Antitrust Charges Against Google Couldn't Come at a Better Time | Opinion

Over the last several days, many news outlets have reported that the U.S. and state attorneys general will soon file antitrust charges against Google. According to the reports, the U.S. Department of Justice effort may amount to one of the most significant federal antitrust actions in 20 years.

While Main Street continues to search for a way out of a very deep hole, mega-tech monstrosities like Amazon, Google and Facebook have been fueling their massive data monopolies and thriving amidst this time of turmoil. Since the March 2020 market lows, all have reached or exceeded their all-time high share prices. In addition to help from Congress, ultra-accommodative Federal Reserve policy has once again sent trillions straight into the pockets of tech executives at the expense of American workers.

What's becoming crystal clear to our citizens and representatives alike is that these conglomerates are primarily growing thanks to unfair, predatory behavior—and not superior execution.

Because they determine how information is disseminated, companies like Google and Facebook now have almost limitless control over the population. Google alone controls over 85 percent of the digital advertising market, while Facebook has a similar stranglehold over social media. This ability to regulate the spread of information and messaging is unlike any in history, yet these companies continue to amass even more power.

Consider their recent actions with respect to censoring free speech. Google and Facebook are repeatedly removing information that counters World Health Organization (WHO) releases related to COVID-19. Now that the WHO has been outed as spreading dubious information and having an uncomfortable relationship with the Chinese Communist Party, this has proven especially concerning.

But the absurdity of this policy hasn't hurt these companies' market shares. As unchecked monopolies, they can act with impunity—and smaller firms that work with them are forced to accept abuses.

Third-party vendors and providers rely on their platforms to conduct business. Amazon, Google and Facebook collect data that informs advertisers and sellers on how to target and market their products. Now that their power has become essentially limitless, they've also begun abusing vendors in disturbing ways.

Google, for example, recently announced it will ban third-party cookies from its Google Chrome browser. Cookies allow advertisers to utilize users' web traffic to more accurately target those users' interests and preferences. With its upcoming change, however, Google will cut out all competition and become the sole gatekeeper of this coveted data.

Marketplaces like Amazon have not behaved any differently. While you can still find independent vendors who use its market, they are increasingly afterthoughts.

Recently, it was credibly alleged that the Seattle-based company stole third-party vendor data to help develop Amazon-branded competitors. Not only does this alleged practice contradict years of public statements denying such tactics, but it also shows that Amazon's real goal is not to be a private marketplace for others. Instead, it seeks to become a supplier of its own user data that it mined from sellers in order to undercut competition.

Additionally, Amazon has been reportedly making support of its vendors more costly and difficult. Sellers now have to pay up to $5,000 per month just to get basic seller support from a representative. Vendors must also now reinvest a larger percentage of earnings into advertising on Amazon search pages just to compete with its private-label brands. It appears that with its private-label brands growing, Amazon now has little use for the small businesses that rely on its platform to profit.

Google headquarters in Silicon Valley
Google headquarters in Silicon Valley Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The tech behemoths claim that this is just a case of free market capitalism prevailing, but that simply isn't true. Take the Google-Apple partnership: When they teamed up to announce COVID-19 tracking software, the public responded with overwhelming displeasure. People don't trust these companies to protect their data, yet their business models are based on collecting it. How could they continue to grow in the face of such opposition?

Because they're not operating in a fair market.

The actions of Big Tech have been so egregious that there is increasingly a bipartisan desire to investigate and prosecute them. Senators ranging from progressive Democrat Elizabeth Warren to conservative Republican Josh Hawley have been calling for investigations and hearings. As the states and federal government begin to team up to file antitrust lawsuits, President Trump tweeted his own disdain for the increasing censorship: "The [a]dministration is working to remedy this illegal situation. Stay tuned, and send names [and] events."

There is a fear that cracking down on Silicon Valley could take a backseat, as it has in the past. We can't let this happen. For the sake of American small businesses and citizens that rely on competition and the free flow of information, Congress must make ending unfair practices by Big Tech a top priority.

Brian Maloney is the co-founder of the Media Equality Project, a conservative watchdog group. Follow him on Twitter at @SScalpings.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.

Antitrust Charges Against Google Couldn't Come at a Better Time | Opinion | Opinion