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Vince Cable Speech: A Call to Break-up the Big Tech Monopolies

May 20, 2018 12:55 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Vince Cable in Twickenham

Vince Cable has criticised the effective monopolies enjoyed by the likes of Google, Facebook, and Amazon - comparing their market dominance to that of big oil companies in the past - and suggested ways they could be broken up.

"Data is the new oil. Data is the raw material which drives these firms and it is control of data which gives them an advantage over competitors. These companies have acquired their pivotal position by providing a service or platform through which data can be extracted, collected and used.

Just as Standard Oil once cornered 85% of the refined oil market back then, today Google drives 89% of internet search, 95% of young adults on the internet use a Facebook product, Amazon accounts for 75% of E-book sales, while Google and Apple combined provide 99% of mobile operating systems.

National government and, even more so, supranational bodies like the EU can and should look to break up enterprises where size is detrimental to the economic well-being of the country, its citizens and its capacity for innovation.

There is a case for splitting Amazon into three separate businesses - one offering cloud computing, one acting as a general retailer and one offering a third-party marketplace. Other examples would be Facebook being forced to divest itself of Instagram and WhatsApp as a condition for operating in the EU, creating two new social media networks. Divesting Google of YouTube would be another.

What is striking that the most effective competition authority in the capitalist world - the European Commission - is probably the only body with the clout to take these decisions. The UK could quite obviously never do it alone.

Britain commits an act of serious self-harm by doggedly setting itself apart from the power of shared sovereignty with our neighbours.

When it comes to regulating the growth industry of this century - data - Brexit will be like giving up shared influence over where, when and whether it rains, in return for absolute power over a compact umbrella."

Local Lib Dem activist, Nick Hollinghurst, commented,

"This might at last lead to some sensible taxing of the vast profits these companies make. I feel it is only fair that they pay fair taxes on the profits they make in the countries where they trade. These profits are only possible because they are trading in well-ordered countries with high levels of physical, social and legislative infrastructures. These are expensive to maintain and it is only right that these mega corporations should contribute to such costs. They are manifestly not paying their fair share at the moment."

Download Vince's full speech here