When the internet was invented, it was meant for connecting people by providing them with services such as email, websites, chatting, etc. But as the market grew, it became more of a tool for selling products and services. The tech companies which were initially in this industry also rose to dominance. Companies such as Microsoft and Apple were key players already when the computers were being invented, and when people shifted towards the internet to get their daily needs sorted, companies such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon provided them with easy solutions. But the question that always arose was why these companies are providing such facilities to the users free of cost. For me, the answer is that these tech giants use the personal data of the individuals who use their platforms and sell them to the advertising agencies. But never did we know, that there could be so much more to this.
The top executives of the four tech-giants, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google were asked to testify yesterday at the House Committee via video conferencing. The charges against the giants are that these tech companies are meddling with the competition, antitrust, and fair play in the market and hugely affecting their consumers, competitors, and, small businesses. This was a bipartisan meeting and both the parties took turns is beating down the arguments given by the tech giants and accused them and their companies of behavior which can be termed as notorious and borderline illegal.
There are severe charges against the tech companies for meddling with the competition laws, antitrust laws, and fair supply management in the goods and services that they provide. These companies were also accused of keeping the personal data of the individuals associated with these companies and using them for advertising and sales. The committee also accused these executives of operating as a private government, take of concentration of power to themselves and defy various international laws. While facing a myriad of such questions, top executives, such as Tim Cook from Apple, Sundar Pichai from Google, Jeff Bezos from Amazon and, Mark Zuckerburg from Facebook tried hard to maintain their cool and patience throughout the meeting.
The House grilled the tech executives of the various charges, but some of the answers given by these leaders of the tech companies were found inconsistent with the facts and some of them were even hard to believe. There were serious allegations from the lawmakers such as stealing the research information for the cure of Covid-19, stealing intellectual property ideas from young entrepreneurs, ripping of personal information of minors and selling them to the advertisers, and cloning technology from startups and small competitors. There was no satisfactory reply presented by any of the four leaders of the tech industry. Lawmakers also accused the Big Tech of contravening the competition law and antitrust, and said that even if such practices are not unlawful, they are highly objectionable and borderline illegal. Even the European Union has initiated three cases against Google for such practices and the cases are pending for hearings. The Big Tech was also accused of benefitting their products using the user data that they have.
In my opinion, there could also be a positive side to such competition. These tech companies spend billion annually on research and such annual spending on R&D is even higher than what is spent by the National Science Foundation. Even though these companies are accused of meddling with the fair competition, these companies themselves face intense competition from other companies in the tech space and other small competitors, and hence it can be safely said that these companies are not working like monopolies like they are accused of working because being monopolistic would mean cutting off the supply of goods from all other competitors and then affecting the price of the goods for one's profit. Another argument, which can be given in the favour of the Big Tech is that if everyone is using the same platform, there is less disruption in the market and this ultimately leads to social welfare and not making people's lives worse.
I can say that the House should carefully study how the Big Tech is not confirming to the antitrust and how some changes can be brought in the law so that there may be a limit to the dominance of these tech giants. Also, this matter should be carefully dealt with and the authorities in my opinion need a scalpel and not an ax.