The Trump administration is drafting an executive order to authorize an investigation of business operations in some of the top tech companies in the United States. Primary targets are expected to include Google and Facebook, as well as other prominent social media and internet-based companies.
Several Silicon Valley giants have recently come under fire for political bias, censorship and their handling of users’ private information. Prominent figures on both the left and the right have also advocated for breaking up the large tech companies, arguing that they have built a monopoly over the online world.
Investigating Tech Giants
Bloomberg News recently received a copy of the White House draft order that would prompt a probe of major tech companies. The purpose of the order is to “thoroughly investigate whether any online platform has acted in violation of the antitrust laws.” It also requests government agencies to make suggestions on how to “protect competition among online platforms and address online platform bias.”
President Donald Trump has previously spoken out against social media companies due to their alleged bias against conservatives. Now it seems the president’s talk is turning into action as the Trump administration prepares itself to take on big tech. According to a Justice Department spokesman, Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be meeting with state AGs “to discuss a growing concern that these companies may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms.” The leaders of these companies have denied any bias, but both Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey have admitted their staff is made up largely of left-leaning individuals.
Breaking Up Big Tech
Although the Trump Administration is poised to become Silicon Valley’s enemy number one, condemnation of the major tech companies is hardly limited to one side of the political aisle.
The left has criticized several of these businesses for using their influence to stifle competition and for their poor treatment of employees. Amazon recently endured the ire of people on both sides of the political divide for not paying their employees fairly and forcing them to work in inferior conditions. Indeed, Apple and Google have admitted to collaborating in order to depress the salaries of their workers.
Conservatives have advocated for the breaking up and regulation of tech companies because of an apparent bias in favor of the left. Prominent right-leaning organizations and individuals have been subject to “shadowbans” and outright censorship. Moreover, Google was recently discovered to have used their platform to intentionally influence voters politically.
One argument in favor of breaking up the tech companies is that greater diversity will encourage innovation through competition. This is certainly possible as long as the government does not impose further regulations on the industry. Placing government restrictions on business tends to make competition difficult, if not impossible, because startups and small businesses cannot afford to spend the money required to comply with rigid regulations.
Will It Work?
Dealing with the major tech companies may prove more challenging than it first seems. Antitrust laws are quite tricky and the government cannot break up a company simply because it has grown too large. Regulators will have to prove that these providers are using their influence to harm the interests of consumers, which may be more difficult than they suspect as many platforms offer their services free of charge.
Will the White House uncover any significant wrongdoing on the part of tech companies? Possible, but it’s less likely there will be a successful case for breaking them up. Either way, Silicon Valley can expect to be under increased scrutiny as long as Trump is in office.