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Robert Reich: Why We Need to Break Up Big Tech

September 2, 2019


The combined wealth of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and Google’s Sergey Brin, and Larry Page is larger than the combined wealth of the bottom half of the American population. They’re the leaders of a second Gilded Age
– ushered in by semiconductors, software, and the internet – which has spawned a handful
of high-tech behemoths and crushed competition. Facebook, Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft
now have the highest market values of all public corporations in America. As of today, only three countries in the world
have a GDP higher than these companies’ combined market value of approximately $4 trillion. America’s first Gilded Age began in the
late 19th century, with a raft of innovations – railroads, steel production, oil extraction
– that culminated in mammoth trusts run by “robber barons” like J.P. Morgan, John
D. Rockefeller, and William Vanderbilt. The answer then was to break up the railroad,
oil, and steel monopolies. The answer today is the same: Break Up Big
Tech. FIRST: They have a stranglehold on the economy. Nearly 90% of all internet searches
now go through Google. Facebook and Google together will account
for nearly 60% of all digital ad spending in 2019 (where most ad money goes these days). They’re also the first stops for many Americans
seeking news (93% of Americans say they receive at least some news online). Amazon is now the first stop for almost half of all American consumers seeking to buy anything online. With such size comes the power to stifle innovation. Google uses its search engine to promote its
own products and content over those of its competitors, like Yelp. Facebook’s purchases of WhatsApp and Instagram
killed off two potential rivals. Apple stifles competition in its App Store. Partly because of this economic concentration,
the rate that new job-creating businesses have formed in the United States has almost halved since 2004, according to the Census Bureau. SECOND: Such size also gives these giant corporations
political power to get whatever they want, undermining our democracy. In 2018, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple,
and Microsoft spent $70.9 million on lobbying and supporting candidates. Amazon – the richest corporation in America
– paid nothing in federal taxes last year. Meanwhile, it held a bidding war to extort billions from states and cities eager to have its second headquarters. Not to mention, these companies have tremendous
influence over how Americans receive information. And as we’ve seen, Facebook and Google have
enabled the manipulation of our elections. THIRD: Giant tech companies also hurt the
environment. Many are failing to reduce greenhouse emissions,
as they promised and are unwilling to commit fully to renewable energy. FINALLY: Their huge wealth isn’t being shared
with most of their workers. Nine in 10 workers in Silicon Valley make
less now than they did in 1997, adjusted for inflation. And many are part of the “working homeless”– that is, people who work full-time and yet are still homeless. The answer is to break them up. That way, information would be distributed
through a large number of independent channels, instead of a centralized platform, and more startups could flourish. Even one of Facebook’s founders has called
for the social media behemoth to be broken up. Senator Elizabeth Warren has introduced a
proposal to do just that. It would force tech giants to open up their
platforms to more competition or break up into smaller companies. Other countries are already taking on Big
Tech. The European Union fined Google nearly $3 billion
for antitrust violations in 2017. Let’s be clear: Monopolies aren’t good
for anyone except for the monopolists, especially when they can influence our elections and
control how Americans receive information. In this new Gilded Age, we need to respond to them as forcefully as we did to the monopolies of the first Gilded Age and break them up. What do you think? Should we break up big tech? Let us know in the comments. If you found this video informative, be sure to also watch our video on the monopolization of America. And, as always, be sure to subscribe to this
channel for more videos like this one.

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