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Power of tech companies should be kept in check

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The ever-increasing dominance of tech companies – specifically Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Alphabet, the parent company of Google – has made everyday life simultaneously more efficient and more unstable. The antitrust laws of yesteryear seem to have fallen by the wayside as these five companies accrue wealth, power, and influence over the lives of ordinary people.

The increasingly complex and vast reach of these companies is troubling for the welfare of our nation. Enormous multinationals have exactly one thing driving their actions: profit. In the quest for expansion, the Big Five tech companies accumulate vast amounts of highly sensitive data, and the problems associated with unchecked growth may be more pressing than many would imagine.

For example, consider the role of Facebook in the 2016 presidential campaign. During the campaign season, Facebook was admonished for its role in propagating ‘fake news’ and further polarizing Americans. Critics accused Facebook of creating ‘echo chambers’ in which users could have their beliefs validated without ever experiencing opposing viewpoints. Recently, the site has admitted to the news media that up to $150,000 in political ads were purchased by Russian operatives posing as Americans on its site. The results of these actions may or may not have swayed the election, but sketchy details are still emerging, raising questions about the specific nature of the use of Facebook for politically devious purposes. While Republicans search for evidence of voter fraud to vindicate their wild accusations and allegations, one culprit exists  in election tampering which we can easily identify – Facebook.

In a similar way, the power of Alphabet is both astounding and suspicious. The European Union’s second-highest court is considering an appeal made by Google against its ruling that the company violated antitrust laws there. A similar legal challenge would be almost unthinkable in the United States, where the company owns about 63% of the market share in search engine technology. Amazon owns about 43% of the market in online retail sales. With its purchase of the Whole Foods grocery store chain, this dominance seems to be only increasing.

Take a moment to stop and think about just how much each of these companies affects your daily life. If just one of them were to suddenly disappear, how would your life be changed? Regardless of which company evaporated, you would almost certainly notice. A recent New York Times article asked readers to vote on the order in which they would abandon each of these five companies if forced by some magical internet troll, and it is a fun thought exercise with a slightly disturbing underlying message – each one has a major impact on the everyday life of most Americans.

Perhaps there is some lesson to be learned about relying too much on technology. The real issue, however, lies in the all-but-unchecked power these companies are able to exert. It is an issue that will only deepen over time, unless the United States government takes steps to limit their authority.

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Power of tech companies should be kept in check