According to media reports, the Trump White House has drafted an executive order that would open an antitrust investigation into the business practice of some of Silicon Valley’s most prominent firms including Google, Facebook, and Twitter.
The investigation would examine whether online platforms have violated antitrust laws and address online platform bias as well. President Trump has Tweeted his concerns about the potential political bias of some of the nation’s largest social platforms that all lean left.
The federal government has a mixed record of success when it comes to breaking up mega-corporations.
The most famous examples of the government successfully breaking up companies include Rockefeller’s dominant Standard Oil and the 1980s breakup of the AT&T/Bell telephone system.
We are many years, court cases and Trump Tweets away from coming even a 100 miles close to a breakup of any technology or social media company.
However, for the sake of discussion and argument, here is where the federal government could start if they want to breakup some of the biggest tech titans in the world:
1. Require Facebook to sale Instagram and WhatsApp. According to recent reports, Instagram has over 800 million users and WhatsApp has over 1.5 billion. Facebook has over 2 billion users. That is a lot of access to user’s data for Mark Zuckerberg to have.
2. Require Google to sale YouTube. The video sharing website reports nearly 1.8 billion users each month, almost matching Facebook’s 2 billion users.
3. Spinoff Amazon into multiple smaller companies. Possible spinoffs: Twitch.TV, Whole Foods Market, Zappos, and the list could go on.
Of all the tech companies, Twitter is in the best position to not be broken up because the company is smaller than their bigger rivals and the company has not invested as heavily into acquiring other companies. If you want to include Apple on the list, you could require the spinoff of Apple Music or not allow the company to produce original content, but only offer music and TV shows on their apps from third-party producers.
As I said before, we are years away from any potential breakup even becoming a possible reality, but there is no doubt that the tech titans have more influence and control over our lives than prior oligopolies could even imagine.
Instead of antitrust lawsuits and breakups, a quicker and simpler solution may be to pass more regulation that protects user’s privacy and governs more how these firms operate.
Either way, the days of Silicon Valley having a blank check (or unlimited Bitcoin for all of the tech-minded readers) to do what they want is quickly coming to a close.