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Technology giants made a killing during covid-19 in terms of revenue, but they found the going hard in other respects
Technology giants made a killing during covid-19 in terms of revenue, but they found the going hard in other respects

Giants’ antitrust battle will shape the future of tech

Technology giants made a killing during covid-19 in terms of revenue, but they found the going hard in other respects. The US government filed multiple antitrust cases against Google and Facebook in the last few months of 2020, which could shape the future of tech worldwide.

Technology giants made a killing during covid-19 in terms of revenue, but they found the going hard in other respects. The US government filed multiple antitrust cases against Google and Facebook in the last few months of 2020, which could shape the future of tech worldwide.

What has Facebook been accused of?

The US government’s case against Facebook is over its acquisition of photo-sharing and messaging giants Instagram and WhatsApp. The suit accuses Facebook of anti-competitive behaviour and stifling competition to “maintain its monopoly". In fact, Ian Conner, the director of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Bureau of Competition said the regulator aims to “roll back Facebook’s anticompetitive conduct and restore competition", which means they want to break up Facebook from Instagram, WhatsApp and keep them from sharing data and using the power of these platforms to create bigger platforms.

What allegations are levied against Google?

Google faces three antitrust cases in the US accusing the company of anti-competitive behaviour and targeting its core business — digital advertising and Google Search. The cases against Google allege that the company’s deal with Apple, Samsung, etc to become the default search engine on their devices broke competition laws. The cases also allege that Google has abused its dominance with Android to pressure device makers to preload Google apps on smartphones. The lawsuits essentially involve the larger accusation of consumers being forced to use Google rather than choosing to do so.

Looming monopoly
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Looming monopoly

What have these two tech giants said in their defence?

Google and Facebook have both denied these allegations. Both say that consumers choose to use avail their services. In a 42-page filing last week, Google said it has developed, innovated and promoted its product so people use it. Facebook, on the other hand, said regulators cannot unwind the Instagram and WhatsApp deals now, having failed to do so during signing.

Will regulators be able to break up Big Tech?

Experts on both sides of the aisle believe these cases won’t break up Facebook and Google. In fact, ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who was involved during its antitrust battle against regulators about 20 years ago, said he’s willing to “bet money" that these giants won’t be broken up. Experts say these cases will, at the very least, set new standards for the market. While regulators weren’t able to break up Microsoft 20 years ago, many say it made the company more careful and may even have paved the way for others to surpass it.

What is India’s stance in this matter?

The Competition Commission of India has multiple antitrust cases against Google. It also dismissed a case against WhatsApp Pay in India. The CCI had fined Google for abusing its dominance earlier. That said, while governments globally care more about consumer privacy and free markets, experts say the Centre’s regulations may be based on data nationalism. The focus here is to keep these firms within the ambit of Indian law and give the government more powers to regulate them and keep them from overwhelming small players.

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