Google and Facebook are not alone in being toe to toe with Governments and Regulators around the world, but it just seems that Apple is a bit too shiny to take a swipe at and Amazon is a little too scary.
For a long time, it seemed that the Big Four tech giants were immortal but recently the pressure on them has been mounting and shows no sign of letting up.
The focus recently has been on the high-profile antitrust battle in the US. The report was damning of the Big Four and the recommendations would be sure to knock them back pretty hard. The companies should not be allowed to do compete with other companies, on platforms that they own (such as app stores). The companies are completely dominant and must be split up. Competitors do not stand a chance etc.
Of course, the reactions from all four has been swift and predictable. Facebook’s success is the ultimate American success story, as American as apple pie. Cut Google, says Google, and America bleeds. Apple pushes the story that, but for their App Store, thousands of app developers would never have seen the light of day. The theme is the same. These companies are success stories in a competitive world and they actually support innovation and competition. Of course.
It must be remembered that the US case is high profile but there are a lot of countries trying similar things. Google just notched up its fourth antitrust suit in India, Australia has become a battleground for who and how news gets paid for and China is looking at an antitrust suit against Google over Android.
Just go to a tech website, such as Disruptive.Asia, or someone like TechCrunch and put ‘Google Antitrust’ into the search bar. Pages of stories will come up, from all over the world. Endless stories of Governments and Regulators going up against the Big Four, possibly more against Google and Facebook, and taking them on.
Of course, the tale does not begin and end with antitrust cases.
Do the same exercise and search for ‘Facebook Tax’ and you find numerous stories of Government after Government, trading block after trading block trying to get Google and Facebook, Apple and Amazon to pay fair taxes on the sales they make in the country they make them in.
Now, 140 countries have written to the G20 demanding that something is done and that the Big Four play fair with their tax bills.
Until recently we may have shrugged this struggle off. We may have secretly thought that the Big Four are too big to be hobbled and tamed by mere Governments.
But the pressure on these companies is now global and not just about size and tax. They are under huge pressure to govern their own ecosystems and guard customers from fake or extremist news.
Whatever the ultimate outcome, it is safe to say that Google and Facebook, Apple and Amazon are now under more intense pressure than ever as Governments get bolder and more confident that they can effect real change.