It’s Time to Break Up Big Tech: Here’s How to Do It

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Four" by Scott Galloway. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Are Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google monopolies? How can competition be encouraged?

In The Four, entrepreneur and marketing professor Scott Galloway takes a close look at four technology companies that dominate the modern marketplace: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google (the “Four”). He makes the case that it’s time for the law to treat them as monopolies.

Keep reading for Galloway’s idea on how to break up Big Tech.

Breaking Up Big Tech

Galloway says that the Four’s unchecked size and power, along with their negative effects on the economy—job destruction, tax avoidance, privacy and national security issues, and efforts to eliminate competition—all make the case for treating the Four like monopolies and breaking them up to allow other companies the opportunity to compete.

He claims that one way to break up Big Tech is by suing the Four in antitrust lawsuits alleging that they take advantage of their outsized market power to engage in illegal, anticompetitive practices. This could force them to sell off their subsidiaries, creating smaller companies. 

Galloway contends that antitrust lawsuits can lead to strong markets, increased competition, and a larger middle class. For example, in 1998, the federal government sued Microsoft for anticompetitive practices because Microsoft was using Windows to improperly promote its own search engine (Internet Explorer) over Netscape’s search engine. The lawsuit resulted in a settlement agreement in which Microsoft agreed to curb its monopolistic practices, leading to increased competition and arguably allowing Google to enter the market.

(Shortform note: Some critics argue that the Microsoft settlement actually did little to curb the company’s monopolistic behavior. They contend that Microsoft continued to use its dominant market position to stifle competition and innovative technology, despite the fines and other penalties imposed on it by the government.)

Galloway concludes that breaking up Big Tech would allow new companies to enter the market and smaller and midsize companies to grow. It would create more jobs and shareholder value and would broaden the tax base.

Efforts to Break Up or Regulate Big Tech

Since The Four was published, the FTC has in fact filed an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook in an attempt to do exactly what Galloway advocates: Break the company up. The FTC alleges in its 2021 complaint that Facebook unlawfully acquired smaller competitors with the intent to crush them. The suit could force Facebook to sell off acquisitions like Instagram and WhatsApp. 

In addition, US lawmakers have introduced first-of-its-kind legislation to regulate Big Tech. While it wouldn’t break up Big Tech companies, the 2022 bill—dubbed the American Innovation and Choice Act—would make it illegal for the Four and other large tech firms to give preferential treatment to their own products and services. It would prevent them from steering consumers to their in-house products instead of competitors’ offerings in any manner that could be seen as stifling competition.

For example, under the bill, Amazon could no longer feature its own brand at the top of product search results, and a Google search could no longer favor its own family of products like Google Places. Big Tech would also be prohibited from limiting their rivals’ access to their platforms, and companies like Apple and Google might not be able to pre-install their own apps on smartphones.
It’s Time to Break Up Big Tech: Here’s How to Do It

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Scott Galloway's "The Four" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Four summary:

  • A hard look at the success of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google
  • How The Four have had a profound and negative impact on our society
  • How to make it in the cutthroat economy created by The Four

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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