Big tech has been the topic of a large debate for some time now, especially relating to whether it needs to be broken up into smaller companies or not. Let’s clarify some things first. “Big Tech” is the term used to refer to Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, with Microsoft occasionally being mentioned as well. These firms are lumped together so often that they have become known as Big Tech. They are the top dogs of the technology industry and they control a majority of the sector.
The idea of breaking up Big Tech is reminiscent of the antitrust crusade that started in the late 1800’s and continued into the early 1900’s. Back then, the government was focused on dismantling large monopolies such as steel, oil, railroads and sugar. It also evokes the spirit of the recent media regulation, or more so deregulation. In all of these situations, an industry was controlled by a handful of companies, which the government and public don’t want for a number of reasons. Maybe it’s because these monopolies could control the prices and inflate the market far beyond what it’s actually worth, or maybe it’s because they’re virtually eliminating competition within the industry. With technology’s case, the situation is a bit different. Of course, Big Tech companies have monopolistic qualities. They dominate their sectors and absorb some of their competition or control every aspect of their production process, or both. They also have access to millions of internet users’ data, which is as valuable as gold nowadays.
Whether it is a wise decision to break up Big Tech is a tough question to answer. Politicians on both sides of the aisle support the idea of breaking up Big Tech, saying they are hurting small businesses and destroying innovation. On the other hand, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at a Facebook board meeting, “breaking up these companies, whether it’s Facebook or Google or Amazon, is not actually going to solve the issues,” in reference to election interference and hate speech, among other things. The most important issue seems to be the use of user’s data. It can help companies figure out how to market toward the demographic and collectively, it provides insight into the lives of users. Keeping that information private should be held in highest regard by the Big Tech companies.
Moreover, if we break down large companies, how would it affect the subsidiary companies? Google for example is a subsidiary of Alphabet, which owns multiple companies dedicated to research and innovation regarding a wide variety of topics. The companies Calico and Verily are focused on healthcare and disease research, while Sidewalk Labs is looking for ways to improve cities. The company DeepMind Technologies is making headway in artificial intelligence and Jigsaw searches for solutions to geopolitical problems.
One also has to think about the ample amount of benefits these companies provide to society. Millions of people use Google every day and many of its other applications like Gmail, Google Drive and YouTube, improving work and social life substantially. Amazon is used to purchase products that might not be readily available in stores around us, while Facebook is quite similar in the sense that it brings people closer together, regardless the geographical distance. If these companies were to be broken up, how would it affect all of their resources? Would they still be able to provide their services, or would it limit their reach, thus making our world a little bit smaller and more dull.
People’s anxiety towards Big Tech is quite understandable, but breaking up the companies doesn’t necessarily seem like the best solution. It all depends on what the government and legislation would define as dismantling these companies and how it would affect the general population. Regulation could be another solution. We could keep the companies in check by enforcing strict rules that prevent them from sharing any of their gathered data without explicit permission of the users. Whatever the decision, something must be done about Big Tech’s dominance.