Big Tech finally feeling the pressure – but what’s next?

pressure on big tech
Image by oleandra | Bigstockphoto

Big Tech seems to be bowing to inevitable pressure. Governments worldwide are taking tougher and tougher stances when it comes to curbing the power of companies that are the size of an average country.

China has taken a swift and draconian swipe at Big Tech, ensuring it has them under the thumb, either by mandated investment by state-owned companies or by tightening the rules and raising the fines to the point that companies are cleaning up their own practices before they are caught.

If the aim is to curb Big Tech, the first hit goes to the Chinese Government.

Other countries are rolling up their sleeves, ready for a fight.

Australia made Facebook and Google share revenue with publishers (and then ruled that publishers are responsible for comments on their Facebook pages).

The EU and UK are getting increasingly tough on taxes that Big Tech have been avoiding for many years. Ireland and the EU have imposed fines on some companies that actually hurt (so far, fines have been pretty pitiful compared to revenues). That seems to be changing, and even the UK Prime Minister has been talking with Mr Bezos about Amazon and tax.

In the US, States are shuffling to get behind initiatives to curb the power of Big Tech. The new heads of the FCC and the FTC are aware that the rules need to be rewritten for the digital age and have been leading the thinking and the changes.

Big Tech is still capable of fighting back, but it looks more and more like a rear-guard action.

Twitter and Facebook still face off with the Indian Government, taking matters into their own hands and blocking accounts. Facebook famously blocked Donald Trump’s account, as did Twitter. And Facebook cut Australia off for a while in protest against the Government’s revenue-sharing plan.

Not only are there massive forces at work. The foundations of democracy – free speech, for example – seem to be at stake, but if Governments succeed in curbing the power of Big Tech, what happens then.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of well-funded Unicorns out there, waiting for the perfect opportunity to do their own bit of disruption, re-organisation and new dominance.

Governments need to be aware that curbing today’s Big Tech is the easy bit. Defining rules for tomorrow’s Big Tech must be the real goal; otherwise, it will be a pointless, if profitable, exercise.

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