The future of big tech monopolies

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Big tech monopolies seem to be getting a little too big for their boots. From no deposit mobile casino games to smart home robots, the future of big tech is controlled by a handful of corporate juggernauts, tech giants like Amazon that have little to no external oversight.

For many years, monopolistic companies have taken full advantage of a distinct lack of regulation in the tech industry, low public awareness levels, and loopholes in international law. However, if recent news developments are anything to go by, it appears that these issues have finally caught the attention of governments and the general public.

Around the world, the combination of global communication and public outcry has given rise to several legislative changes. These changes prioritise consumer rights and market freedom and are made to protect the consumer, promote a competitive market, and prevent unsolicited access to personal information.

Changing tides

Many countries realise the dangers posed by companies like Alphabet, Amazon, and Facebook. In the US, for example, President Joe Biden issued an executive order in July of last year. The order was made to promote competition in all sectors of the US economy, but it also calls out big tech companies specifically. 

According to Biden’s executive order, big tech firms have used their power and influence to stifle market growth, obtain monopoly profits, and exploit private user information. The tech companies in question harvest vast amounts of data on users, manipulate consumers for profit, and have failed to self-regulate; despite years of promises about responsible data gathering and transparent business practises.

Compared to most industries, the tech sector is fairly young in terms of regulatory standards, which is why monopolistic behaviours have gone on for as long as they have. Whilst many financial experts see monopolies as a natural consequence of capitalism, most would agree that balanced regulation will counter the majority of exploitative practises used by the tech monopolies of today.

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Time is of the essence

The question is, are we doing enough to counter monopolistic tendencies? If anything, this situation proves that free markets will always need some degree of regulation, regardless of whether it’s tech-related or not. One has to strike a balance, though, as too much regulation will restrict free trade, while too little of it leads to the monopolies we find ourselves faced with today.

Enforcing antitrust laws and policing digital space might seem extreme to some, but it can hardly be described as a knee-jerk reaction. It’s fairly self-evident that big tech companies are unable to police themselves, no matter how positive their public image may be. We need external enforcement and increased public awareness, both of which are only possible with legal intervention.

Continuing with the US as our example, increased public pressure regarding antitrust policies is what led to Biden’s executive order. Even private businesses have been motivated by the sheer volume of public outcry, filing multiple lawsuits against monopolies in the last couple of years.

Consumers are the ones who are most affected by a lack of regulation, which is why it’s the public’s collective responsibility to bring monopolistic practises to the attention of authorities. If you’re in doubt as to the efficacy of a public-oriented antitrust campaign, look no further than the recent right-to-repair movement – a global issue that has led to the enactment of several examples of pro-consumer legislation.

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The next step

Dismantling a monopoly in any industry is no easy task. In the case of big tech monopolies, it will take a combination of three objectives: halting anti-competitive practises, reframing the sanctity of personal information, and increasing public interest to a level where antitrust policies are made a priority.

Very few countries have managed to achieve more than one of the aforementioned objectives. In South Africa, for instance, the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act was passed into law in early 2013. However, public interest in antitrust policies declined in subsequent years, leading to a rise in anti-competitive acquisitions and mergers.

South Africa is but one example of the complexity that lies behind antitrust issues and big tech monopolies. As with most problems, it will take a combination of government, consumers, and the general public to solve these issues. The sooner we get started, the quicker these monopolies will adhere to fair business practises. Our privacy and wellbeing are on the line, and we need to act swiftly to rectify the current situation in a timely manner.