What do you think of when you hear the word monopoly? Many people think of the board game that ripped families apart, ended friendships, and caused many a table to be flipped. But now the word is being associated with some of the biggest tech companies in the world.
The House Judiciary Committee recently announced it will begin investigating the tech sector’s big four companies: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.
The decision comes amid allegations of these companies sharing personal information, spreading disinformation, and anti-competitive behavior.
Additionally, the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission are launching their own investigation of their own into Google.
According to Rhode Island Democratic Rep. David Cicilline, the purpose of the investigation relates to the “tremendous concentration of market power” of these companies. Cicilline believes the investigation will lead to policy recommendations and new legislation.
Many companies, particularly Facebook, has come under fire for spreading “fake news.” Since 2016, the social media site has been accused of allowing “news” stories rife with disinformation to gain traction and spread among its users like an infection.
“We really value giving people a voice, but we also believe we need to take responsibility for the spread of fake news on our platform,” said Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s vice president in charge of its news feed, and the company’s method of distributing information to its global audience.
Several of these companies have come under fire for sharing people’s private information. Google recently announced they were allowing large companies access to their Gmail user’s inboxes.
However, according to Google, only properly vetted third-party organizations were given access to users’ inboxes, and users must give their permission.
“Developers may share data with third parties so long as they are transparent with the users about how they are using the data,” said Susan Molinari, Google’s head of US public policy.
Facebook also came under fire for sharing sensitive information. Last spring, Facebook users were shocked to learn that data-mining sites were able to access their personal profiles, and in 2016, there were allegations that Russia used people’s Facebook profiles to meddle in the U.S. election.
It seems like the ultimate goal of any startup app is moving from becoming the next Facebook, Twitter, or Google, to becoming the next company to be owned by one of those aforementioned giants.
So many apps that begin to show promise end up getting bought out by one of the larger corporations. YouTube was bought by Google, Instagram was bought by Facebook, Apple purchased Shazam—rather than compete with these new companies these established corporations are just buying them outright.
While some companies have been able to thrive since being purchased, such as Instagram, others haven’t been as lucky—Vine was purchased by Twitter after it became popular, but rather than continue to thrive it was gutted and completely shut down.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said: “The open internet has delivered enormous benefits to Americans, including a surge of economic opportunity, massive investment, and new pathways for education online, but there is growing evidence that a handful of gatekeepers have come to capture control over key arteries of online commerce, content, and communications.”