It is too early to say whether this activity will lead to significant regulation or what it might look like. But for some politicians and activists, the solution to master Big Tech is already clear: Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple must be divided into several parts. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate, Elizabeth Warren, used this week's news to revive one of her major campaign proposals. "Google has too much power and uses it to hurt small businesses, curb innovation and tilt the balance of the game against everyone," she said. tweeted. "It's time to fight, which is why I have a plan to break Google and other big tech companies." Among other things, this plan comprises the unwinding of previous mergers, such as the acquisition of Whole Foods by Amazon, the purchase of Instagram by Facebook and the acquisition of YouTube by Google.
But some experts are skeptical that the use of antitrust laws to dismantle Big Tech – at least in the manner proposed – would solve the most troubling issues for lawmakers and citizens, such as the protection of privacy. . The strategy might also not be terribly feasible. "Putting forward this solution by proposing dissolution, in a way avoids many really vital issues," said Diana Moss, economist and president of the American Antitrust Institute, a non-profit organization that encourages the enforcement of antitrust laws. "This may not be the best remedy for restoring market competition and protecting innovators, consumers and workers."
The dissolution of large corporations and the end of mergers are rare events that are difficult for regulators to achieve. "I attended these meetings and it's hard to know which parts of the business need to partner with the divested business to succeed," says Charlotte Slaiman, a former FTC antitrust lawyer who is now working to the non-profit organization Public Knowledge. "Much more corrective action has been taken in antitrust cases that do not deal with large-scale breaches," said Moss. "These are very heavy lifts for antitrust." The stakes are also high.If the government loses a lawsuit against one of the big tech companies, it could set a lower precedent for antitrust enforcement in the future.
Proposals that may seem simple, such as to break up Whole Foods of Amazon, would be hard to argue under antitrust law in force, which evaluates mergers based on how they affect prices for consumers. Since Amazon bought Whole Foods, it actually lowered the cost of certain items. Amazon also controls only a small percentage of the global grocery market in the United States. This does not mean that the acquisition has not had a negative impact on innovation in the food sales sector, but it's a difficult factor to measure. It would be tedious to prove that Amazon has prevented, for example, the startup of another grocery store. "It's a potential "Competition argument," says Slaiman. "It's a very difficult case to bring under current law, it's probably one of the most difficult to achieve."
Google and Facebook declined to comment on the registration. Amazon has not responded to a request for comment.
Supposedly network effects The partial split of Facebook could be an ineffective way to boost innovation. One of the reasons Facebook is so powerful is that everyone is already using it, which makes it difficult for small incumbents to compete. Even if Instagram were to be split, it could simply become the new dominant network, barely changing the status quo. "Breaking Facebook with nothing else is not likely to solve this problem," says Slaiman. "Because you could have a monopoly, re-enter through this network effect."
"We can not really charge antitrust with things for which it was not designed."
Diana Moss, American Antitrust Institute
This is not to say that regulators should not look closely at the mergers they have allowed in the past, says Maurice Stucke, a professor at the University of Tennessee Law School and a former lawyer at the University of Tennessee. Department of Justice antitrust department. He believes that the government has not done enough to evaluate the effectiveness of its decisions after the fact. "You basically have a person who never goes outside to see if his prediction is correct," Stucke said. "Agencies should be much more rigorous in considering the competitive risks of mergers that they have allowed."
Another problem is that antitrust laws are meant to solve competition problems, not some of the others concerning practices big tech companies, like how they manage consumption data. "We can not really charge antitrust with things for which it was not designed," says Moss. To deal with issues such as privacy protection, the government will have to use other tools than the antitrust. "There is no quick fix," Stucke says. "You really need a coordination between privacy protection, consumer protection and antitrust rules."
The problem is that Congress lets technology companies self-regulate for years. There is currently no federal law on the protection of personal information, and even l & # 39; state laws are just starting now. To fully regulate companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon, the government must adopt new laws. The call to split Big Tech is really "a proxy for scission and regulation," said Matt Stoller, a member of the Open Markets Institute. Congress could consider, for example, creating a new agency similar to the Federal Communications Commission, specifically to deal with the practices of digital platforms.
The adoption of laws will require overcoming the political challenges, as well as intense lobbying of the industry-But both sides of the aisle are becoming more supportive of regulating the most dominant technology platforms in the world. Politicians who tend to disagree on almost everything else, like Nancy Pelosi and Ted Cruz, both have recently agreed that the tech giants have amassed too much power (though they do not agree on the drawbacks of this power). Companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon now have a huge influence on what we buy, what information we see and how we communicate. But simply dividing them into simple parts will not solve these problems.
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