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Big Tech’s Monopoly Power Corrupts, Absolutely

How Regulatory Battles Reveal the True Nature of Tech Giants

Aug 30, 2023


  • Big Tech, from Meta to Microsoft, are wielding their power to challenge and even threaten governments around the globe, revealing their aggressive stances against regulatory measures.
  • Faced with pro-consumer policies and antitrust scrutiny in places like the UK, U.S.-based tech giants are reacting with coercive tactics that disrupt vital services, an threaten to use users as ransom.
  • The overt bullying by tech titans raise pressing concerns about their corporate character, emphasizing the need for regulators to resist bending to industry pressures.

The concentration of corporate power in the tech industry is the natural result of governments, for too long, having ignored anti-competitive business practices and buying Big Tech’s promise to regulate itself. Now as governments globally are finally taking steps toward corrective action, Big Tech’s corporate character is on full display in capitals around the world—and it’s not pretty.

In Sacramento, Meta threatens to block news content on its platforms over the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act. Meta and Google both are blocking news content in Canada over similar legislation, causing chaos in the midst of severe wildfires with users unable to access critical information.

In London, Microsoft threatens to pull out of the UK if their most recent merger is not approved by the Competition Market’s Authority (CMA). Microsoft has attacked the agency for its scrutiny of the company’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, just as Microsoft has attacked our own regulators at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. When the world’s second-largest company threatens retaliation against countries for simply enforcing their antitrust laws, let’s call it what it is—coercive behavior intended to intimidate. In other words: bullying.

Zoe Kleinman’s recent piece for the BBC suggests that the UK’s regulatory efforts to protect children online, secure national security, and promote a competitive marketplace are offensive to U.S.-based tech executives.

I've been doing this job for long enough to recognize a petulant tech ego when I meet one. From Big Tech, there's often big talk. But this felt different. It reflected a sentiment I have been hearing quite loudly of late, from this lucrative and powerful US-based sector.

Kleinman suggests the “tipping point” for Big Tech is the increasingly pro-consumer policies coming from the UK. Her piece highlights the power imbalance between regulators and U.S.-based tech giants.

Clearly the UK cannot, and should not, be held to ransom by US tech giants. But the services they provide are widely used by millions of people. And rightly or wrongly, there is no UK-based alternative to those services.

No matter how laughable cutting off the world’s sixth-largest economy should be, Microsoft’s threats have given others in the industry cover to make threats of their own. If Big Tech companies are willing to hold their users as “ransom” to get what they want, what does that say about the character of these powerful corporations?

Nearly every child is taught from an early age to call out bullies and stand up for their victims. If the CMA or other regulators buckle to Big Tech’s bullying, it will only enable even worse behavior.