Big Tech and Amazon: too powerful to break up?

While Google, Facebook and Twitter are set for a grilling in Congress over Russia, it is the online retailer that is drawing intense scrutiny.

The Financial Times
Financial Times
Published in
10 min readOct 30, 2017

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Jeff Bezos, chief executive officer of Amazon, arrives for the third day of the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 13, 2017 in Sun Valley, Idaho — Drew Angerer/Getty Images

By David Lynch

Amazon executives will not be present on Tuesday when three other major internet companies endure a grilling before Congress. But it may just be a matter of time before Washington’s new appetite for regulating the digital economy reaches the e-commerce giant.

Lawyers for Google, Facebook and Twitter will occupy this week’s spotlight in front of the Senate intelligence and judiciary committees, which are probing the companies’ unwitting role in Russia’s 2016 election meddling. Already, there is talk of legislation requiring them to disclose more about their operations.

The controversy over the industry’s dissemination of Russian “fake news” highlights a broader souring of attitudes toward the online platforms, triggered by unease over their sheer size and power, which spans the political spectrum. From progressives like Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts senators, to Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, who runs the nationalist media site Breitbart, there is growing support for reining in, or even breaking up, the digital groups that dominate the US economy.

“The worm has turned,” says Scott Galloway, a marketing professor at New York University and author of The Four: the Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. “No doubt about it.”

Though unaffected by the Russia allegations Amazon — whose $136bn in revenues last year topped the combined sales of Google parent Alphabet and Facebook — is a target of demands for more assertive antitrust enforcement. Its dominance has also raised questions about whether existing legislation needs to be rewritten for the internet age.

The online retailer’s relentless expansion into new businesses, including groceries and small business lending, and its control of data on the millions of third-party vendors that use its sales platform, warehouses and delivery services, have some analysts likening it to a 21st century version of the corporate trusts such as Standard Oil that throttled…

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