Everything you need to know ahead of the Big Tech antitrust hearing
A landmark showdown between Big Tech and the US government will be taking place imminently. In the face-off, CEOs from some of the world's most powerful tech giants will testify before the House Judiciary Committee as part of an ongoing antitrust probe.
Tim Cook (Apple), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), and Sundar Pichai (Google) will appear before Congress together for the first time. For Jeff Bezos, it will be the first time he will have testified before Congress at all.
The antitrust probe, which has been in action for over a year, is investigating concerns over whether the gigantism of Big Tech companies is suppressing competition in digital markets. What's more, it'll address the extreme growth rate of the companies, which makes it difficult for governments to properly regulate them. In other words, the probe will answer the question on many minds: is Big Tech getting too big?
To put the conglomerates' behemoth-ness into perspective, you may recall that NASDAQ hit 10,000 for the first time ever in early June, despite the pandemic. How exactly? Well, it was carried mainly by the royal largeness of Amazon and Apple, accounting for most of the soar in its entirety.
Is it time to break down Big Tech?
American politician and senator Elizabeth Warren has been among the most vocal in arguing that Big Tech wields too much power over our digital lives. In doing so, Elizabeth has been spearheading the initiative to break up the biggest tech companies. She wrote that:
“As these companies have grown larger and more powerful, they have used their resources and control over the way we use the Internet to squash small businesses and innovation, and substitute their own financial interests for the broader interests of the American people. To restore the balance of power in our democracy, to promote competition, and to ensure that the next generation of technology innovation is as vibrant as the last, it's time to break up our biggest tech companies.”
Elizabeth also argued that Big Tech has achieved its level of dominance by using mergers and proprietary marketplaces to limit competition. With this being the case, other competitors simply don't, and won't ever, stand a chance.
Death by taxes
Elsewhere, Chamath Palihapitiya, CEO of Social Capital and early senior executive at Facebook (until 2011), also agreed that breaking up Big Tech would be for the greater good. In his annual letter to stakeholders, he wrote:
“Across the world, governments are realizing a growing responsibility to act by stepping in and attempting to break up these behemoths, forcing divestitures, demanding transparency, and in the specific case of ad-based businesses, modifying auctions to limit artificial bidding wars and disabling broad scale data gathering and surveillance of people.”
Chamath has also shared his belief that Big Tech will be forced to succumb to regulators as they exit the other side of the probe. “First, they'll get taxed to death, then they'll get trust-busted,” he told the Financial Times.
However, Chamath also warned in his letter that to successfully break down Big Tech, governments and regulators must ensure that the tech giants don't find a way of helping to write the regulation to promote and cement their monopoly. If all is successful from the regulatory side, Chamath believes that Big Tech could be broken down within the next decade.
The upcoming hearing was scheduled for Monday, but was delayed following the death of Representative John Lewis. Details for when it will take place are not known yet. Once it does take place, lawmakers will produce a report encompassing findings throughout the investigation and propose legislation to reassert antitrust laws in response to the inquiry.