Scott Cleland is a proven, responsible Internet thought leader, expert, and advocate.
As Founder of Precursor®, Cleland has over twenty years of experience advising top institutional investors, Fortune 100 companies, and governments on how techtopian Internet policies, promises, and practices can irresponsibly harm competition, markets, the economy, consumers, society, and the world.
Eight congressional subcommittees have sought his expert testimony a total of 16 times. He served as Deputy United States Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy in the H. W. Bush Administration. A U.S. Department of State Advisory Committee appointed him to several terms 2002-2014. Governments on four continents have sought his expertise. Institutional Investor twice ranked him the #1 independent analyst in communications.
He has pioneered a new Internet research discipline, Macrointernetics™, the study of the systemic risks of universal Internet disruptions. He coined the new term, “the Internet Reset,” to spotlight the evident geopolitical secular change from an ungoverned (irresponsible) Internet to a more governed (responsible) Internet.
He is author of the 2011 book “Search & Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.,” which was translated into Korean and Portuguese. He is publisher of Googleopoly.net, and from 2010-2016 published the accountability site GoogleMonitor.com.
Sixteen publications have featured his op-eds. His widely read PrecursorBlog published several hundred responsible Internet analyses (2006-2018). And as an investment analyst (1993-2005), he was the nation’s most quoted communications analyst. Fortune, National Journal, Barrons, WSJ's Smart Money, Investors Business Daily, and Broadcasting & Cable have profiled Cleland.
As a speaker, he has keynoted for companies, associations, conferences, and government organizations, nationally and internationally. Cleland has been interviewed on TV and radio hundreds of times.
Everyone has Internet trust concerns because online no one is safe, nothing is secure or private, and everywhere users question the trustworthiness of Internet content and intermediaries. Increasing Wild West Internet irresponsibility has caused a global techlash for a more responsible Internet.
As the nation’s leading regulatory analyst for investors during the birth and growth of communications competition and the techtopian Internet, Cleland understands the Internet’s nature and trajectory is heavily driven by extraordinary government special treatment, subsidies, and regulatory arbitrage.
Consequently, Cleland challenges irresponsible techtopian Internet policies, laws, immunities, economics, models, and behaviors that irresponsibly disrupt the Constitution, the rule of law, ethics, morals, national security, public safety, legal tender, competition, economics, property and privacy rights, and protection of consumers and minors.
In 2019, Cleland founded Precursor® Research LLC, an independent investment research boutique specializing in the Internet Reset, the geopolitical secular change from an ungoverned Wild West Internet, towards a more governed, responsible Internet. He has pioneered a new Internet research discipline, Macrointernetics™, the systemic risks of universal Internet disruptions.
From 2006-2018, Cleland was President of Precursor LLC, an Internetization research consultancy that served Fortune 100 companies in six industries; and author of the widely read PrecursorBlog, publishing his Internet research findings on Internet competition, policy, and unaccountability.
Precursor LLC’s specialty was original thinking in organizing chaos, by bringing clarity of thought and applying framework analysis to big complex internet competition, policy and unaccountability problems and issues before others. During that same period, Cleland also served as Chairman of NetCompetition®, a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests.
From 2000-2005, Cleland served institutional investors as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Precursor Group Inc. He founded and co-built the Precursor Group Broker Dealer from scratch to the #1 Institutional Investor-recognized independent research firm in communications in four years. The firm served most of the top investment institutions in the U.S., including 39 of the top 50.
Overall Cleland has thirteen years' experience in the institutional investment business including working for the Schwab Washington Research Group and then Legg Mason from 1993-1999.
Scott Cleland served as a member of the U.S. Department of State’s Advisory Committee on International Communications and Information Policy for six years in the W. Bush Administration and six years in the Obama Administration from 2002-2014.
In 2002, Cleland conceived and was the Founding Chairman of the Investorside Research Association, the first association of independent research firms serving investors, and the first U.S. financial association to require an ethics policy to be a member.
He was the lead source and primary analyst for Hedrick Smith's Emmy Award winning PBS Frontline Special, "The Wall Street Fix." Immediately following the surprise announcement of Enron's bankruptcy, Cleland was the first analyst asked to testify before Congress to explain how its then near record corporate fraud could happen.
Scott Cleland's career as a public servant concluded in 1993 as the Deputy United States Coordinator for Communication and Information Policy at the U.S. Department of State, serving President H. W. Bush.
Previously, Cleland served as a Senior Policy Advisor for Legislative Affairs to the then Secretary of State James A. Baker III. He received the Superior Honor Award for his role as the lead congressional briefer to Secretary Baker on all foreign policy matters during the first Gulf War and the dissolution of the former Soviet Union. Prior to that, he served as Director of Legislative Affairs for the U.S. Department of Treasury and as a Budget Examiner for OMB in the U.S. Executive Office of the President.
Scott Cleland earned a Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin in 1984 and a BA in Political Science from Kalamazoo College in 1982. In 2000, Cleland earned Kalamazoo College's Distinguished Achievement Award for excellence and achievement in his professional field.
As the leading regulatory analyst for investors during the birth of communications competition and the techtopian Internet in the 1990s and early 2000s, Cleland knows that the Internet is less a technological or commercial revolution and more of an ideological and government policy revolution.
[By way of background, Internet protocols were invented by the U.S. Department of Defense in 1974. Twenty years later, the U.S. Government decided to make the Internet available for public use for free in 1994. In 1996, Congress established U.S. policy that the Internet should be unfettered by Federal or State regulation (a commons), and Congress also immunized “interactive computer services” from civil liability going forward. In 1998, the U.S. Government created “A Framework for Global Electronic Commerce,” a U.S. policy that effectively made the Internet global, ungoverned, and private-sector led.]
Cleland has been a responsible Internet thought leader over the last twenty years because he has been one of the first and to spot and challenge many key irresponsible Internet developments, disruptions, models, and patterns of behavior.
At the peak of the Nasdaq Dotcom Bubble in the spring of 2000, Cleland was first analyst to discern that market-leader WorldCom’s Internet hyper-growth business model had hit an antitrust wall and was “Dead Growth Model Walking.” This brought WorldCom more scrutiny that in turn uncovered massive accounting fraud. A year later, he was the first analyst to predict WorldCom’s then record bankruptcy.
At the peak of the Dotcom bubble, investment banking interests were hyping that Internet data traffic was growing at a ~1200% annual rate in early 2001; Cleland’s independent research showed that the real annual data growth rate was ~100%, ~12 times slower. That meant that the whole data backbone market valuation was built on the “irrational economics” of Internet policy, i.e. unsustainable FCC price subsidies and the free Internet peering model/commons.
A month later, the Dotcom Crash destroyed $4 trillion in Nasdaq market value, $1 trillion of which was Internet network and equipment companies. A year later, Cleland again was the first analyst to predict the “telecom debt spiral” and ~$200B in bankruptcies because of the continued Internet policy of “irrational economics” of unsustainable FCC price subsidies.
A few months after the Dotcom Crash, Cleland was asked to testify before the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets as an Independent research provider about whether investors were getting unbiased research from Wall Street. Cleland testified that there were real conflicts of interest problems that contributed to investor/pensioner harm in the Dotcom Crash where Americans lost $4T in wealth in the Nasdaq in a matter of months, and during those months only 1% of analysts’ recommendations were “sell.”
Several months later Cleland conceived and co-founded the Investorside Research Association, the first association of independent research providers aligned with investor interests, and the first financial services association in the United States to require a public code of ethics to become a member.
Later in 2001 when Enron became the then largest-ever bankruptcy, the Senate Commerce Committee asked Cleland to testify to explain how it could happen. He testified its cause was egregious structural conflicts of interest and deceptive accounting that consistently hid ballooning losses and risks of Enron Broadband futures contracts from public investors.
A few months later in 2002 after Global Crossing went bankrupt, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight asked Cleland to testify again to explain multiple aspects of how the telecom-Internet sector could become a market bubble and then a debt spiral. Cleland spotlighted the core problem of the FCC’s “irrational economics” in creating an artificial market dependent on increasing government price subsidies and asymmetric regulation of Internet data traffic.
In mid-2002, WorldCom filed for the then largest bankruptcy in history, prompting Congress to immediately pass legislation to address the problem and it was signed into law in eight days, i.e. the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002 – The Corporate and Auditing Accountability, Responsibility, and Transparency Act.
In 2003, Cleland was the lead independent analyst featured in the Emmy awarded, PBS Frontline Special, "The Wall Street Fix," Produced by Hedrick Smith, that explained how the Dotcom Crash happened.
In 2004 and 2005, Cleland was ranked the #1 Institutional Investor independent analyst in communications, and his firm Precursor Group, where Cleland was CEO, was ranked the #1 independent research provider in communications, in part for pioneering the new field of “change research.”
In 2006, Cleland left the investment research business and became President of Precursor® LLC serving Fortune 500 clients as an industry expert's expert consultant on various internet competition and Internet policy issues, and as Chairman of NetCompetition® a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests.
In 2007, Cleland testified before the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee that Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick would create a search advertising monopoly because they were the only two companies with dominant shares of users, advertisers, and publishers. Cleland warned it was a watershed moment for Internet competition and that lax antitrust enforcement on this merger would be irresponsible. This testimony was built off of a Googleopoly I white paper, which became the first of 29 Googleopoly research papers published on Googleopoly.net.
In 2008, Cleland was among the first analysts to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on how Google-DoubleClick systematically threatens Americans’ privacy. In 2009, Cleland again was among the first analysts to testify to the same House subcommittee on the privacy problems with online behavioral advertising generally. Cleland ultimately published a 41-part research series on Google’s Disrespect for Privacy.
After the 2008 Financial Crisis, Cleland submitted a three-part research series I II III to Federal financial regulators on the Root Causes of the Financial Crisis, i.e. irresponsible systemic risk laundering and systemic uneconomics.
In 2009, Cleland published a white paper “Neutralism: Identifying the Commons Ideology Behind Net Neutrality.” “This white paper’s core conclusion is the ideological tension will only increase between the competing visions: calling for a new mandated digital commons vs. defending the existing free market based on property rights.”
In 2010, Cleland testified before the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee on “The State of Competition in the Evolving Digital Marketplace,” and warned the Internet is “characterized by a “winner-take-all” dynamic with a natural propensity to extreme centralization, concentration, and monopoly power.”
In 2011, Cleland authored the first critical book on Google, “Search and Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.” which for the first time documented in detail that Google was unethical and systematically irresponsible with what belongs to others.
In 2012, Cleland was early in detecting the beginnings of the current global Techlash against Internet irresponsibility in spotlighting the seven ways the world was going to fundamentally change the Internet, stating “the utopian era of a universal Internet appears to be coming to a close. Reality has hit; the Internet’s weaknesses, problems, and abuses have to be addressed and fixed...”
In 2012, Cleland held Google accountable for its leadership in blocking passage of the Stop Online Piracy Act in a Forbes op-ed, that ended up as one part of a 39-part research series on Google’s Disrespect for Property.
In 2013, a Cleland Daily Caller Op-ed called for “Congress to Restore Our Rightful Privacy Ownership;” and in 2018, explained in a research piece “How Americans Lost Their Broad Legal Rights to Privacy.”
In 2013 when cryptocurrencies were nascent, Cleland described cryptocurrencies as effectively like Ponzi schemes that depended on the “greater fool theory” and predicted that cryptocurrencies would be a bubble that would end badly, because they were not legal tender and because they were based on the irrational and irresponsible techtopian “abundance” uneconomics that was a root cause of the Dotcom Crash.
In 2015, Cleland was the first to publish on ethical implications of “The Appearance of Google-USG Conflicts of Interest Grows.” “Public evidence also shows that seven former employees of, or consultants to, Google, appear to be conveniently and simultaneously positioned in most every major federal policy or law enforcement area of commercial interest to Google Inc.” This ultimately became one part of a 72-part series on Google Unaccountability.
In 2017, Cleland’s research was the first to 1) show to the FCC and antitrust authorities that the irresponsibility of lax antitrust enforcement enabled the U.S. Internet sector to become 10x more concentrated than the offline marketplace; 2) show how Amazon, Google & Facebook are the same standard monopoly distribution networks and models; and 3) show why Facebook, Google, and Amazon would be become the epicenter of the bipartisan techlash. All these research conclusions have become foundational to the U.S. Government’s current inquiries into Internet irresponsibility problems.
In late 2017, Cleland presented a seminal white paper “America’s Antitrust Enforcement Credibility Crisis,” that was the first to spotlight and document the failure of U.S. antitrust enforcement to “protect the process of competition,” from three enduring and extending, intermedia standard distribution monopolies and monopsonies (Google, Facebook and Amazon) and from four online ecosystem cartelizations: intermedia cartelization bottlenecking the economy; digital advertising cartelization; search ecosystem cartelization; and cartelization of U.S. Internet startup financing. The White Paper also spotlighted that U.S. Internet industrial policy was a core root cause of all these antitrust problems. This white paper effectively previews the multiple current antitrust probes by the DOJ, FTC and State AGs.
In 2017 and 2018, Cleland published a multi-part research series on SESTA-FOSTA, the U.S. Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and seminal amendment to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 is the irresponsible essence and core of Section 230’s U.S. Internet-First industrial policy. The responsible Internet advocacy series below helped Congress to understand how important Section 230 is in enabling, encouraging, subsidizing and immunizing Internet platforms’ irresponsibility.
In 2018 in a critique of the FTC’s lax antitrust enforcement, Cleland explained that the key unfair “player and referee problem” competitors face in trying to competing with Google, Facebook and Amazon is actually much worse that the dual role.
Consider this competition scenario: Assume three sports leagues. The government grants only one team in each sports league these special benefits. 1) They don’t have to follow the rules of the game that all other teams must follow. 2) The city and state laws that apply to all opponents in their respective arenas do not apply to them. 3) They are immune from liability for harming opponent players, coaches, and fans. 4) When they play against their opponents, they get to referee the game, and can change the rules of the game anytime they want, with no appeal by the other teams. Which team wins each league’s championship every single year? Sadly, that’s the unfair competition game with online platforms.
In 2018, at the University of Chicago Stigler antitrust conference on “Digital Platforms and Concentration,” Cleland presented a white paper that defended the Chicago consumer welfare standard and systematically rejected the corruption of the “Google School of no antitrust.”
In 2018, Cleland published a seminal white paper: “Internet Platform Corporate Welfare and Leechonomics: The Huge Hidden Public Costs (>$1.5T) of U.S. Internet Industrial Policy” that helped change how many in Congress view section 230’s civil liability immunity, not as just a “safe harbor,” but now also as an unnecessary enormous trillion dollar taxpayer “subsidy” to the wealthiest companies on earth.
In late 2018, Cleland spotlighted the source of the ethical problems of the main online platforms in a piece entitled “Google Facebook Amazon’s Civil Liability Immunity = A Culture of Un-Ethics?” Simply, one gets the behaviors that are incented and undeterred. This is one part of a 57-part series on Asymmetric Accountability Harms.
In 2018 Cleland submitted a seminal white paper for the FTC’s 2018 competition hearings and to the DOJ Cyber-Digital Task Force, “Evident Internet Market Failure to Protect Consumer Welfare,” which explained, documented, and proved how techtopian Internet policy of amoral authority, asymmetric accountability, and immunized irresponsibility inverts normal market and societal incentives to not protect consumer welfare, innovation, choice, quality, and public safety.
In 2019, Cleland pioneered new research perspectives that spotlight the change towards a more responsible Internet. First, a new Internet Reset Research™ perspective for investors to anticipate and navigate the competitive and investment effects of the Internet Reset, the geopolitical secular change from an ungoverned irresponsible Internet to a more governed and responsible Internet. Second, Macrointernetics™ the new perspective that aggregates Internet disruptions for the first time to understand the macro dysfunctions and systemic risks caused by irresponsible universal Internet disruptions.
In 2020, Cleland succinctly explained how America's only Internet law is anticompetitive. He spotlighted America's Internet Reset opportunity for a more responsible and prosperous Internet, because America can and must do much better than a Wild West, winner-take-all, Internet law. He also explained how the Internet has been a 25-year utopian policy experiment, and how many of the Internet's foundational utopian premises – i.e., a borderless, permissionless commons, open to everything and everyone, with no central or sovereign authority — have been unravelling or have largely collapsed. Importantly, he coined and defined a new term, "The Internet Imperative:" to "protect people by restoring a duty of care online." This responsible Internet call to action was the first succinct, holistic, and accurate, explanation of the what the core overall problem and solution is for the Section 230 public policy conundrum.
This is the other side of the Google story—the unauthorized book that Google does not want you to read. In Search & Destroy, Google expert Scott Cleland, shows that the world's most powerful company is not who it pretends to be.
Google pretends to be a harmless lamb, but chose a full-size model of a Tyrannosaurus Rex as its mascot. Beware the T-Rex in sheep's clothing.
Google has acquired far more information, both public and private, and has invented more ways to use it, than anyone in history. Information is power, and in Google's case, it's the power to influence and control virtually everything the Internet touches.