New Reports call for laws to rein in giant monopolies
Amid a zany week of political theater and election drama, the federal government has actually managed to make quiet, nonpartisan progress on an important issue. On Tuesday, October 7th, Democratic members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust finally released a long-awaited report concerning the dominant technological companies in America and their legally dubious corporate power.
The report comes at the end of a sixteen-month investigation into the tech giants, arriving to the conclusion that America’s four biggest tech companies—Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple— all partake in anti-competitive practices that could be reprehensible by law.
Essentially, with the exception of Apple, these four conglomerates have created near-monopolies in their respective fields. Amazon controls 40% of e-commerce in America, and endorses business models that squander the competition and abuse third-party sellers through data mining. Apple has argued that they do not have a monopoly stake in phones, Android (google) and Samsung, have a larger worldwide base, and in other areas Apple has an even less dominant position. Only in dollar denominated success do they hold the absolute top spot.
Google has an even larger monopoly on Internet searches, also utilizing data to bind users to their content and prioritize their services over all other websites.
Facebook, meanwhile, is a hegemonic vacuum for social media outlets, endorsing a “copy, acquire, and then kill” technique according to the report. Essentially, rather than compete with other platforms, Facebook sucks them into inescapable, self-serving positions.
Apple is not in quite as much hot water as the other three companies. The report mainly accuses Apple of binding its users to the Apple Store, which creates an extra, sometimes expensive, hurdle for App developers to get over if they want their product widely available. The report accuses Google of doing something similar with Android, saying that the software forces people to use Google on their devices.
Of course, all of these companies have denied any illegality in their actions— each citing the free market and defending their business practices as entirely fair when responding to the report.
Generally in gridlock and inept, this is one area where Government must act decisively
However, Congress does not seem to agree. In light of the recent report, many Democrats are in favor of rewriting the U.S. Antitrust Laws to better protect a fair, competitive economy. Traditionally, the Antitrust Laws keep businesses in check on behalf of consumers, but they have not been touched in decades, and capitalism has developed immensely since then.
The amount of power that these three companies have garnered demonstrates that the laws now need to consider affairs between businesses as well, lest a handful of power-hungry entities override the market.
Some Republicans, however, have pushed back against the idea of rewriting the Antitrust Laws. Notably, Representative Kelly Armstrong from North Dakota did not sign the committee’s report on Tuesday. While he agrees that something nefarious is at hand with these tech companies, his remedy focuses on greater oversight from the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, upping the enforcement rather than adjusting the laws itself.
Even if certain politicians disagree on how to address the issue, the nonpartisan support for cracking down on big-tech in America is nevertheless a milestone, and it comes at a crucial time. While thousands of Americans are facing economic strife due to the COVID-19 pandemic, billionaires (especially tech moguls) are seeing their stocks skyrocket.
According to a financial study covered in USA Today, billionaires now hold more of the world’s wealth than ever before— $10.8 trillion. Tech billionaires in particular hold $1.8 trillion of that, a whopping 42.5% increase from just a year and a half ago.
The bulk of American Antitrust Laws were written at the turn of the twentieth century. Since then, the state of the world has changed. The state of the economy has changed. And perhaps most immensely, the state of technology has changed. Algorithmic dictatorships are growing almost as quickly as class divides in America. So perhaps it is time for the law to change as well.
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