Noah Smith column: Breaking apart Fb will not resolve the issue | Columnists

There are actually some theoretical economic reasons for breaking up large tech companies. Forced dropouts could be good news for startups, some research shows. You could also increase competition for advertising dollars and lower the prices of ads for other businesses.

However, it is unlikely that these are the main reasons authorities are trying to put Google and Facebook down. That’s because both search and social networks are likely to be natural monopolies, which means a business tends to crowd out rivals.

If Google is forced to outsource Android, the search monopoly will likely not be broken. This was the experience of Europe when it won an antitrust case against the company. Facebook and Instagram could probably survive as separate social networks for a while, but at some point everyone would want to connect with everyone else on one platform.

A simpler explanation is that forced breakups are a raw power game. Some political leaders believe that companies like Facebook and Google have managed to put themselves above the rest of society, including the government. They are paranoid that Google is playing around with search results for political purposes and that Facebook is suppressing messages to help the opposition.

This seems to reflect a deeper fear – the fear that companies, not government, are now the front runner.

Governments don’t like it when someone else comes out on top. Basically, these are organizations that were formed specifically for the purpose of maintaining a monopoly of violence, and this DNA makes them very anxious if another unit gives the impression that it may be overwhelming them.

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