“Big Tech” has become shorthand for a potpourri of overlapping issues including monopoly power and market concentration; censorship and political influence; and consumer manipulation. Companies with business models as disparate as Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook are treated as a monolithic challenge.
Making sense of that challenge requires dividing it into three separate parts. The first of these, as the “big” in Big Tech suggests, is the market power and anti-competitive behaviour of the companies that control the platforms on which key products and services are offered. Antitrust complaints are pervasive in the digital world because scale tends to be a source of value rather than cost, creating more contexts for natural monopoly.
Fortunately, Americans have considerable experience dealing with market power and monopolies. Google is the same kind of problem as Standard Oil and it has the same solution: it should be broken up. Facebook and Twitter are railroad-like monopolies and require utility-style regulation.