Regulating or breaking up Big Tech: an antitrust explainer

US regulators will investigate whether companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google have too much power. Here’s an introduction to the issues.


by Angela Chen, MIT Technology Review 

Jun 5, 2019


Four tech juggernauts—Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook—are suddenly the target of new scrutiny by the US government. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC),  Department of Justice (DOJ), and Congress have all begun to investigate whether these companies have too much power.


Breaking up will be hard to do. It’s going to be a long process and the outcome is far from certain.


Why are Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google accused of being monopolies?


·         Amazon is the world’s largest online store. It also sells hardware like the Echo, runs a computing platform, makes television and movies with Amazon Studios, and owns Whole Foods and Zappos.

·         Why it’s a problem: Amazon kills companies by copying their ideas.

·         Apple hovers around a $1 trillion market value.

·         Why it’s a problem: It is currently the defendant in a class-action lawsuit alleging that it drives up prices in its Apple Store.

·         As the most popular search engine by far, Google controls the flow of information. It also owns businesses in navigation (Maps, Waze), video (YouTube), mobile operating systems (Android), and more.

·         Why it’s a problem: Google gives its own businesses special treatment.

·         Facebook has over 2 billion users and owns Instagram and WhatsApp.
Why it’s a problem: It has been blamed for violating user privacy, spreading disinformation, and helping incite genocide.


All this leads to massive conflicts of interest, says Sally Hubbard, director of enforcement strategy at the Open Markets Institute. Google can promote its own products in search results and Amazon can do the same thing in the marketplace. Apple takes a 30% commission from app developers and can prevent them from selling in other places.


Lawyers and activists have been saying for years that the tech companies have too much power. Now politicians like Democratic presidential candidate and Senator Elizabeth Warren and Republican Senator Josh Hawley are leading the call for change. This new interest is likely pushing regulators to take a closer look.


How did Big Tech companies get so powerful? ...


Haven’t regulators been trying to address this? ...


What would breaking up Big Tech actually look like? ...


Is breaking up Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook the only way to go? ...


more, including links