The Plain View

from Plaintext

Like any good nonfiction writer, the Majority Staff (i.e., Democrats) of the House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law has produced a long-read document distinguished by deep research and an unyielding thesis: Big Tech is too big, too bad, and fights dirty.

Sixteen months ago, the subcommittee set out to expose bad behavior in Silicon Valley’s top companies. Empowered with subpoenas, it had little trouble finding it. The docket of whistle-blowing witnesses and damning exhibits uncovered a litany of bullying, self-interested, anti-competitive behavior that justified the exercise, which some thought redundant because of ongoing investigations by the FTC, the DOJ, and state attorneys general. The tech overlords have built monopolies and weaponized them. They run platforms that favor their own products, and they use the data they gather to gain advantage over marketplace competitors or target them for buyout. They have the power to set prices, and they do so without sanction.

But if you pull back for a larger view, the report reveals something else—a sense that the committee has selectively invoked a lot of the ills of our economic and political system to make tech itself a villain. Let’s examine the attack vector of this report. The targets are Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. (What, no Microsoft? Did they fail to note its trillion-dollar valuation, its glaring rapsheet, and its string of pricey acquisitions?) Every member of this fearsome quartet was deemed not only a monopoly but a corrupt one. But each dominates in a different arena, and each one’s abuses are different, with a few overlaps, like using their platform to favor their own products. What they have in common is that they are tech companies.

The obvious question—one that the report doesn’t really grapple with—is whether the technological advances themselves made the arc of these companies from idealistic startups to trillion-dollar predators inevitable. Each one of those companies has embraced digital progress to deliver real value to billions of people, creating products that we consume enthusiastically. The report concedes that, but goes on to say, “To put it simply, companies that once were scrappy, underdog startups that challenged the status quo have become the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons.”

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4 Comments

  1. Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Google are creating many values to their customers from the beginning of their services. They make everybody’s life easier, and they have influenced the whole world in the past 15 years. However, are those companies trying to create values or are they trying to create more profits as possible?
    Firstly, we should talk about their monopoly, since each of them targets a market and they have monopolized their market. However, the same has happened in 2008 with Microsoft, which was investigated for years, but Microsoft has explained that the company has just helped its customers, and they provided more values to those companies that the investigators thought that were failing. Microsoft, as Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google, needs other companies in order to keep the business successful. They need companies that provide internal services, materials and they promote many companies’ products, so if those companies get more revenues, their suppliers will get more revenue too. Furthermore, these companies have made our lives much easier than they were before. We can talk with people from the other side of the globe, we can pay with a smartphone, we can have delivered many products within two days and so on, so we should let those companies do whatever they are creating and developing, even if they are beating the competition. As Bill Gates has said about Microsoft’s same issue, those companies that are ruined about those monopolies should focus on creating something that will endanger those big companies. They should create new products and services that are more innovative. Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google should be seen by those companies as incentive to create something more innovative to beat them. This reasoning will bring to the whole society big benefits, since companies will try harder to create more products and services that will make people’s lives easier. In my opinion, these companies’ monopoly can just create benefits to today’s world, and this phenomenon will always happen in the future since many companies in the past had been the leaders of the market. Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are creating values to the people and companies while they are looking also their own interests.

  2. This text offers a perspective on the American way of doing business may be flawed. The Majority Staff of the House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law convened to discuss the monopoly which is Big Tech. The companies under fire are Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google for their efforts to stifle competition by using their monopolistic power in their respective industries (https://link.wired.com/view/5cc9e11c2ddf9c1a7ade10e6cxwtl.4kcl/b27f9511). I think the underlying issue isn’t what the companies are doing to become giants in the business world, rather it’s how our country’s economy encourages morally questionable behavior. According to an article from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Amazon is able to control a few key industries, “Its Marketplace for third-party sellers has become the dominant platform for digital commerce. Its Amazon Web Services division provides the cloud computing backbone for much of the country, powering everyone from Netflix to the CIA” (https://link.wired.com/view/5cc9e11c2ddf9c1a7ade10e6cxwtl.4kcl/b27f9511). Amazon’s interests don’t extend only to online commerce, but to an intelligence agency working for the United States federal government.
    With the way these companies are able to exploit the American economy, more regulations may be in store for Big Tech. As mentioned in the article, the way business is being conducted reminds one of the robber baron era of the late 1800s. Zuckerberg and Bezos are now the modern-day Vanderbilts and Rockefellers. The early 1900s saw U.S. President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, also nicknamed the “trustbuster”, deregulate the monopolies of his time. With the existence of Big Tech driving out small businesses and imposing such a large influence on the American people, perhaps a new age of business regulation is in store.

  3. Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple are one of the most biggest companies in the world and they help so many people in different ways. We use these websites every single day and they make our lives so easier, when you need something important, via info you got to google, you need cheap electronics, you go to amazon ,and want a new phone or updated version, your best suggestion is apple, and people use Facebook, to post, share and comment on their thoughts on other peoples posts and play around on social media. They make so much money, throughout the year, from adding new fun ways to enjoy the app, or improve their websites, and its all a business thing. Many people use these websites for their own benefits as for example wanting to get something changed or wanting to gain knowledge for their own purpose which is always helpful, and because of these great technology we have now is the reason why people use all of these websites, and how they get so much money. For example if these websites keep getting better and keep having popularity, they will keep getting exposure and it will keep getting better for the workers and the people who use them. More money is better for all these companies, to keep us shopping and giving our all to them

  4. This article serves to show how the flaws of big tech aren’t just the economic flaws of that industry, but the flaws of American capitalism as a whole, demonstrating just how similar big tech is to large corporate entities across the country. While I generally agree with the assessment that the problems of tech are not unique to that industry I believe that the writer of the article didn’t properly address the nature of platform as it relates to these companies. With a typical corporate entity, let’s say a supermarket chain, there is an innate natural competition that is directly encouraged by the platform of markets themselves. Since almost any store, be it a supermarket or otherwise, can contain similar items or the exact same item for varing prices there builds a competition between the supermarket and all other markets in the city that they are in. The power of digital platforms, like Facebook, is that they actively discourage competition for those who are providing content for their shelves. While a supermarket may have the largest customer base, their specific demographics or prices may cause a product maker to use another store. But when the supermarket contains a majority of all shoppers neatly organized into categories perfectly tailored to your product, there’s no reason to go anywhere else; in fact, it’s to your advantage to encourage the monopoly of that supermarket called Facebook at all cost. This is where tech companies differ from non-technology companies, the benefits of hosting a platform is far and away more advantageous and monopoly-encouraging than anything a brick and mortar business could even attempt.

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