Big Tech

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      For years, Congress has talked — with no action — about regulating or even breaking up Big Tech. Now, there appears to be bipartisan support for doing something. The question is: exactly what? I spoke about that with Congressman Ken Buck, the lead Republican on Antitrust issues on the House Judiciary Committee.

      Sharyl: What are some of the things that the big companies have done that you call into question?

      Rep. Ken Buck: So they have crushed competition. I can give you dozens of examples. But they literally have stolen information from competitors and then use their platform— And that's where the real monopoly is, is when you go to Amazon, when you go use Apple, when you are using Facebook or Twitter, those platforms are near monopolies. And so what they've done is they have then rejected or discriminated against the competitor's product and placed their product above that in the searches. And so, they have put competitors out of business or forced them to merge or be acquired by these giant companies.

      Sharyl: What does a regulation sort of a de-monopolization of that industry look like?

      Buck: I see a few things happening. The first thing is I think that the mergers that have occurred 750 mergers occurred in 10 years, mostly during the Obama administration, that were never scrutinized. I think those mergers can be undone. I think that the Instagram merger with Facebook, WatsApp with Facebook, YouTube, with Google, I think all those mergers can be undone. I also think that, when mergers are prohibited, or at least the burden shifts from the government to the company, to the monopoly, to prove that the merger is pro-competitive, as opposed to the government having to prove that it's anti-competitive, I think at that point, you've slowed down the unfair growth of these companies and you allow the, the smaller competitors to grow and compete and gain market share. And I'm not suggesting that other than the merger situation, that, that, that Facebook or Google can be broken up, but I am suggesting that their rapid growth can be slowed and allow competition in the marketplace.

      Sharyl: There have been, I think, dozens of hearings with some of these big tech chiefs - Congress keeps dragging them back in and asking them tough questions, and then nothing seems to happen.

      Buck: Number one, these companies have decided in, in a very rational decision to co-opt both the conservative movement and the liberal movement, they have spent a lot of money in Washington, DC and around the country to donate to foundations that would, in some ways be the gatekeepers of information or conduct private oversight. And so they have influenced much of what we would think of as oversight. They've also spent a lot of money on politicians in this town, and it's one of the reasons why I have a pledge to not take money from the five monopoly platforms signed by 10, 12 of my colleagues, but not signed by 400 or so other colleagues. And so I think it's really important that we walk away from that kind of money in this town, but they, they have been very influential and they have been very strategic in how they've gone about it.

      Sharyl: It seems like both political parties want somewhat different things out of Big Tech if it comes to changes. For example, Republicans may want less restriction of information. Some Democrats have expressed that they want more control of information that they deem to be harmful or bad.

      Buck: It's incredible to me that this has been as bipartisan as it has. And, and I think it's a great observation: It's been bi-partisan for much different reasons, but it's still been bipartisan. Democrats have a “big is bad” attitude, that any company that gets to a certain size should be punished in some way. Republicans have concerns with privacy laws. They have concerns with competition in the marketplace, the old Chicago school, the Milton Friedman theories of antitrust come into play with a lot of the Republican thinking. But these two sides have come together in, on Capitol Hill and are moving a lot of legislation forward.

      Sharyl (on-camera): A big Google critic was recently named to a top Justice Department antitrust post. However, there are many who insist the government should leave Big Tech — as offensive as it may sometimes be — alone.