The government is getting its antitrust game on this year after leaving it mostly dormant for the better part of two decades, and its sights are set squarely on Big Tech. Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota is leading Congress’s powerful Senate Judiciary antitrust committee. “We’ve got to look at everything when it comes to putting rules in for tech,” she says.
During Congressional antitrust hearings, the term you hear over and over in reference to big tech companies is that they’ve become singular gatekeepers to some of the web’s most crucial services. Google fits the description well; the company has a near-complete lock on pointing people toward the best web content. The Department of Justice has already filed a major suit against Alphabet, which owns Google, after the Federal Trade Commission backed away from suing in 2013.
In recent years, U.S. courts have mainly judged anticompetitive practices through the lens of their direct and immediate effect on consumers. While companies such as Google and Facebook please consumers with free services—supported by data harvesting and ads—they can use their immense size to kill would-be challengers in the crib, thus denying consumers the chance for better services in the future.