The New Yorker Radio Hour
Will the Government Get Tough on Big Tech?
Jun 14, 2019 · 19 min
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Apple, Amazon, Alphabet (which owns Google), and Facebook—known in the tech world as the Big Four—are among the largest and most profitable companies in the world, and they’ve been accustomed to the laxest of oversight from Washington. But the climate may have shifted in a significant way. The Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, and the House Judiciary Committee are all investigating different aspects of the Big Four; Elizabeth Warren has made breaking up these companies a cornerstone of her Presidential campaign. Sue Halpern, a New Yorker contributor, sounds a cautious note about these developments. Current antitrust law doesn’t well fit the nature of these businesses, and breaking up the companies will not necessarily solve underlying issues, like the lack of privacy law. In a twist, Halpern says, the Big Four and now asking the federal government for more regulation—because, she explains to David Remnick, the companies’ lobbyists can sway Washington more easily than they can influence state governments like California, which just passed a rigorous data-privacy law similar to the European Union’s. “They’re being called to account, they have to do something,” she notes, “but they want to direct the conversation so that, ultimately, they still win.” Plus, we contemplate the dire prospect of Houston without air conditioning. Bryan Washington, a Houston native and a celebrated young fiction writer, introduces non-natives to a cherished local institution: the open-air bar and community space called an ice house.

 

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