From The Guardian
The titans of the new Gilded Age must be busted and the idea has bipartisan support. It's time big tech was brought to heel
The presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren announced on Friday she wants to bust up giants like Facebook, Google and Amazon.
America's first Gilded Age began in the late 19th century with a raft of innovations railroads, steel production, oil extraction but culminated in mammoth trusts run by "robber barons" like JP Morgan, John D Rockefeller, and William H "the public be damned" Vanderbilt.
The answer then was to bust up the railroad, oil and steel monopolies.
We're now in a second Gilded Age, ushered in by semi-conductors, software and the internet, which has spawned a handful of hi-tech behemoths and a new set of barons like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and Sergey Brin and Larry Page of Google.
The answer is the same as it was before: bust up the monopolies.
The current effort is bipartisan. At a Senate hearing I attended last week, the arch-conservative Missouri Republican Josh Hawley asked me, rhetorically: "Is there really any wonder that there is increased pressure for antitrust enforcement activity, for privacy activity when these companies behave in the way that they do?"
Hawley added: "Every day brings some creepy new revelation about these companies' behaviors. Of course the public is going to want there to be action to defend their rights. It's only natural."
Nearly 90% of all internet searches now go through Google. Facebook and Google together account for 58% of all digital ads, which is where most ad money goes these days.
They're also the first stops for many Americans seeking news (93% receive news online), and Amazon is now the first stop for a third of all American consumers seeking to buy anything.
With such size comes the power to stifle innovation. Amazon won't let any business that sells through it sell any item at a lower price anywhere else. It's even using its control over book sales to give books it publishes priority over rival publishers.
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