Should the Big Tech Companies Be Broken Up?

Writers Opinion Big Tech Featured

There has been much talk, especially in the United States, whether the big tech companies, such as Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Apple, should be broken up. When you think about it, all of them are involved in so many things. They’re not just one social network, or just an online retailer, a search engine, or a computer manufacturer.

But do they have their hands into too many different factions? Many people are pushing to have them broken up, and it’s even begun a topic in the next United States presidential race. Should the big tech companies be broken up?

Our Opinion

Phil believes it depends on “how they wield their power, for good or evil”. It becomes more philosophical than technical to him. While many of the companies are considered too big, they put all that back into their products and services, or in some cases they put the companies into politics to protect profits and growth.

He believes if someone uses their wealth and power for the good of mankind, space exploration, electric cars, clean air, and water for all, giving away most of their wealth to good causes, then they can carry on. “But if someone has an army of robot penguins ready to go at a moment’s notice from their underground lair, they are probably up to no good.”

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Sayak thinks the big-tech breakup lobby in the U.S. is banking on historical antitrust precedents. He uses the example of the 1984 AT&T breakup that benefited Apple and Microsoft as an example. Yet, in 2019, “the Gang of Four is way too big and powerful to be broken up.”

They are multinational companies in every sense of the word and don’t depend on the U.S. consumer market alone, though it’s still important. The moment someone brings antitrust legislation to the U.S., “these big-tech companies will happily move their stock to some convenient banana republic. They know their loyal customers would never ditch them no matter what. He doesn’t have a good solution but knows it needs to be relevant to this day and age.

Andrew bases it on a consumer welfare argument, feeling it’s hard to say since A) it depends on a counterfactual that the consumer would be better off if the companies were broken up and B) that the companies seem to be pretty good for consumers, providing awesome products at little to no upfront cost.

But based on anti-competitiveness, there’s a case. He believes “Amazon especially has displayed its willingness to use its power to crush any possible competition, and Facebook and Google also don’t seem keen on letting competitors invade their space.”

The bottom line is he wouldn’t say he’s in favor of breaking up big tech, but he’d be in favor of trying to encourage a more competitive environment.

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Miguel is not in favor of breaking up big tech. “In the long term, we should focus more on companies leveraging their ties to government to make it more difficult for competition to enter the market.” He sees that as a much larger issue.

David isn’t sure if breaking them up solves the bigger issue. He, too, looks at the AT&T breakup that everyone thought would be the end of their reign, yet look at them now. He knows it might not be an apples-to-apples comparison, but he doesn’t feel there’s much reason to believe breaking up those companies truly serves the consumer. “I’d rather see a focus on encouraging competition so one or two companies are not dominant.”

Ryan believes the big tech companies should be broken up. “Monopolies stagnate innovation and encourage predatory pricing.” He points to the people who only have one cable/Internet provider where they live. Customers don’t have the option to shop around and are at the mercy of the giant corporations. He feels there needs to be more regulation involving the tech industry.

I’m not sure if I’m a good person to answer this question, but I’ll give it a go. For one, everyone keeps pointing at AT&T, but my husband is fourth-generation Ma Bell. Even though they are no longer the monopoly they once were, they continue to grow and dominate anyway and buy up all that competition. They launched the U-verse service in the U.S. introducing cable TV to their products, then bought out its biggest satellite competitor in DirectTV. They also acquired one of the biggest media companies in Time/Warner. Did it really serve a purpose to break them up?

Your Opinion

Where do you stand on this issue? Do you agree with some above that it doesn’t really solve the issue anyway? Or do you just frown overall on monopolies? Should the big tech companies be broken up? Jump into our conversation in the comments below.

6 comments

  1. Hard to say since, as Sayak points out, they’re multi-national and will just go somewhere else if antitrust laws are thrust at them. The two biggest ones certainly have control/access over our lives and devices which makes me leery of how the info gathered is actually used, not just today but in the future. I certainly would like to see more privacy laws on the user’s side. MS and Apple have total access to our devices which ought to be limited. I just went thru an internet crisis and MS disabled their software since they weren’t able to verify my subscription! Tried to inform them why they couldn’t at the time, but was told there was no way they could make a note of that and gave me no out whatsoever, continuing to disable software usage. Once I was bk online, all resorted back to normal. That type of control over my computer is certainly a very good reason to have privacy laws in place that protect the user. All seems to be in favor of the seller.

  2. Obviously there is a problem. Missing competition is the main topic.
    But as long as rules are made by Big Money nothing can be changed.
    Monopolies are everywhere and they are created, supported and kept alive by Big Money.
    If consumers will wake up, something may change.

  3. Interesting enough, as this article was being published, the news hit that Alpahbet, Google’s parent company, is buying out Fitbit. https://www.wsj.com/articles/fitbit-to-be-acquired-by-google-llc-11572613473

  4. “There has been much talk, especially in the United States, whether the big tech companies, such as Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Apple, should be broken up.” Why wasn’t Microsoft included in that group? There’s a company that should have been broken up decades ago.

    1. It almost happened in the late 1990’s but, through legal machinations and bt making some pronises, Microsoft managed to avoid it.

  5. “Phil believes it depends on “how they wield their power, for good or evil”.”
    Companies, first and foremost, look out for themselves. If it benefits them to be perceived as wielding power “for good”, they will do so. If it benefits them to wield power “for evil”, they will. Google/Alphabet is a good example. When they were getting popular, they seemed like a knight in shining armor. Now they are mentioned in the same breath and with the same animus as Microsoft and Facebook.

    “the Gang of Four is way too big and powerful to be broken up.”
    No, they are not. “Too big and too powerful” is a cop-out. Standard Oil of New Jersey and US Steel were a much bigger part of the early 20th century economy and John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan were much more powerful than the Gang of Four and its owners are now, and yet they were broken up.

    “these big-tech companies will happily move their stock to some convenient banana republic.”
    Then why haven’t they done that already? There must be some overriding advantage to being based in the US that trumps all the disadvantages. These companies certainly are not remaining in the US for altruistic reasons.

    “In the long term, we should focus more on companies leveraging their ties to government to make it more difficult for competition to enter the market.”
    That makes for a great sound bite. Something a politician running for office would say. However, who is going to oversee and police the companies that do try to leverage their ties to the government? Congress whose members know who really butters their bread? The big corporations, through lobbyists, are crafting legislation to benefit themselves, not the consumers. Do a search on ‘Intuit” and ‘Free Filling Association’ to discover how Intuit and HR Block have been callously screwing American taxpayers by charging even those that are qualified and entitled to file tax returns for free, and how they derailed all efforts to stop them.

    “I’d rather see a focus on encouraging competition so one or two companies are not dominant.”
    You can encourage competition all you want but if the existing companies have made the price of entry too high, no competitors will arise. Add to that the fact that the already established companies will defend their turf by either stamping out prospective competitors or by absorbing them. Just look at the airline industry. How many small airlines, such as People’s Express or Lauda Air, have tried and failed? Small and/or regional airlines have been swallowed up by the industry giants. What we need is laws that restrict conglomerates from forming.

    Everyone is looking at the AT&T breakup and questioning whether the effects were good or bad. Why don’t we go back to the beginning of the 20th century and look at the breakup of Standard Oil, US Steel and other monopolistic conglomerates. History has shown that the breakup of Standard Oil and US Steel had positive long term results.

    “Monopolies stagnate innovation and encourage predatory pricing.”
    Deregulation was supposed to take care of that. Instead it allowed for the formation of bigger and bigger conglomerates.

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