What to Do about the Powerful Tech Monopolies

June 14, 2017

Traditionally, we as a country have a thing against monopolies—fair competition for the little guy and all that. Have we allowed today’s tech companies amass too much power? That seems to be the conclusion of SiliconBeat’s article, “Google, Facebook, and Amazon: Monopolies that Should be Broken Up or Regulated?” Writer Ethan Baron summarizes these companies massive advantages, and the efforts of regulatory agencies to check them. He cites a New York Times article by Jonathan Taplin:

Taplin, in his op-ed, argued that Google, Facebook and Amazon ‘have stymied innovation on a broad scale.’ With industry giants facing limited competition, incumbent companies have a profound advantage over new entrants, Taplin said. And the tech firms’ explosive growth has caused massive damage to companies already operating, he said. ‘The platforms of Google and Facebook are the point of access to all media for the majority of Americans. While profits at Google, Facebook and Amazon have soared, revenues in media businesses like newspaper publishing or the music business have, since 2001, fallen by 70 percent,’ Taplin said. The rise of Google and Facebook have diverted billions of dollars from content creators to ‘owners of monopoly platforms,’ he said. All content creators dependent on advertising must negotiate with Google or Facebook as aggregator. Taplin proposed that for the three tech behemoths, there are ‘a few obvious regulations to start with.’

Taplin suggests limiting acquisitions as the first step since that is how these companies grow into such behemoths. For Google specifically, he suggests regulating it as a public utility. He also takes aim at the “safe harbor” provision of the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which shields Internet companies from damages associated with intellectual property violations found on their platforms. Since the current political climate is not exactly ripe for regulation, Taplin laments that such efforts will have to wait a few years, by which time these companies will be so large that breaking them up will be the only remedy. We’ll see.

Cynthia Murrell, June 14, 2017

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