Antiquated Antitrust Laws

After all the investigations into whether Russia interfered in our elections, and whether the ads Russia ran on Facebook had any affect, a far more profound question hardly came up: If Facebook can influence an election, isn’t this an issue of equal concern as outside influence? And how about Google and other popular online enterprises? Can they also influence public attitudes?

As of June 2019, Google had 88% of the U.S. search engine market share. Yahoo came in a not even a close second at around 6.45 percent.

Microsoft’s Bing had a mere 4.1 percent share.

Facebook had 52% of the U.S. social media market share in December 2018. It’s closest competitor, Pinterest, had only 28%.

The enormous potential of online services to influence the public is unsettling enough. But when you add to that the well-known fact that many of these services are Left-leaning, it becomes downright disturbing.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, “Congress passed the first antitrust law, the Sherman Act, in 1890, as a ‘comprehensive charter of economic liberty aimed at preserving free and unfettered competition as the rule of trade.'”

The antitrust laws objective is “to protect the process of competition for the benefit of consumers, making sure there are strong incentives for businesses to operate efficiently… The Sherman Act outlaws any ‘monopolization, attempted monopolization, or conspiracy or combination to monopolize.'”

In the past, monopolization of a market would often be the result of the merger of large companies or price-fixing by several companies. And in some case it would take more than one generation.

In 1974 the United States Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit against AT&T, which was the sole provider of telephone service in most of the U.S., and most telephonic equipment in the United States was produced by its subsidiary, Western Electric. As a result of the lawsuit, AT&T was broken up into more than one company.

In today’s cyber world a company go grow into a behemoth in less than one generation. And, although they may not necessarily have gotten that big out of unfair competition, there are some well-known cases of these companies — Facebook and Google, among them — having political slants that steer people to their point of view. This in itself may not be illegal. But when a company is of such a humongous in size, this should be of concern.

If we have laws protecting fair competition, shouldn’t we have laws protecting the most important aspect of a free society — fair elections?

What’s more, these huge online services also have the power to put people out of business or in business. All they have to do is shut down the account of someone who may have millions of customers or followers; this would put this company or person out of business and move their competitors up a few notches, or perhaps even to the top. And there is very little legal recourse for a company or individual who may have been shut down unjustly.

These huge online companies currently work with almost no government oversight. Such unprecedented power needs to be closely regulated. Ideally, companies of the size and influence of Google and Facebook should be split into smaller companies, each serving smaller sections of the U.S. Without such competitive resources, consumers and voters are at the mercy of the whim of companies pushing their own agenda and fairness not necessarily being their highest priority.