Regulation: Tech giants find enemies all around
The coalition of foes angry with Big Tech has gotten too loud to ignore, said Alexis Madrigal in The Atlantic, and now “government agencies are moving in.” Google and Apple are facing investigations by the Justice Department; Amazon and Facebook are set to be scrutinized by the Federal Trade Commission. And the industry this week faces a House hearing exploring anti-competitive behavior. How did we get here? The siege of Silicon Valley began with angry conservatives blasting the social media platforms through Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. It has since been fueled by disillusioned and outspoken tech workers; pushback from the traditional media industry that has “had its lunch eaten, its lunch money taken, and its person shoved into a toilet and locker by Big Tech”; and even competition from China’s “alternative ecosystem for messaging, social media, and other apps.”
The tech giants aren’t going down without a massive fight, said Gerrit De Vynck and David McLaughlin in Bloomberg.com. Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple “all have been working publicly and behind the scenes for months to make their cases for why they help competition, rather than harm it.” They have amassed armies of lobbyists in recent years and begun “staffing their in-house legal teams with numerous antitrust lawyers who served in government.” They’re right to be worried, said Ron Knox in The Washington Post. It’s not clear what form regulations will take. Some experts propose Facebook and Amazon should be subject to the same rules as cable companies like Comcast, which are prohibited from “using their dominant platforms to promote their adjacent products and services.” Others expect regulatory agencies to force Facebook to sell Instagram and WhatsApp and Amazon to spin off Amazon Web Services. “Whatever the fix might be, a fix is coming.” It might not be for years, but “there’s little to no chance” Big Tech will escape unscathed.
Look, I’m in favor of regulating tech, said Kara Swisher in The New York Times, but the “people screaming for blood have no idea how tech actually works.” After turning a blind eye to the ballooning power of the tech giants for years, regulators are coming “with guns blazing.” If a decade ago some of the same agencies had “applied some pointed pressure,” we wouldn’t be in this mess of “rampant disinformation, egregious privacy breaches, and in-plain-sight addictive elements.” Now the government wants to break up the tech companies before even trying to pass a national privacy bill to protect users. Regulators are coming in too late and going too far, and the draconian crusade could “take a lot of what’s good about tech down with what’s bad.”
Reuters, Edwin Wallet/OSO Studio ■