Europe Leads the Way and U.S. Justice About to Arrive
It is safe to say that Google is a hegemonic force in the digital world. The site practically has a monopoly on internet searches and it holds nearly a third of the money tied up in online advertising. Because of the United States’ lax laws regarding cyber security, Google’s dominance has largely gone unchecked over the years. That is, until now.
According to the New York Times, the U.S. Justice Department is currently planning to hit Google with a long overdue antitrust suit. The Department hopes to get the charges out by the beginning of the summer, and although details are still under wraps, it’s likely that they will aim to hold Google and parent company Alphabet Inc. accountable for its monopolistic control of the internet.
Of course, Google does not actually “own” the internet—nobody does. Nevertheless, Google has sliced itself a disproportionately large piece of the pie. In its nebulous origins, the worldwide web was hardly created with intentions, but it started out as a place of anonymity and level playing-fields for all users. Unfortunately, in the age of ubiquitous social media, online anonymity is a thing of the past, and technological juggernauts like Google have severely skewed that long lost level playing-field ideal.
Now, more than ever, big tech must be held to account
Not only does Google’s tyranny stray from the internet’s egalitarian genesis, but it also strays from the rule of law. 1890’s Sherman Antitrust Act banned monopolies in the United States as well as trusts that hurt trade. The federal government enforced the act in 1948 to break up Hollywood’s overbearing studio system in U.S. v Paramount. It recently made an appearance in the 1990s, when the Justice Department sued Microsoft, leading to a 2001 settlement with the company.
Government entities have tried to get Google on antitrust operations before. In 2013, the Federal Trade Commission investigated the website for antitrust violations, but dropped the case after nineteen months. Quite frankly, Google possesses near-untouchable power, and as aforementioned, our federal laws regarding the internet are quite loose. Thus, even though Google clearly holds too much influence for any one company, it remains a difficult beast to pin down.
If the Justice Department does manage to win against Google this time around, it could be the start of a much needed crackdown on algorithmic dictatorship. Not just Google, but Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, and Apple have all faced criticism for their exploitation of user data and capitalism. Many believe that it is time for these companies’ unregulated dogmas to end.
Accountability is key, even for seemingly nonthreatening businesses that exist in the digital ether. The Justice Department expects that attorney generals from many states will join the them in this crackdown on Google, paving the way for a more technologically equitable future.
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