Do the tech industry’s four most powerful players - Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google - have too much power?
These tech titans attended a congressional hearing last week, where lawmakers tried to find out whether they have used unfair business practices to stifle smaller competitors to maintain their monopoly of the markets.
The fact that they hold massive amounts of data on people's lives, businesses and other information that they've accumulated over the years, also adds to concerns over their capacity to influence users in their favor.
But at the same time, hundreds of millions of people use and benefit from these services every day, and it's unclear where we should draw the line.
We discuss the power of big tech companies today with William E. Kovacic, Professor of law and policy, George Washington University and former chairman, U.S. Federal Trade Commission. How are you today? We also connect with Luigi Zingales, Finance professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. It's great to see you.
And we are also joined by Hemant Bhargava, Technology management chair at the University of California - Davis.
1. First of all, before we get into the discussion, let's talk about Microsoft and its possible purchase of Chinese social media platform TikTok. Is Microsoft making the right decision expanding further into social media a move that would undoubtedly add to their market power at a time when there's a lot of concern about big tech monopoly?
What do you think about this Dr. Kovacic?
2. President Trump wants the U.S. Treasury to have a stake in this deal. What do you make of the suggestion and is it right for a sitting U.S. president to be so involved in Microsoft’s business?
3. Microsoft wasn't included in the congressional hearing last week, where the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google attended. After the nearly 6 hour session, David Cicilline, chairman of the subcommittee said these companies as they exist today have monopoly power. Some need to be broken up. Do you agree? Dr. Bhargava, let's start with you.
-Also, what would be the consequence of breaking up these companies and forcing them to scale back? Dr. Bhargava?
4. Dr. Zingales, Dr. Bhargava: With the enormous amount of data they have and their means to influence their users, can we still say users of these tech companies are benefiting from Big Tech and are using these services purely out of choice?
5. Dr. Kovacic: What has been the challenge of regulating these companies with the current antitrust legal framework?
6. Dr. Zingales, Dr. Kovacic: Cicilline also said “all need to be properly regulated and held accountable.” Is this even possible? And do you think we'll see stronger regulations as a result of the hearing?
This is where we'll have to wrap up the discussion. William E. Kovacic, Professor of Global Competition Law and Policy, George Washington University. Luigi Zingales, Finance professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. And Hemant Bhargava, Technology Management chair at the University of California - Davis.Thank you for joining the program.