The Trump administration will not try to break up Silicon Valley’s powerful monopolies — Google, Facebook and Amazon.
“I have no hope whatsoever,” said USC dean emeritus Jonathan Taplin, author of the new book, “Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy.”
Taplin describes President Trump as “subservient to” the tech giants, but says President Obama was the same.
“Politicians seem to be over-awed by real billionaires,” Taplin told TheWrap. “I don’t even know if Trump is a real billionaire. But I’m certain Peter Thiel, Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg are real billionaires.”
Google’s market power is being investigated overseas, however.
In the European Union, antitrust regulators are expected to issue a ruling in the next few months whether Google breached EU anti-trust rules and should be fined.
“The EU is pretty much leading that charge,” Taplin said.
EU regulators are looking at three possible anti-trust violations: squeezing out rivals in internet searches, through Google’s Android mobile operating system, and with Google’s “AdSense for Search” platform, which produces search results that include advertising.
Google denies the allegations and says it increased competition.
Taplin believes that U.S. anti-trust regulators would take a second look at Silicon Valley companies if voters were to elect Democratic Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren as president in four years. “She’s made monopoly the core focus of her work,” Taplin said.
“It’s never healthy in a democracy to have such concentrations of private power,” Taplin said. “We have confronted this problem one hundred years ago, and I am pretty confident that a new progressive resistance is at hand.”
Google is more than a search engine, Facebook is more than a social media platform, and Amazon is more than an online book store, Taplin said.
Facebook and Google are actually hugely successful advertising agencies. The two giants are locked in a struggle to sell the most ads based on legalized spying on their users and selling the data to advertisers, Taplin said. “For the moment, Facebook seems to be winning,” Taplin wrote in his book. “Whichever company can accumulate the most data on you can then sell highly pinpointed advertising at the highest price.”
Google and Facebook have disrupted the entertainment and news industries by scooping up most of the advertising revenue, not putting the money back into creating content, and Google’s subsidiary YouTube has not adequately policed pirated works, Taplin said.
In first quarter of last year, 85 cents of every new dollar spent on online advertising was paid to Google or Facebook. “So all providers of content, be they musicians, filmmakers, journalists, or photographers, have to deal with Google or Facebook if they want to attract an audience,” he said.
Taplin has experience in the music and film industries as the former tour manager for Bob Dylan and The Band, and a film producer for Martin Scorsese, Wim Wenders and Gus Van Sant. He penned a New York Times op-ed about his book last month.
The other Silicon Valley monopoly, Amazon, now controls 70 market share of all online new book sales, whether print or digital, Taplin said.
Now Amazon is expanding its reach into all kinds of retail sales
“You look at even fashion retail, Amazon’s making unbelievable strides in that,” Taplin said. “You’re seeing what the effect is on the mass market retails like Sears and K-mart and they are probably going out of business in the next year.”
To dilute the advertising market power of Google and Facebook, Taplin favors a federal privacy law that would require users to affirmatively opt-in to data-mining by online companies — which is key to their online advertising services — instead of the current system of requiring consumers to opt-out.
He also proposes a government-ordered break-up of the Silicon Valley monopolies, as AT&T was broken up, and require the licensing of the companies’ patents for free to “create a whole bunch of new firms.”