A Trump win is bad news for Big Tech break-up

The US technology giants are in for a reckoning irrespective of who wins the race to the White House, the only consideration is which administration will swing a bigger regulatory stick and where it will choose to strike.

Given Donald Trump’s predilection to opining over social media, the Republicans are focused on bringing the likes of Facebook and Twitter to heel by dismantling ‘Section 230’, the legislation that allows technology companies, including social media outfits, to bear no responsibility for the content posted by its users.

President Donald Trump was furious that Jack Dorsey's Twitter fact-checked one of his tweets.
President Donald Trump was furious that Jack Dorsey’s Twitter fact-checked one of his tweets.Credit:The Age

The push to make social media companies more accountable for misinformation and perceived anti-conservative bias will almost certainly become more acute, especially if the result of the election is close.

Just how sustained that push will be is anyone’s guess, and there are even bigger question marks about whether any changes made to Section 230 could end up hurting smaller technology companies, further entrenching the power of Big Tech.

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Moderating what passes as free speech on social media is just one tussle in a bigger war brewing between regulators and technology companies, specifically about breaking up the tech titans. A Joe Biden victory could firmly set the scene for that, with the Democrats likely to build on the antitrust lawsuit launched by the US Justice Department against Google, claiming the $US1 trillion ($1.4 trillion) company uses its market power to squeeze out competition.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey (left), Google CEO Sundar Pichai (centre) and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey (left), Google CEO Sundar Pichai (centre) and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.Credit:AP

The antitrust issue has started to gain bipartisan support and according to tech pundit and outspoken academic Scott Galloway, breaking up Big Tech is a no-brainer.

“The best investment our governments in western economies can make is to radically overfund our regulatory bodies,” he says.

“What we have here in the US is that we have a small number of companies that have overrun the government … these companies have blown by every traditional metric when it comes to concentration of power.”

Galloway is an avowed critic of Big Tech but he reckons any conversation on breaking up the technology giants needs to shift its tone from merely punishing these companies.

“We look at this through the lens of whether these companies are good or bad, are these people bad? But that’s the wrong test.

“I think Big Tech is a net good for society, but the problem with the word net is that fossil fuels are a net good for society but we still have emissions standards, pesticides are a net good for society but we have regulations.

“With Big Tech we have made a decision that it’s good for society and then decided to do nothing, that’s not the right approach,” he says.

For all the good they do, the market power of Big Tech is stifling competition. The fastest sector of the US economy is technology (search, social, software, hardware) and reform rather than punishment may yield better results.

Reform needs nuance and that’s something a Biden administration, at least on paper, seems to have more in store. While the idea of being broken up won’t be palatable to those in charge of the tech giants, a Biden win does bring potential relief on other fronts – from securing a talented global workforce to the return of a more stable relationship with China.

For Galloway, who’s no fan of the current administration, another term for Trump could actually end up maintaining the Silicon Valley status quo. Bluster and sound bites are one thing, getting Big Tech to follow a new playbook is no mean feat.

According to Galloway, it’s a job that’s beyond Trump’s capabilities.

“Look at the Trump administration’s errant, inconsistent and incompetent approach to technology … it wants to ban TikTok but where’s the legal precedent? Well, we don’t have one we just don’t like it.”

“The administration is like a cat chasing a red light, moving from one thing to the next.

“The odds of a breakup of (Big Tech) is more likely under a more well-funded and thoughtful administration and I think that’s the Biden/Harris administration.”

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Source: Thanks smh.com