How to Curb Silicon Valley Power -- Even With Weak Antitrust Laws

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Technology companies with unprecedented power to sway consumers and move markets have done the unthinkable: They’ve made trust-busting sound like a good idea again. The concentration of wealth and influence among tech giants has been building for years—90 percent of new online-ad dollars went to either Google or Facebook in 2016; Amazon is by far the largest online retailer, the third-largest streaming media company, and largest cloud-computing provider. Silicon Valley titans coasted to the top of the economy with little government oversight on the backs of incredibly convenient products, a killer backstory, shrewd lobbying, and our personal data. They were allowed to grow unfettered in part because of a nearly-40-year-old interpretation of US antitrust law that views anticompetitive behavior primarily through the prism of the effect on consumers. In that light, the tech industry’s cheap products and free services fell somewhere between benign and benevolent. Advocates and students of antitrust point to several strategies that could curb tech company dominance. Here are some:

  • Sweat the Small Stuff: To revive competition, enforcers should get tougher on mergers, particularly when big companies buy small ones. 
  • Check Up on Past Promises: monitoring is particularly vital considering that consumer rights can be eroded in stages. 
  • Corporation, Split Thyself: Companies could be spin off divisions with user bases and infrastructure to stand alone before regulators come knocking.
  • Change the Law, or the Interpretation of the Law.

 


How to Curb Silicon Valley Power -- Even With Weak Antitrust Laws