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Big Tech: What comes next for the US giants?

BBC Technology 30 Jul 2020 12:20
By James Clayton North America technology reporter
Jeff BezosImage copyright EPA

"If Congress doesn't bring fairness to Big Tech, which they should have done years ago, I will do it myself with executive orders."

Those were US President Donald Trump's words on Wednesday shortly before the leaders of Apple, Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook were quizzed by Congress.

That word "fairness" is crucial when it comes to the future regulation of these tech titans. That's because, in the mouths of different lawmakers, fairness means very different things.

"These companies, as they exist today, have monopoly power... some need to be broken up, all need to be properly regulated."

Those were the closing remarks of David Cicilline, chairman of the House judiciary committee's anti-trust sub-committee.

For him, fairness means not just clipping the wings of Big Tech, but fundamentally restructuring their relationship with Americans.

Image copyright Reuters

Republicans like Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz had a different interpretation of fairness - and it had nothing to do with anti-trust.

President Trump has suggested likewise. He's already criticised Twitter and Facebook for removing conservative content and even flagging his own posts and tweets.

This split makes predicting how the US might try to lasso these tech giants difficult.

Many Democrats however believe that these companies are acting like cartels - that they're hurting "mom and pop" businesses. That tougher legislation will protect consumers.

It's highly unlikely though that anything much will happen before the US elections in November.

And so we reach a fork in the road for Big Tech in America.

If the Democrats win, expect more regulation in an attempt to inject more competition into the tech industry.

In reality though, it's unlikely to be that black and white.

The accusations around Amazon hurting tens of thousands of small American businesses is a Republican concern as much as a Democrat one.

But it's hard to avoid the conclusion that whoever wins the next election, Big Tech is going to get whacked. The question is how and by whom.

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David CicillineHouse judiciary committeeCicillineMatt GaetzCongress
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