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Big technology firms challenge traditional assumptions about antitrust enforcement

 |  December 7, 2017

Posted by Brookings

Big technology firms challenge traditional assumptions about antitrust enforcement

By Clara Hendrickson and William A. Galston

After years of pleasing its fan base among social progressives and proponents of economic disruption, Silicon Valley finds itself in the hot seat.On October 31, legal representatives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter appeared before the House and Senate judiciary committees to discuss Russian meddling efforts in the 2016 US election, including fake news stories and incendiary political ads propagated on the internet platforms and social media sites.

Public concerns inspired by the rise of big tech, however, are not exclusively grounded in the outsize political influence these companies wield. A recent and widely circulated Atlantic article examines the astonishing behavioral effects of smartphone and social media usage among today’s youth and paints a grim picture of tech-enabled isolation, depression, and social anxiety. Big tech is shaping our lives offline as much as online.

Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods this past summer sparked the fear that the online giant had simply amassed too much power. Amazon’s quest for a second headquarters—what two Brookings experts call “Amazon Idol”—not only underscores this fear, but demonstrates the ability of a single tech company to dictate the terms of regional economic development. And with rising market concentration throughout the economy reinvigorating interest in antitrust law and enforcement, the hitherto unchallenged power of big tech hangs in the balance.

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