It’s said that Google and Facebook already control 70% of web traffic, thanks to our ever-increasing dependence on their services. But how far can we rely on big tech to handle our business? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that any kind of monopoly is a bad thing. Not only are the advantages of big tech companies over their competitors opening doors for unfair business practices, but it should also make us wonder if we are getting too dependent on the same few tech companies for everything tech-related.
But the question remains: is regulating big tech the answer to put a stop to their unfair business practices, influence in politics, and censorship? After all, imposing regulations and restrictions on the free-market go against the beliefs of many libertarians.
But on the other hand, when a corporation gets big enough to dictate who can profit and who can’t in a certain market, isn’t it time to start regulating that market to prevent new corners from getting crushed by the big sharks?
The Sherman Anti-Trust Act
Enacted by the 51st US Congress in 1890. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act was meant to shield consumers and the market from questionable practices of the big monopolies and corporations of the era, whose designs to increase profits would have eliminated competition. Back then, many captains of industry tried, and many to this day still try, to drive off competition and control a certain niche through monopolistic strategies.
The Sherman Ant-Trust Act was an attempt to put an end. once and for all, to these anti-competitive practices. However, monopolistic practices are still around and will probably always be since a private business will always have the main priority of increasing profits by milking as much money from consumers as they can.
While this may not sound like a bad thing at first glance, it does become a problem when businessmen take advantage of their acquired freedom in a free market. The government is not the only threat to free-market ideas if such businessmen accumulate riches through unethical practices, such as buying out all competitors and making their business the sole provider in a specific niche or of a certain service or product.
These are some of the main reasons why consumers need to have legal ways to fight against unethical business practices. The government should still keep an eye on businesses even in a laissez-fare economy. After all, free markets and capitalism shouldn’t translate into the wild west, where captains of industry are enabled to take advantage of consumers as they please, without any consequences at all.
As you can see, there are legitimate reasons for supporting some government intervention into the free market.
United States v. Microsoft Corp. (1998)
One of the first and foremost anti-trust cases in the tech market was when Microsoft was accused by the government of maintaining its position as the prime software provider through a conjunction of legal loopholes and the technical limitations of Windows. At that time, in the late 1990s, Microsoft Windows was used as the factory default operating system on more than 98 percent of computers on the market.
In those days, many consumers and networks relied solely on Microsoft to access basic features such as surfing on the web. The case alleged that Microsoft used its upper hand in the market to prevent competitors from thriving in the tech world by bundling additional free-to-use software inside its operating system.
This, in turn, prevented competitors, such as the once widely used Netscape browser, from being used by consumers. Many Windows users were content with Window’s default internet browser, for the sake of practicality. Since this default internet browser came preinstalled with Windows, consumers had no reason to purchase or try competitor’s alternatives.
Facebook and Google’s Possible Anti-Trust Law Violations
Fast-forwarding to the present, even with all the legal mechanisms discouraging businesses from anti-competitive behavior, big tech corporations are far from learning their lesson. Men’s greed for profit will always cloud their judgment. It’s no secret that, to this day, many companies still try to get away with conquering a market by playing dirty.
Quite recently, some big tech monopolies such as Google and Facebook have been investigated for violating anti-trust laws. Facebook is being accused by lawmakers of unethically maintaining their position in the market by buying out the competition and blatantly copying features from other social media apps. Google has been accused of maintaining its position as one of the few digital advertising companies in the world with its widely used Google Search engine and Adsense.
What Are Politicians Proposing to Do About All This?
“There’s a reason no one is using Bing today.”
In an answer to the ever-increasing concerns and outcry of the public, a few presidential candidates, such as Elizabeth Warren, are trying to jump on the “let’s regulate big tech” bandwagon, hoping to boost their influence and chances of winning in 2020.
Some of Warren’s specific proposals include dismantling big tech companies into several small companies and reverting old acquisitions made by big tech companies, such as Facebook’s purchase of Instagram in 2012. She would also forbid tech companies that have more than $25 billion in revenue from offering services that compete with participants on their online marketplace.
In the last few months, Elizabeth Warren has been a rising star among the ranks of potential democrats for the 2020 presidential race elections. Her remarks about putting more restrictions on Big tech monopolies have paid off. Nevertheless, she still faces a lot of challenges to win, as no other democrat candidate is backing Warren’s plan.
Originally published on The Liberty Hawk