New York Times Op-Ed Contributor: Time Has Come for Honest Conversation About Digital Monopolies

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A Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee hearing on the proposed merger of AT&T and Time Warner prompted a December 13 opinion piece in the New York Times by Jonathan Taplin, author of the book Move Fast and Break Things: How Google, Facebook, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy (Little, Brown). The op-ed called into question the market dominance of Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon, especially in comparison to an AT&T–Time Warner merger.

The op-ed refers to a comment made at the subcommittee hearing by Mark Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks owner and Internet entrepreneur, who noted that the truly dominant companies in media distribution these days are Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon. “Facebook is without question in a dominant position, if not the dominant position, for content delivery,” Cuban said at the hearing.

“The proposed merger of AT&T and Time Warner has drawn censure from both sides of the political aisle, as well as a Senate hearing that looked into the potential for the combined company to become a monopoly,” Taplin wrote. “But if we are going to examine media monopolies, we should look first at Silicon Valley, not the fading phone business.”

Taplin notes that Google and Facebook achieve huge net profit margins by dominating the content made available on the Internet while making very little of the content themselves. “The rise of these digital giants is directly connected to the fall of the creative industries of our country,” he wrote.

“In the past decade, an enormous reallocation of revenue of perhaps $50 billion a year has taken place, with economic value moving from creators of content to owners of monopoly platforms.”

Regulators should take a good look at the AT&T–Time Warner merger, Taplin argues, and he agrees with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who noted at the subcommittee hearing that there should also be hearings on Alphabet (Google’s parent company) and Facebook. Taplin concludes with the hope that “perhaps in January we can have an honest national conversation on monopoly and our future.”