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Vince Cable speech: break-up the big tech monopolies

April 19, 2018 6:00 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Vince Cable in Twickenham

He criticised the effective monopolies enjoyed by the likes of Google, Facebook, and Amazon - comparing their market dominance to that of big oil companies in the past - and suggested ways they could be broken up.

"Data is the new oil. Data is the raw material which drives these firms and it is control of data which gives them an advantage over competitors. These companies have acquired their pivotal position by providing a service or platform through which data can be extracted, collected and used.

Just as Standard Oil once cornered 85% of the refined oil market, today Google drives 89% of internet search, 95% of young adults on the internet use a Facebook product, Amazon accounts for 75% of E-book sales, while Google and Apple combined provide 99% of mobile operating systems.

National government and, even more so, supranational bodies like the EU can and should look to break up enterprises where size is detrimental to the economic well-being of the country, its citizens and its capacity for innovation.

There is a case for splitting Amazon into three separate businesses - one offering cloud computing, one acting as a general retailer and one offering a third-party marketplace. Other examples would be Facebook being forced to divest itself of Instagram and WhatsApp as a condition for operating in the EU, creating two new social media networks. Divesting Google of YouTube would be another.

What is striking that the most effective competition authority in the capitalist world - the European Commission - is probably the only body with the clout to take these decisions. The UK could quite obviously never do it alone.

Britain commits an act of serious self-harm by doggedly setting itself apart from the power of shared sovereignty with our neighbours.

When it comes to regulating the growth industry of this century - data - Brexit will be like giving up shared influence over where, when and whether it rains, in return for absolute power over a compact umbrella."

Download the full speech here