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01 October 2020

The Times: Tech Giants Should Be Broken Up If New Laws Fail

The tech giants should be broken up if they cannot be tamed by new laws, technology business editor of The Times Simon Duke said today.

In a comment piece in the paper, Mr Duke said that policy makers across the world agreed that “the Silicon Valley profit machine” needed to be reined in as a matter of urgency but that no-one was sure which problem to prioritise.

“Are governments seeking to engender more vibrant competition? Safeguard democratic processes? Protect privacy? Or shield young people from online bullying or worse? The objectives are disparate and solutions elusive,” Mr Duke said.

A forthcoming lawsuit in the US could offer some clarity, as the Department of Justice is reportedly days away from publishing its long-awaited case against Google which is expected to focus on how Google has used its dominant position in online search to harm consumers.

He added: “In the US, state attorneys-general are expected to augment the DoJ case with lawsuits targeting Google’s stranglehold over the advertising technology supply chain. It owns most of the tools used to place ads on the internet and pockets a third of all online marketing spending.

“Yet it could well be that Capitol Hill will follow the lead of Brussels and seek new legislative tools to rein in Silicon Valley — or even the nuclear option of break-ups.

“America takes pride in its innovative brand of capitalism, and many lawmakers consider the digital monopolies to be antithetical to these values. In the past trust-busters have not hesitated to intervene to smash apart railroad and phone monopolies.

“Breaking up Google and others may not solve all of the ills of era of big tech. But it may end up being the least worst option to liberate the digital economy from the grip of the monopolists.”