by Eric Payne
This past June, the House Judiciary Committee passed six crucial antitrust bills. This bipartisan package would regulate Big Tech monopolies like Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple. These companies took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic and profited from efforts to delegitimize the 2020 presidential election.
In the first six months of the pandemic, nearly 20,000 of Amazon’s essential workers contracted COVID-19 on the job. Instead of investing Amazon’s profits in personal protective equipment for its workers, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos pocketed $86 billion, making him the first person in the world with a net worth over $200 billion.
Google is similarly inclined to squeeze profits out of chaos, as its near-monopoly on the search and digital advertising markets gives the company a financial incentive to promote all content, even that which is dangerous. For instance, Google subsidiary YouTube received revenue from hosting viral conspiracy videos on its platform. These videos included “Stop the Steal” propaganda that influenced thousands of Trump supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. This is disgraceful behavior and undermines our democracy.
While studying Economics at James Madison University, I learned of market failures and the danger of unfettered monopolies. The most significant concerns were monopolistic companies deriving unfair profit margins at the expense of consumers and other businesses. In our digital economy, not only are excessive profit margins the norm, but these companies also control what we see and hear every day. Rarely, if ever, in our nation’s history has so much vital information and services been controlled by so few.
High-tech companies have a large presence in Virginia. For example, Amazon has tens of thousands of employees throughout Virginia and has pledged to invest billions and hire tens of thousands of employees for its headquarters in Arlington. It would be easy for our elected officials to give them a pass for their anti-competitive practices. That would be a mistake.
Congress now has the chance to hold tech monopolies like Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Apple accountable for their actions and reestablish a fairer and less dangerous digital environment. The House must pass the antitrust package advanced by the House Judiciary Committee.