Does Big Tech Have Too Much Power? [Infographic]

Has Big Tech become too big to fail? FAAMG, an acronym for Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Google, was responsible last year for 68% of the U.S. GDP growth. If one of these companies were to fail or find itself in dire straits, it could collapse the entire economy. But what’s more, these companies are using their power to limit competition and free speech, which has brought bipartisan attention. When tech companies work together to create an environment in which your legal rights are obsolete, is it time for lawmakers to act?

A natural progression of concentration of power is an abuse of that power. In the United States toward the end of the 1800s, companies like Standard Oil and U.S. Steel held monopolies over those two sectors of the economy. What ended up happening was that prices grew out of control and no other companies were able to exist, and small businesses that had to buy from them found themselves with no bargaining power. The free market was no longer free but rather there was a chokehold on certain industries. The Sherman Act came along and outlawed things like price fixing and monopolies that weren’t operated fairly, effectively breaking up large companies into smaller ones. Later came the Clayton Act, which prevents companies from forming partnerships in order to stifle competition. In 1914 the Federal Trade Commission was created to enforce these laws.

Facebook controls a significant portion of internet traffic. Facebook alone is responsible for 61% of upstream and 8% of downstream social media traffic, while its subsidiaries are also responsible for large portions. Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger are responsible for a combined total of 45% of upstream and 42% of downstream traffic.

Meanwhile, Google’s percentage of search traffic is equally staggering. Nearly 90% of Americans conduct searches on Google, while 73% conduct searches on Google-owned YouTube.

Why is this a problem? If these things are free to use, how can they be harming anyone?

The volume of human interaction and information flow being handled by these platforms poses a serious risk. Because these platforms own the means of communication, they can control what you see based on who pays them the most money for advertising. They can also block things deemed unacceptable without timely resolution if mistakes are made.

In 1998, Microsoft started to offer a free web browser with its other software, which effectively caused Netscape to collapse. For a long time that browser was the 800-pound gorilla. By 2000 the DOJ forced Microsoft to split up into two companies. The ruling was eventually overturned, but it paved the way for greater competition in the web browser space.

As large tech companies acquire new tech companies and grow, they often don’t face the regulation that is required by law. It’s illegal for companies to buy up competitors, yet Amazon was able to purchase both Whole Foods and Zappos without interference.

According to the DOJ, a market share of 50% is needed before a company can be declared a monopoly. Many big tech companies fall just short of the benchmark, but perhaps that just depends on how you calculate the market share. Seven in ten Americans have a Facebook account and two in three have purchased from Amazon. An astounding nine in ten search on Google. Could creating a new category of utility, ‘Platform Utilities’, begin to correct the unfettered power these companies have?

Learn more about the history of antitrust laws and how they might affect the future of big tech companies below. Is it time to break up big tech once and for all?

Breaking Up Big Tech - infographic

Read next: Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft: How Big Tech Companies Earn Revenue
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