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Wednesday’s tech titan congressional hearing was an important milestone.
That’s because technology is as crucial to modernity as electricity and water. It connects the nation like broadband, television, radio, or the railroad system of an earlier era. Yet leading companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon are so big and so unregulated that they can stifle competition and have enormous power over public life.
The regulatory concerns about these four companies are distinct and Congress will need a complex but specific arsenal of rules to address consumer and market concerns. Yet the companies’ size and swagger present similar problems. Together, they are worth trillions of dollars. They are large enough to bully smaller companies, as Google tried to do with lyric website Genius, or simply absorb potential competitors, as Facebook did with Instagram. Like Amazon, they can leverage their own size, making upstart challenges impossible and undercutting other retailers. And Amazon’s dominance over the cloud data storage business is enormous. Collectively, the tech giants hold the keys that people all over the world need to gain access to the online world, be it Apple’s iPhone or a Google search.
All that centralized and too-little-examined power is particularly …
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