from The Guardian
After years of praising their virtues, governments across the world are belatedly waking up to the problems posed by big tech. From India and Australia to France and America – and now the UK, with its report from the Digital Competition Expert Panel – politicians have been reckoning with how to mitigate the harms of the world’s largest technology platforms. And they all seem to arrive at the same answer: competition is the magic mechanism that will somehow tame the giants, unleash innovation and fix our digital world.
But what if competition is the problem rather than the solution? After all, it’s competition – not size – that demands more data, more attention, more engagement and more profits at all costs. It’s competition that demands the tech giants expand. It’s competition for ad dollars that drives Google, Facebook and Amazon to ignore privacy concerns and expand data collection. It’s the struggle to dominate voice interfaces and smart-home data that leads Amazon and Google to aggressively push their surveillance machines into our homes. It’s competition for attention that leads apps and platforms to make their products as addictive as possible. It’s competition for users and engagement that makes Twitter, Facebook and others turn a blind eye to abuse, fake news and far-right radicalisation. And it’s competition over who will be the dominant AI provider that leads the tech giants to constantly colonise new sources of data. The government’s efforts to increase competition risk simply aggravating these problems.
So if increasing competition won’t hold big tech in check, what will? Too often, discussions about this start and end with government and consumers, and pay little heed to workers. That’s a mistake: larger and stronger tech unions can be an important counterbalance to the power of big tech. One area where the lack of competition really matters is in terms of wages: new research suggests that the bigger and more concentrated companies are in a particular industry, the more wages are suppressed.