MinnPost: It is time to break up Big Tech

February 18, 2021 Media

As a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol last month, they were cheered on by a crowd of supporters gathered in front of the Minnesota Capitol that directed threats at Gov. Tim Walz. These events were the culmination of conspiracy run amok and a poisoned public square. As policymakers both here and in D.C. launch efforts to hold fellow elected officials accountable for the despicable actions of that day, it has overshadowed the bigger threat to democracy, Big Tech.

Companies like Facebook and Google (which owns YouTube) have built massive surveillance structures that amplify hate, division and conspiracy for profit. This content is not a defect that an internal team of fact-checkers can fix, because it is core to Big Tech’s business model. Relying on these companies to ban users only strengthens their outsized power to shape our discourse. While tech platforms pretend to be neutral arbiters, simply providing a platform to share content, what you see on your screen is by design.

According to the American Economic Liberties Project, Facebook has acquired 86 companies since 2005 (a year after it launched) while Google has gobbled up 255 companies since 2001. Facebook’s acquisitions have been about entrenching its position as the only social media game in town, choosing to purchase potential rivals like Instagram and WhatsApp instead of competing. Google, meanwhile, has taken control over nearly every stage of digital advertising outside of Facebook. The company earns billions from its domination of search, thanks in part to anti-competitive agreements that set Google as the default search engine. Advertising on YouTube requires usage of other Google ad products and the Google Display Network controls access to display ads on more than 2 million websites, videos and apps.