Checking The Power of Big Tech

Daniel Longenecker, Staff Writer

In recent years, the debate surrounding antitrust laws has been ignited by the rapid growth of the tech industry. Resembling the monopolies of the Gilded Age, this small set of companies carry disproportionate powers over the economy. Many fear the potential consequences this digital age could bring over society as a whole. 

Amazon, for example, is one company that has managed to amass that kind of economic power. Beginning as a small online book store, the company was able to grow its share of the US ecommerce market to a whopping 49 percent in 2018. To some, this growth is seen as a reflection of consumer choice.

However, Amazon has faced some pushback regarding its role as a retailer and a platform. Because of the company’s position at the forefront of ecommerce, smaller businesses feel required to use the website’s marketplace in order to reach customers. Consequently, Amazon has been accused of abusing this position by strategically favoring its own products to outsell third-party retailers on its own marketplace.

In other news, Google’s dominance over web searches has faced heavy criticism. Despite facilitating around 90 percent of all web searches in the world, very little has been done to check the company’s power. On the other hand, they argue that their search engine is free and that nobody is forced to use them, or as Google’s CEO puts it, “competition is only one click away.”

In contrast, many believe Google’s influence can be damaging to innovation. iPhones, for instance, have become a new facet of the tech giant’s growing power. By paying Apple to secure its spot as a default search engine, Google has gained an unfair advantage over the Apple Store. Ultimately, deals like this demonstrate a clear goal to suppress rivals and maintain a monopolistic power.

These examples only scrape the surface of the bad behavior seen in the tech industry. Ultimately, anti-competitiveness will continue to elevate the unelected power companies like Google until something is done.

Luckily, progress is being made in the effort to curb the power of these tech giants. In 2020, lawmakers leading a 16-month investigation into this issue claimed that Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google were abusing their monopoly power. Additionally, it called for sweeping changes to outdated antitrust laws. This House report was the most significant government project to check tech companies since the 1990s. Hopefully it will serve as a roadmap for other lawmakers to pursue legal action in the future.