There is a lot of disgust aimed towards tech giants such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter. And why not? These companies are large, incredibly biased, and quite powerful. Their reach is everywhere, striving towards omnipresence. Their influence can sway public opinion, as evident on issues such as Net Neutrality and to reach back for a more benign issue, SOPA 2014. Another concern is the pubic safety of personal information. Data breaches, hacks, and leaks are all significant risks. In China, Google has assisted the government with the surveillance of their people. And while public safety is an issue, the solution of regulating these large companies as monopolies is fraudulent in its premise. The enact anti-trust laws would ignore the simple fact: neither Google, Facebook, or Twitter are monopolies.
But denotation doesn’t stop individuals from advocating action. Kurt Schlicter of Townhall wrote a fiery piece advocating for serious regulation.
And what’s also scary is their willful manipulation of the algorithms that determine what can and cannot be said and read. If you don’t exist on Google, in many ways, you really don’t exist at all. Well, that’s intolerable. Our free society conducts its business on the Internet, and if one unaccountable, partisan group can decide what topics can and cannot be discussed, we no longer have a free society. We’d have a fascist one, and fascists are bad even if those fascists swill kombucha tea, bike to work at a Mountain View campus, and spew ridiculous mottos like “Don’t be evil.”
By definition, a monopoly is when a single firm has absolute market share. Yet the federal government has its own definition. And that definition is comprised in the form of antitrust laws. Ryan Cooper of The Week proposed:
It could be that careful anti-trust action could build a market with several search competitors, and thereby create some competition. But certainly all search platforms should be forced to follow something like a railroad’s common carriage rules, where websites are not allowed to be ranked according to how much they might profit the platform itself, and get fair access to search traffic.
This action would break Google apart into several companies and only enrich Google shareholders. The Google splinters would crush the actual competitors of Google rendering making this polygopoly a more clear monopoly for the shareholders than it was already before. Historically speaking, the Rockefellers gained an immense amount of wealth after Standard Oil broke apart. Again it must be said about how Coopers supposition is a flagrant misuse of antitrust law.
Microsoft’s battle in the 1990s is a crowning misuse of antitrust law. Microsoft was found to be a monopoly because they put their own software, internet explorer, on their own operating system, Windows. What Microsoft did was clear business instinct. Yet the feds and several states wanted to split them up. Their plan ultimately failed but the precedent remains. In 1999, Milton Friedman referred to companies seeking to break up Microsoft as suicidal, seeking action that would one day be used against them.
“Under the circumstances, given that we do have antitrust laws, is it really in the self-interest of Silicon Valley to set the government on Microsoft? Your industry, the computer industry, moves so much more rapidly than the legal process, that by the time this suit is over, who knows what the shape of the industry will be. Never mind the fact that the human energy and the money that will be spent in hiring my fellow economists, as well as in other ways, would be much more productively employed in improving your products. It’s a waste! But beyond that, you will rue the day when you called in the government. From now on the computer industry, which has been very fortunate in that it has been relatively free of government intrusion, will experience a continuous increase in government regulation. Antitrust very quickly becomes regulation. Here again is a case that seems to me to illustrate the suicidal impulse of the business community.”
The USFL is another clear example where using antitrust was literally business suicide. The United States Football League launched in 1983 as a spring alternative to the NFL. Yet in their poor management, they moved to fall where the NFL had all of the TV contracts and sued the NFL for antitrust. In truth, their very existence disproved the notion that the NFL was a monopoly, also the existence of college football. The USFL invested everything into the antitrust suit and won $3 dollars($1 tripled).
Google/ Alphabet –
Search Engine, adsales, appstore, Youtube, email, consumer electronics, operating systems, big data, web browser, programs, social network etc.
- Verizon (Yahoo, AOL) – failed internet giant, search engine, adsales, email
- Apple – fellow tech giant, consumer electronics, app store, operating system
- Microsoft – operating systems, direct competitor to Google’s word processing platform, web browser(sort of), app store, search engine
- DuckDuckGo – private search engine
- Opera – web browser, free VPN/ adblock
- Brave – web browser with adblock
- Netflix – content streaming platform
- Hulu – Content streaming platform
- TV – not a company but a replacement for Youtube
- Yelp – review website
Social networks, text app for europeans,
- Twitter – microblogging platform
- Minds – social network
- Snapchat – picture messaging, social network
- Craigslist – localized ad sales
- Reddit – online community based on interest
- Myspace – Technically still a thing, rebranded as a music page
- Codias – political social network
- WordPress – webhosting, blogging platform
- Gab – Turkish microblogging platform
- Steemit – cryptocurrency social network for original content creators
- Kialo – social media platform for civil debate
- Micgoat – video/blogging platform for debate
As you can see, Google is so large and expansive, they cannot be considered a monopoly, for their is competition every industry they are in. Their most serious competitors are other tech giants, like Microsoft and Apple. Facebook has numerous competitors as does Twitter. Just because their competition lacks prominence, doesn’t mean there is a monopoly.
The titans of tech are not monopolies, nor should we want them treated as such. Treating Facebook as a monopoly would create at least three large companies. And these newly divided large companies would eventually merge together and crush the alternative social platforms that currently exist. Rather these platforms would benefit from these companies remaining large and having bad PR. These companies will create innovations and capitalize on their fall should they end up like Yahoo or Kodak.