The U.S. House Judiciary Committee has begun an investigation into “big tech” and how they affect the marketplace—companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter and how they influence and impact the news industry and misinformation. The Judiciary Committee is not alone in its concerns over these big tech companies, the Federal Trade Commission, Department of Justice, and several state’s attorneys are also investigating these tech giants for various reasons, including data privacy, and consumer interests.

SEPTEMBER 17, 2017: Photo of Social media icons and logos—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Youtube, Google—and others on a computer monitor screen (Shutterstock.com)

The bipartisan investigation heard from news media associations and other groups Tuesday, as reported by USA Today.  Some witnesses in attendance included David Chavern of News Media Alliance, representing some 2,000 newspapers.

Other witnesses included Kevin Riley, editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, David Pitofsky, general counsel of News Corp, and Sally Hubbard of the Open Markets Institute. 

U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D – R.I.), the chairman of the committee, said in an exclusive interview with CNBC,

“The purpose of the investigation is to look at the digital marketplace broadly. These are very large technology platforms that have tremendous market dominance, and we are looking at, will be looking at how the markets are working, and what does Congress need to do to respond to these deep concentrations of economic power. We’re concerned about anti-competitive behavior, we’re concerned about ‘taking over rivals,’ we’re concerned about a blatant disregard for privacy, and ensuring consumers have control over their data. Look, these are huge monopolies or duopolies, and we want to make sure we are doing everything we can to make these markets work. We all benefit from competition, and these are markets not working properly. We’re in this very serious monopoly moment, and this investigation is going to give us an opportunity to collect the best information, the best data, hear from the best experts in this area, as we think about what is the right way to get these markets working properly.”

File photo: U.S. Rep. David Cicilline celebrates his impressive win in the midterm elections at the Providence Biltmore. (Shutterstock.com)

Cicilline said the investigation will not focus on any tech company in particular but will determine if companies are stifling competition and harming consumers.

The Judiciary Committee investigation is just one of many, at the moment, and even President Trump has had issues with “big tech” and censorship issues. The White House has even launched a social media complaint website to hear the stories of censorship, against American citizens. 

According to The Daily Caller News Foundation, Trump discussed antitrust actions against Silicon Valley giants during a November interview with Axios.

“I do have a lot of people talking about monopoly when they mention those three in particular,” Trump said, referring to Google, Facebook, and Amazon. He continued, “We are looking at [antitrust] very seriously … Look, that doesn’t mean we’re doing it, but we’re certainly looking and I think most people surmise that, I would imagine.”

New technology will overtake older technology, and it is not monopolizing, it is not a conspiracy, it is the nature of innovation to replace older, slower means of production and communication.

There is always a tug-of-war between old technologies and new technologies as the new technology tries to find its place in the marketplace.

Technology has been changing the marketplace for the decades. One of tech’s bigger upsets was when Netflix and its internet-based movie rental model, directly or indirectly caused the end of Blockbuster, who had been around for 34 years, according to a 2011 Forbes article. https://www.forbes.com/2010/05/18/blockbuster-netflix-coinstar-markets-bankruptcy-coinstar_slide.html#66a446025464

At the company’s highest point, it had over 9,500 stores, and as Engadget reported in March 2019 there is one store left in Oregon. 

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“Big Tech” is not very old, and it’s growing so quickly and in various directions at the same time. It is not clear how to proceed with them, are they platforms, are they publishers, are they media companies?

With this investigation collecting data, interviewing experts and studying the evidence collected the process of making recommendations.

What those might be, we are not clear yet what direction the information will take the committee, but with information, expert opinion, and consensus, these tech companies might have to make some changes that will benefit consumers, benefit business, and make these companies more transparent.