Calls to break-up Big Tech grow louder. In recent weeks Chris Hughes, Facebook's co-founder, argued in a New York Times oped that it's time to break up Facebook and The Wall Street Journal published a piece titled: "Amazon's size is becoming a problem for Amazon."
Elizabeth Warren, the US Democratic presidential hopeful, is campaigning for the break-up of "too big and too dominant" tech firms. Margrethe Vestager, the European competition commissioner and a contender to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as European Commission president, said that urgent enforcement action was needed in digital markets and that tech firms could be broken up.
Government investigations are multiplying, too. Competition agencies in Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, India, Singapore, South Korea, Turkey and the UK have open Big Tech investigations. The European Commission imposed fines for competition law offences on Google totalling over 8 billion and is investigating both Amazon's and Apple's market practices. In the US, a Federal Trade Commission investigation may force Facebook to put in place new corporate governance arrangements.
Critics say that recent calls by Mark Zuckerberg for greater regulation are a rearguard action. A Wall Street Journal editorial put it this way: "Sooner or later you knew it would happen -- Big tech would invite government regulation to deflect even greater intervention such as an antitrust break-up."
For Ireland, this is an important debate. Our seat on an important EU advisory committee provides a degree of influence on European Commission competition law enforcement. Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google employ around 20,000 people in this country. National interest apart, what can we bring to the debate? Competition law, or "antitrust" in the US, provides a ready legal handle to break up technology firms, proponents for intervention say. "We already have the tools we need to check the domination of Facebook. We just seem to have forgotten about them," according to a New York Times op-ed.