The sheer scale and speed of their success has stoked concerns about seemingly boundless power and influence. Sixteenth-century monarchs accustomed to wrestling with their overmighty subjects — uppity barons, conniving dukes, or sermonising priests — would have sympathy for politicians trying to tame these digital empires.
The uneasy rulers will just as readily point out that the overmighty subjects control companies that spread malicious falsehoods, undermine democracy, trample rudely on competitors and manipulate pricing while scouring the world for friendly tax jurisdictions. Politicians who, in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, decided that some banks were too big to fail are now of the mind that some tech companies are too big to stomach.
Social media has accelerated the divisions across societies. The cynic in me realises it can’t be either split or shut down (barring a determined protracted legal progress), while the realist in me understands that a competitive platform should replace the status quo. It is more problematic when the big tech wants to step into healthcare to “fix” it. For those dabbling in economics, it will be a fascinating battle of the monopolies, while those in the legal field will probably appreciate the regulators’ muscle being flexed.
The end consumer will suffer at the altar of promise of “better services” or promise of personalised medicine.