealth, does not appear in the country’s founding documents. In fact, Article 1 of the U. S. Constitution explicitly prohibits “direct” taxes on citizens under most circumstances. This meant that for decades, the U.S. government mainly funded itself through “indirect” taxes: tariffs and levies on consumer goods like tobacco and alcohol.
With the costs of the Civil War looming, Congress imposed a national income tax in 1861. The wealthy helped force its repeal soon after the war ended. (Their pique could only have been exacerbated by the fact that the law required public disclosure. The annual income of the moguls of the day — $1.3 million for William Astor; $576,000 for Cornelius Vanderbilt — was listed in the pages of The New York Times in 1865.)
By the late 19th and early 20th century, wealth inequality was acute and the political climate was changing. The federal government began expanding, creating agencies to protect food, workers and more. It needed funding, but tariffs were pinching regular Americans more than the rich. The Supreme Court had rejected an 1894 law that would have created an income tax. So Congress moved to amend the Constitution. The 16th Amendment was ratiﬁed in 1913 and gave the government power “to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived.”
In the early years, the personal income tax worked as Congress intended, falling squarely on the richest. In 1918, only 15% of American families owed any tax. The top 1% paid 80% of the revenue raised, according to historian W. Elliot Brownlee.
But a question remained: What would count as income and what wouldn’t? In 1916, a woman named Myrtle Macomber received a dividend for her Standard Oil of California shares. She owed taxes, thanks to the new law. The dividend had not come in cash, however. It came in the form of an additional share for every two shares she already held. She paid the taxes and then brought a court challenge: Yes, she’d gotten a bit richer, but she hadn’t received any money. Therefore, she argued, she’d received no “income.”
Four years later, the Supreme Court agreed. In Eisner v. Macomber, the high court ruled that income derived only from proceeds. A person needed to sell an asset — stock, bond or building — and reap some money before it could be taxed.
Since then, the concept that income comes only from proceeds — when gains are “realized” — has been the bedrock of the U. S. tax system. Wages are taxed. Cash dividends are taxed. Gains from selling assets are taxed. But if a taxpayer hasn’t sold anything, there is no income and therefore no tax.
Contemporary critics of Macomber were plentiful and prescient. Cordell Hull, the congressman known as the “father” of the income tax, assailed the decision, according to scholar Marjorie Kornhauser. Hull predicted that tax avoidance would become common. The ruling opened a gaping loophole, Hull warned, allowing industrialists to build a company and borrow against the stock to pay living expenses. Anyone could “live upon the value” of their company stock “without selling it, and of course, without ever paying” tax, he said.
Hull’s prediction would reach full ﬂower only decades later, spurred by a series of epochal economic, legal and cultural changes that began to gather momentum in the 1970s. Antitrust enforcers increasingly accepted mergers and stopped trying to break up huge corporations. For their part, companies came to obsess over the value of their stock to the exclusion of nearly everything else. That helped give rise in the last 40 years to a series of corporate monoliths — beginning with Microsoft and Oracle in the 1980s and 1990s and continuing to Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple today — that often have concentrated ownership, high proﬁt margins and rich share prices. The winner-take-all economy has created modern fortunes that by some measures eclipse those of John D. Rockefeller, J. P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie.
In the here and now, the ultrawealthy use an array of techniques that aren’t available to those of lesser means to get around the tax system.
Certainly, there are illegal tax evaders among them, but it turns out billionaires don’t have to evade taxes exotically and illicitly — they can avoid them routinely and legally.
Most Americans have to work to live. When they do, they get paid — and they get taxed. The federal government considers almost every dollar workers earn to be “income,” and employers take taxes directly out of their paychecks.
The Bezoses of the world have no need to be paid a salary. Bezos’ Amazon wages have long been set at the middle-class level of around $80,000 a year.
For years, there’s been something of a competition among elite founder-CEOs to go even lower. Steve Jobs took $1 in salary when he returned to Apple in the 1990s. Facebook’s Zuckerberg, Oracle’s Larry Ellison and Google’s Larry Page have all done the same.
Yet this is not the self-effacing gesture it appears to be: Wages are taxed at a high rate. The top 25 wealthiest Americans reported $158 million in wages in 2018, according to the IRS data. That’s a mere 1.1% of what they listed on their tax forms as their total reported income. The rest mostly came from dividends and the sale of stock, bonds or other investments, which are taxed at lower rates than wages.
Wealth and income work very differently for the ultrawealthy than they do for most people. This represents $100 of income for a typical wage-earning American household. The federal government taxes income. A typical American household might pay something like 14%.For many households, the rest of their income goes toward expenses every year with maybe a small amount left over for savings.A typical household might also own a home, which often grows in value over time. Such asset gains make up much of that household’s wealth growth for any given year.This proportion of wealth growth vs. taxes has been typical for middle-aged Americans since the mid-2000s. However, it’s inverted for the ultrawealthy.This represents $100 of income for Bezos. From 2006 to 2018, his taxes were about 21% of his income. But for people in this stratosphere, income doesn’t really matter. Bezos’ Amazon shares have skyrocketed in value since 2006. In most years, his wealth grew far more than what he reported in income to the IRS.Between 2006 and 2018, Bezos’ wealth shot up by over $120 billion, while he paid a minuscule proportion in taxes.
Meanwhile, typical Americans his age paid more in taxes than they saw in wealth growth over that period.That is, for every $100 of wealth growth over that period, typical Americans paid $160 in taxes.
Bezos paid only $1.09.
As Congressman Hull envisioned long ago, the ultrawealthy typically hold fast to shares in the companies they’ve founded. Many titans of the 21st century sit on mountains of what are known as unrealized gains, the total size of which ﬂuctuates each day as stock prices rise and fall. Of the $4.25 trillion in wealth held by U. S. billionaires, some $2.7 trillion is unrealized, according to Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, economists at the University of California, Berkeley.
Buffett has famously held onto his stock in the company he founded, Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate that owns Geico, Duracell and significant stakes in American Express and Coca-Cola. That has allowed Buffett to largely avoid transforming his wealth into income. From 2015 through 2018, he reported annual income ranging from $11.6 million to $25 million. That may seem like a lot, but Buffett ranks as roughly the world’s sixth-richest person — he’s worth $110 billion as of Forbes’ estimate in May 2021. At least 14,000 U. S. taxpayers in 2015 reported higher income than him, according to IRS data.
There’s also a second strategy Buffett relies on that minimizes income, and therefore, taxes. Berkshire does not pay a dividend, the sum (a piece of the profits, in theory) that many companies pay each quarter to those who own their stock. Buffett has always argued that it is better to use that money to ﬁnd investments for Berkshire that will further boost the value of shares held by him and other investors. If Berkshire had offered anywhere close to the average dividend in recent years, Buffett would have received over $1 billion in dividend income and owed hundreds of millions in taxes each year.
Many Silicon Valley and infotech companies have emulated Buffett’s model, eschewing stock dividends, at least for a time. In the 1980s and 1990s, companies like Microsoft and Oracle offered shareholders rocketing growth and profits but did not pay dividends. Google, Facebook, Amazon and Tesla do not pay dividends.
In a detailed written response, Buffett defended his practices but did not directly address ProPublica’s true tax rate calculation. “I continue to believe that the tax code should be changed substantially,” he wrote, adding that he thought “huge dynastic wealth is not desirable for our society.”
The decision not to have Berkshire pay dividends has been supported by the vast majority of his shareholders. “I can’t think of any large public company with shareholders so united in their reinvestment beliefs,” he wrote. And he pointed out that Berkshire Hathaway pays significant corporate taxes, accounting for 1.5% of total U. S. corporate taxes in 2019 and 2020.
Buffett reiterated that he has begun giving his enormous fortune away and ultimately plans to donate 99.5% of it to charity. “I believe the money will be of more use to society if disbursed philanthropically than if it is used to slightly reduce an ever-increasing U. S. debt,” he wrote.
So how do megabillionaires pay their megabills while opting for $1 salaries and hanging onto their stock? According to public documents and experts, the answer for some is borrowing money — lots of it.
For regular people, borrowing money is often something done out of necessity, say for a car or a home. But for the ultrawealthy, it can be a way to access billions without producing income, and thus, income tax.
The tax math provides a clear incentive for this. If you own a company and take a huge salary, you’ll pay 37% in income tax on the bulk of it. Sell stock and you’ll pay 20% in capital gains tax — and lose some control over your company. But take out a loan, and these days you’ll pay a single-digit interest rate and no tax; since loans must be paid back, the IRS doesn’t consider them income. Banks typically require collateral, but the wealthy have plenty of that.
The vast majority of the ultrawealthy’s loans do not appear in the tax records obtained by ProPublica since they are generally not disclosed to the IRS. But occasionally, the loans are disclosed in securities ﬁlings. In 2014, for example, Oracle revealed that its CEO, Ellison, had a credit line secured by about $10 billion of his shares.
Last year Tesla reported that Musk had pledged some 92 million shares, which were worth about $57.7 billion as of May 29, 2021, as collateral for personal loans.
With the exception of one year when he exercised more than a billion dollars in stock options, Musk’s tax bills in no way reﬂect the fortune he has at his disposal. In 2015, he paid $68,000 in federal income tax. In 2017, it was $65,000, and in 2018 he paid no federal income tax. Between 2014 and 2018, he had a true tax rate of 3.27%.
The IRS records provide glimpses of other massive loans. In both 2016 and 2017, investor Carl Icahn, who ranks as the 40th-wealthiest American on the Forbes list, paid no federal income taxes despite reporting a total of $544 million in adjusted gross income (which the IRS deﬁnes as earnings minus items like student loan interest payments or alimony). Icahn had an outstanding loan of $1.2 billion with Bank of America among other loans, according to the IRS data. It was technically a mortgage because it was secured, at least in part, by Manhattan penthouse apartments and other properties.
Borrowing offers multiple beneﬁts to Icahn: He gets huge tranches of cash to turbocharge his investment returns. Then he gets to deduct the interest from his taxes. In an interview, Icahn explained that he reports the profits and losses of his business empire on his personal taxes.
Icahn acknowledged that he is a “big borrower. I do borrow a lot of money.” Asked if he takes out loans also to lower his tax bill, Icahn said: “No, not at all. My borrowing is to win. I enjoy the competition. I enjoy winning.”
He said adjusted gross income was a misleading ﬁgure for him. After taking hundreds of millions in deductions for the interest on his loans, he registered tax losses for both years, he said. “I didn’t make money because, unfortunately for me, my interest was higher than my whole adjusted income.”
Asked whether it was appropriate that he had paid no income tax in certain years, Icahn said he was perplexed by the question. “There’s a reason it’s called income tax,” he said. “The reason is if, if you’re a poor person, a rich person, if you are Apple — if you have no income, you don’t pay taxes.” He added: “Do you think a rich person should pay taxes no matter what? I don’t think it’s germane. How can you ask me that question?”
Skeptics might question our analysis of how little the superrich pay in taxes. For one, they might argue that owners of companies get hit by corporate taxes. They also might counter that some billionaires cannot avoid income — and therefore taxes. And after death, the common understanding goes, there’s a ﬁnal no-escape clause: the estate tax, which imposes a steep tax rate on sums over $11.7 million.
ProPublica found that none of these factors alter the fundamental picture.
Take corporate taxes. When companies pay them, economists say, these costs are passed on to the companies’ owners, workers or even consumers. Models differ, but they generally assume big stockholders shoulder the lion’s share.
Corporate taxes, however, have plummeted in recent decades in what has become a golden age of corporate tax avoidance. By sending profits abroad, companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple have often paid little or no U. S. corporate tax.
For some of the nation’s wealthiest people, particularly Bezos and Musk, adding corporate taxes to the equation would hardly change anything at all. Other companies like Berkshire Hathaway and Walmart do pay more, which means that for people like Buffett and the Waltons, corporate tax could add significantly to their burden.
It is also true that some billionaires don’t avoid taxes by avoiding incomes. In 2018, nine of the 25 wealthiest Americans reported more than $500 million in income and three more than $1 billion.
In such cases, though, the data obtained by ProPublica shows billionaires have a palette of tax-avoidance options to offset their gains using credits, deductions (which can include charitable donations) or losses to lower or even zero out their tax bills. Some own sports teams that offer such lucrative write-offs that owners often end up paying far lower tax rates than their millionaire players. Others own commercial buildings that steadily rise in value but nevertheless can be used to throw off paper losses that offset income.
Michael Bloomberg, the 13th-richest American on the Forbes list, often reports high income because the profits of the private company he controls ﬂow mainly to him.
In 2018, he reported income of $1.9 billion. When it came to his taxes, Bloomberg managed to slash his bill by using deductions made possible by tax cuts passed during the Trump administration, charitable donations of $968.3 million and credits for having paid foreign taxes. The end result was that he paid $70.7 million in income tax on that almost $2 billion in income. That amounts to just a 3.7% conventional income tax rate. Between 2014 and 2018, Bloomberg had a true tax rate of 1.30%.
In a statement, a spokesman for Bloomberg noted that as a candidate, Bloomberg had advocated for a variety of tax hikes on the wealthy. “Mike Bloomberg pays the maximum tax rate on all federal, state, local and international taxable income as prescribed by law,” the spokesman wrote. And he cited Bloomberg’s philanthropic giving, offering the calculation that “taken together, what Mike gives to charity and pays in taxes amounts to approximately 75% of his annual income.”
The statement also noted: “The release of a private citizen’s tax returns should raise real privacy concerns regardless of political afﬁliation or views on tax policy. In the United States no private citizen should fear the illegal release of their taxes. We intend to use all legal means at our disposal to determine which individual or government entity leaked these and ensure that they are held responsible.”
Ultimately, after decades of wealth accumulation, the estate tax is supposed to serve as a backstop, allowing authorities an opportunity to ﬁnally take a piece of giant fortunes before they pass to a new generation. But in reality, preparing for death is more like the last stage of tax avoidance for the ultrawealthy.
University of Southern California tax law professor Edward McCaffery has summarized the entire arc with the catchphrase “buy, borrow, die.”
In the summer of 2009, I had an idea. My workdays were spent deploying tons of cloud infrastructure as Rackspace acquired Slicehost and we rushed to keep up with the constant demands for new infrastructure from our customers. Working quickly led to challenges with hardware and networking.
That was a time where the I Can Has Cheeseburger meme was red hot just about everywhere. We needed a way to quickly check the public-facing IP address of lots of backend infrastructure and our customers sometimes needed that information, too.
It has always been simple site that returns your external IP address and nothing else. No ads. No trackers. No goofy requirements. Sure, if you looked hard enough, you could spot my attempt at jokes in the HTTP headers. Other than that, the site had a narrow use case and started out mainly as an internal tool.
Lifehacker’s Australian site featured a post about icanhazip.com and trafﬁc went through the roof. My little Slicehost instance was inundated and I quickly realized my Apache and Python setup was not going to work long term.
I migrated to nginx and set up nginx to answer the requests by itself and removed the Python scripts. The load on my small cloud instances came down quickly and I ﬁgured the issue would be resolved for a while.
Fast forward to 2015 and icanhazip.com was serving well over 100M requests per day. My cloud instances were getting crushed again, so I deployed more with round robin DNS. (My budget for icanhazip is tiny.) Once that was overloaded, I moved to Hetzner in Germany since I could get physical servers there with better network cards along with unlimited trafﬁc.
The Hetzner servers were not expensive, but I was paying almost $200/month to keep the site aﬂoat and the site made no money. I met some people who worked for Packet.net (now Equinix Metal) and they offered to sponsor the site. This brought my expenses down a lot and I deployed icanhazip.com on one server at Packet.
The site soon crossed 500M requests per day and I deployed a second server. Trafﬁc was still overloading the servers. I didn’t want to spin up more servers at Packet since they were already helping me out quite a bit, so I decided to look under the hood of the kernel and make some improvements.
I learned more than I ever wanted to know about TCP backlogs, TCP/VLAN ofﬂoading, packet coalescing, IRQ balancing, and a hundred other things. Some Red Hat network experts helped me (before I joined the company) to continue tweaking. The site was running well after that and I was thankful for the support.
Soon the site exceeded 1B requests per day. I went back to the people who helped me at Red Hat and after they looked through everything I sent, their response was similar to the well-known line from Jaws: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
I languished on Twitter about how things were getting out of control and someone from Cloudﬂare reached out to help. We conﬁgured Cloudﬂare to ﬁlter trafﬁc in front of the site and this reduced the impact from SYN ﬂoods, half-open TLS connections, and other malicious clients that I couldn’t even see when I hosted the site on my own.
Later, Cloudﬂare launched workers and my contact there said I should consider it since my responses were fairly simple and the workers product would handle it well. The cost for workers looked horrifying at my trafﬁc levels, but the folks at Cloudﬂare offered to run my workers for free. Their new product was getting bucket loads of trafﬁc and I was able to scale the site even further.
In 2021, the trafﬁc I once received in a month started arriving in 24 hours. The site went from 1B requests per day to 30-35B requests per day over a weekend. Almost all of that trafﬁc came from several network blocks in China. Through all of this, Cloudﬂare’s workers kept chugging along and my response times barely moved. I was grateful for the help.
Cloudﬂare was doing a lot for me and I wanted to curb some of the malicious trafﬁc to reduce the load on their products. I tried many times to reach out to the email addresses on the Chinese ASNs and couldn’t make contact with anyone. Some former coworkers told me that my chances of changing that trafﬁc or getting a response to an abuse request was near zero.
There was a phase for a few years where malware authors kept writing malware that would call out to icanhazip.com to ﬁnd out what they had infected. If they could ﬁnd out the external IP address of the systems they had compromised, they could quickly assess the value of the target. Upatre was the ﬁrst, but many followed after that.
I received emails from companies, US state governments, and even US three letter agencies (TLA). Most were very friendly and they had lots of questions. I explained how the site worked and rarely heard a lot more communication after that.
Not all of the interactions were positive, however. One CISO of a US state emailed me and threatened all kinds of legal action claming that icanhazip.com was involved in a malware infection in his state’s computer systems. I tried repeatedly to explain how the site worked and that the malware authors were calling out to my site and I was powerless to stop it.
Along the way, many of my hosting providers received abuse emails about the site. I was using a colocation provider in Dallas for a while and the tech called me about an abuse email:
“So we got another abuse email for you,” they said.
“Yes. I didn’t know that was running here, I use it all the time!”
“You know what, I’ll write up a generic response and just start replying to these idiots for you from now on.”
There were many times where I saw a big trafﬁc jump and I realized the trafﬁc was coming from the same ASN, and likely from the same company. I tried reaching out to these companies when I saw it but they rarely ever replied. Some even became extremely hostile to my emails.
The passion left in my passion project started shrinking by the day.
Seeing that over 90% of my trafﬁc load was malicious and abusive was frustrating. Dealing with the abuse emails and complaints was worse.
I built the site originally as just a utility for my team to use, but then it grew and it was fun to ﬁnd new ways to handle the load without increasing cost. Seeing 2 petabytes of data ﬂowing out per month and knowing that almost all of it was garbage pushed me over the line. I knew I needed a change.
I received a few small offers from various small companies ($5,000 or less), but I realized that the money wasn’t what I was after. I wanted someone to run the site and help the information security industry to stop some of these malicious actors.
I’ve worked closely with my contacts at Cloudﬂare for a long time and they’ve always jumped in to help me when something wasn’t working well. Their sponsorship of icanhazip.com has saved me tens of thousands of dollars per month. It has also managed to keep the site alive even under horriﬁc trafﬁc load.
I made this decision because Cloudﬂare has always done right by me and they’ve pledged not only to keep the site running, but to work through the trafﬁc load and determine how to stop the malicious trafﬁc. Their coordinated work with other companies to stop compromised machines from degrading the performance of so many sites was a great selling point for me.
If you’re curious, Cloudﬂare did pay me for the site. We made a deal for them to pay me $8.03; the cost of the domain registration. The goal was never to make money from the site (although I did get about $75 in total donations from 2009 to 2021). The goal was to provide a service to the internet. Cloudﬂare has helped me do that and they will continue to do it as the new owners and operators of icanhazip.com.
I’d like to thank everyone who has helped me with icanhazip.com along the way. Tons of people stepped up to help with hosting and server optimization. Hosting providers helped me ﬁeld an onslaught of abuse requests and DDoS attacks. Most of all, thanks to the people who used the site and helped to promote it.
Stripe Tax lets you calculate and collect sales tax, VAT, and GST with one line of code or the click of a button. Know where to register, automatically collect the right amount of tax, and access the reports you need to ﬁle returns.
Internet businesses are required to collect taxes in over 130 countries and in most US states. Staying compliant can be challenging, especially as your business scales. Tax rules and rates change constantly and vary based on what and where you sell. If you ignore these complexities, you risk paying penalties and interest on top of uncollected taxes. We built Stripe Tax to simplify tax compliance, so you can focus on growing your business.
On average, there is a 30% interest penalty on past-due sales tax in the US.
European registration thresholds vary from €0 in Spain to £85,000 in the UK.
Over 130 countries are taxing digital goods and more countries are planning to impose taxes on digital goods.
Non-EU businesses selling digital goods and services into the EU must collect taxes from their very ﬁrst sale.
If you don’t collect sales tax from your customers, you’ll have to pay past-due taxes out of your own pocket.
SaaS sales are 100% taxable in New York, 80% in Texas, and non-taxable in California.
In 2021, the United States will introduce around 400 rate changes.
In Europe, businesses selling digital products generally need to collect two pieces of non-conﬂicting evidence to validate a customer’s location.
SaaS is only taxable in some US states, and sometimes only B2B or B2C SaaS is taxed.
Over 80% of startups on Stripe sell into more than 20 states and countries.
In 2021, over 20 countries will change their VAT rates for certain products.
72% of online businesses see compliance as a barrier to international growth.
US sales tax registration thresholds for remote sellers vary from $100k in sales or 200 transactions in most states to $500k in CA, NY, and TX.
Collect taxes around the world by adding a single line of code to your existing integration or clicking a button in the Dashboard.
Know where to register
Stripe Tax monitors your transactions in each market, so you know when and where you need to register to collect taxes.
Stripe Tax determines your customer’s precise location and always calculates and collects the right amount of tax. It also validates the EU VAT ID number when needed.
Speed up ﬁling and remittance with comprehensive reports for each market in which you’re registered.
Start collecting taxes by adding one line of code to your existing Stripe integration.
If you’re using one of Stripe’s no-code products, such as Invoicing, you can collect taxes with the click of a button in the Dashboard.
Know where to register
Stripe Tax is optimized for tax calculation in all US states and 30+ countries. Understand where you need to collect taxes and activate tax collection in a new market in seconds. In Europe, Stripe Tax supports both country and VAT OSS registrations.
Locations where you are currently collecting tax with Stripe.
Compare your volume to local state or country tax thresholds and add where you are registered.
Once added, Stripe will calculate tax for customers located in Idaho on any payment with automatic tax enabled.
We use a rolling basis to calculate tax and include all transactions regardless of eligibility.
Are you currently registered to collect sales taxes in Idaho?
You must be registered in Idaho in order to collect and remit sales tax.
Always calculate and collect the correct amount of tax, no matter what or where you sell. Stripe Tax supports tax collection on hundreds of products and services and keeps tax rules and rates up to date.
Reduce checkout friction by calculating taxes based on the available location information and show taxes in the most familiar way to your customers.
Stripe Tax helps you collect the tax identiﬁcation number from B2B customers. You can automatically validate VAT IDs for European customers and apply a reverse charge or zero VAT rate when necessary.
Save time when reconciling thousands of transactions. Stripe reports surface all the information you need for each ﬁling location, so you can easily ﬁle and remit taxes on your own, with your accountant, or with a preferred partner.
We no longer have to keep up with the tax regulations in every US state and are now expanding faster than ever.
Thanks to Stripe Tax, we avoided six months of engineering work and we never have to think about taxes again.
We switched to Stripe from a merchant of record provider because we wanted complete control over our checkout experience and pricing.
Our customers can’t wait to say ‘goodbye’ to manually calculating their taxes. Integrating Stripe Tax into Kajabi Checkout will make their lives a whole lot easier.
Learn more about global tax compliance and how to use Stripe Tax.
Understanding US sales tax and economic nexus: A guide for startups
TaxJar guide to tax ﬁling in the US
Stripe Tax is currently in invite only. If you’d like to get access, please provide your information and we’ll contact you.
Thank you for your interest in Stripe Tax! We’ll be in touch soon.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has ﬁled a lawsuit asking a court to declare Google a public utility that should be regulated as such.
“Google uses its dominance of internet search to steer Ohioans to Google’s own products – that’s discriminatory and anti-competitive,” Yost said in a statement. “When you own the railroad or the electric company or the cellphone tower, you have to treat everyone the same and give everybody access.”
The lawsuit, ﬁled in Delaware County Common Pleas Court, is believed to be the ﬁrst of its kind, Yost’s ofﬁce said.
Speciﬁcally, the lawsuit seeks a legal declaration that Google is a “common carrier,” like phone, gas and electric companies, which must provide its services to anyone willing to pay its fee. In lieu of a fee, Yost argues in the complaint, Google collects user data that is monetized primarily by selling targeted advertisements.
Yost argues Google should therefore not be able to prioritize placement of its own products, services and websites on its search results pages.
Google disadvantages businesses and consumers by ranking its own services above competitors, Yost argues in the complaint. For example, if someone searches for a ﬂight, Google Flights is the ﬁrst result that pops up after advertisements, not other search sites such as Expedia and Travelocity.
The lawsuit does not seek monetary damages.
In a statement, Google said Google Search is designed to provide people with the most relevant and helpful results and the Ohio lawsuit would make it harder for small businesses to connect directly with customers.
“Ohioans simply don’t want the government to run Google like a gas or electric company,” the company said in a statement. “This lawsuit has no basis in fact or law and we’ll defend ourselves against it in court.”
The lawsuit isn’t the ﬁrst Ohio has ﬁled against Google. In December, Ohio joined 37 other state attorneys general accusing Google of violating anti-trust laws. That complaint also claimed Google unfairly gives preference to its own sites and services over competitors in search results.
Jackie Borchardt is the Bureau Chief for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other afﬁliated news organizations across Ohio.
ALiEn is an artiﬁcial life simulation program based on a specialized physics and rendering engine in CUDA. It is designed to simulate digital organisms embedded in artiﬁcial ecosystems and to mimic conditions for (pre-)biotic evolution.