Just the Facts
Five Facts on Big Tech
By Emma Petasis
May 14, 2019 | Blog
The call to hold big tech accountable came shortly after Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes urged breaking up the social network. Since then, candidates for president, political officeholders and others have debated the complicated, controversial issue of government involvement in big tech.
1. Big tech holds a monopoly of power.
“Big tech” like Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple were named the five companies that hold a significant monopoly of power across the economy. These tech giants dominate other companies and leave little opportunity for competition and consumer choice. Consumers are provided limited options and are therefore going to use the services of big tech rather than their smaller competitors.
2. Antitrust laws and policy in the U.S. are outdated.
The Clayton Antitrust Act, the current policy, is more than 100 years old. Created to address monopolization in the industrial era of U.S. Steel, Standard Oil, and the American Sugar Refining Company, the policy bars companies from acquiring one another to create monopolies and lesson competition. Because the act was not directed toward social technology, it is tough to apply to current social media. An article by Vox analyzed the acquisition of Instagram by Facebook, whether it breached the antitrust act, since Instagram had fewer than a dozen employees and 30 million users at the time.
3. Big tech can influence politics.
In 2018, the political data firm Cambridge Analytica was hired to gain access to 50 million Facebook users and their information ranging from their likes todetails about their identities. This information was used to target certain people and audiences through ads. Facebook claimed that no sensitive information or passwords were retrieved by the firm, and all data has since been deleted.
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4. There is some skepticism that big tech firms can police themselves.
Since the breach by Cambridge Analytica, Facebook has faced questioning by Congress about whether people can use the platform to spread fake news and propaganda. Facebook was part of a consent agreement in 2011 with the Federal Trade Commission to keep the data of users private; whether the agreement was violated is currently under investigation. Privacy laws come into question, and this breach opened the possibility that data may be protected better if the government were involved.
5. Democrats and Republicans both agree that the tech giants need to be better policed.
Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) suggests breaking up these big tech companies along with their mergers (like Facebook’s purchase of Instagram) because they “have too much power over our economy, our society and our democracy.” An unlikely ally, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) shared her opinion, saying Warren was right, and big tech has too much power to silence our free speech and threaten our democracy.