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Big Tech

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Google, Amazon, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft, the Big Five tech companies

Big Tech, also known as the Tech Giants, are the largest IT companies in the world. The concept of Big Tech is similar to the grouping of dominant companies in other sectors.[1] It generally includes the Big Five tech companies in the United States: Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft.[2][3] It can also include tech companies with high valuations, such as Netflix and Nvidia, or companies outside the IT sector, such as Tesla.[4][5][6] Groupings of these companies include the Big Four (Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta), Big Five (Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, Microsoft), and Magnificent Seven (Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, Microsoft, Nvidia, Tesla). Big Tech can also include Chinese companies such as Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, and Xiaomi (BATX).

Background[edit]

In the 20th century, IBM and Microsoft dominated the IT industry.[7] After the dot-com bubble wiped out most of the Nasdaq Composite stock market index, surviving tech startups expanded their market share and became dominant in their respective markets. The term Big Tech began to appear around 2013, when some economists speculated that a lack of regulation could lead to concentrated market power. The term Big Tech became popular following the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, because access to a large amount of data allowed tech companies to influence their users.[8] The concept of Big Tech is similar to how the largest oil companies were called Big Oil following the 1970s energy crisis, and the largest cigarette producers were called Big Tobacco, as Congress sought to regulate those industries.[1] It is also similar to how, at the turn of the 21st century, the mainstream media became dominated by a small number of corporations called Big Media or the Media Giants.[9]

Membership[edit]

Big Five tech companies[a]
Company Revenue (USD)[10] Profit (USD) Subsidiaries
Alphabet $283 billion $60 billion Google
GV
Waymo
X
Amazon $514 billion $-3 billion Audible
Twitch
Whole Foods
Apple $394 billion $99 billion Beats
Meta $116 billion $23 billion Facebook
Instagram
Reality Labs
WhatsApp
Microsoft $212 billion $73 billion GitHub
LinkedIn
Skype

The Big Five tech companies are dominant players in their respective areas of technology: artificial intelligence, cloud computing, consumer electronics, e-commerce, home automation, online advertising, self-driving cars, social networking, and streaming media. They are among the most valuable public companies.[11][12] In August 2020, the Big Five accounted for nearly a quarter of the S&P 500. In March 2023, Apple and Microsoft accounted for 13 percent of the S&P 500.[13] In February 2024, the combined market capitalization of the Magnificent Seven tech companies exceeded the combined value of every public company in every G20 country except China, Japan, and the United States as a whole.[14]

Big Tech companies are considered among the most prestigious employers in the world.[15][16][17] Specifically, the Big Five are considered structurally and relationally powerful.[18] As such, they have been criticized for creating a new economic order called surveillance capitalism.[19] They serve billions of users,[20] and are able to influence user behavior and control large amounts of user data.[8] Concerns over monopolistic practices have led to antitrust investigations from the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission in the United States,[21][22][23] as well as the European Commission.[24] Commentators have questioned the impact of these companies on privacy, market power, freedom of speech, national security, and law enforcement.[25] In 2019, John Naughton wrote in The Guardian, "It's almost impossible to function without the big five tech giants."[26]

Big Four[edit]

Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, and Meta are commonly referred to as the Big Four. They have also been referred to as The Four, the Gang of Four, and the Four Horsemen.[27][28][29] They were known as GAFA before Facebook changed its name to Meta in 2021.[30] Eric Schmidt, Phil Simon, and Scott Galloway have grouped these companies together based on their ability to create social change. According to Simon and Galloway, this distinguishes them from other Big Tech companies such as Microsoft and IBM.[31][32] In 2011, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt excluded Microsoft from the group, stating, "Microsoft is not driving the consumer revolution in the minds of the consumers."[33][34]

Big Five[edit]

A more inclusive group called the Big Five defines Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft as the tech giants.[35][36][37][38][39] They were known as GAFAM before Facebook changed its name to Meta in 2021.[40] In 2020, the Big Five ranked as the second through sixth most valuable public companies in the world, behind Saudi Aramco.[11]

Magnificent Seven[edit]

A larger group called the Magnificent Seven adds Nvidia and Tesla to the Big Five based on their contributions to the S&P 500 since 2022. In January 2024, the group accounted for 29% of the S&P 500's market capitalization.[41] In 2023, the Magnificent Seven were responsible for almost two thirds of the S&P 500's 24% increase.[42] The group had a 107% return on investment, which analysts credited to the AI boom and Federal Reserve rate cut expectations.[14][43] In February 2024, as the Magnificent Seven approached an unprecedented combined valuation of $13 trillion,[44] Deutsche Bank noted that the Magnificent Seven would constitute the second largest stock market in the world. Deutsche Bank also noted that for non-US G20 countries, only China and Japan had combined public company profits greater than those of the Magnificent Seven.[14]

Some analysts expressed concern that extreme concentration could cause a stock market crash similar to the dot-com bubble or even the Wall Street Crash of 1929.[14] Others believe the Magnificent Seven can continue to outperform other stocks as capital flows into index funds.[42]

Acronyms[edit]

The Big Four or Five tech companies have been referred to in the media as GAFA, GAFAM, MAMAA, and other acronyms.[45] Alphabet, the parent company of Google, may be represented by G in these acronyms, while Meta, the rebranding of Facebook, may be represented by F.[46]

The acronym FANG was coined in 2013 by Jim Cramer, the television host of CNBC's Mad Money, to refer to Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google. Cramer called these companies "totally dominant in their markets".[47] Cramer considered that the four companies were poised to "take a bite out of" the bear market, giving a double meaning to the acronym, according to Cramer's colleague at RealMoney.com, Bob Lang.[47][48][49] Cramer expanded FANG to FAANG in 2017, adding Apple to the other four companies due to its revenues placing it as a potential Fortune 50 company.[50] Following Facebook's name change to Meta Platforms in October 2021, as well as the 2015 creation of Google holding company Alphabet Inc., Cramer suggested replacing FAANG with MAMAA, replacing Netflix with Microsoft because Netflix's valuation had fallen behind the other companies. With Microsoft, these companies were each valued at over $900 billion compared to Netflix's $310 billion.[46] In November 2021, The Motley Fool suggested MANAMANA (a reference to the 1968 song "Mah Nà Mah Nà") as an acronym that stands for Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, Alphabet, Meta, Amazon, Nvidia, and Adobe.[51]

Market dominance[edit]

The 10 largest corporations by market capitalization

The Big Five tech giants have surpassed the market capitalization of Big Oil energy giants such as ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, and Shell. They have also outpaced Big Media companies such as Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, and Comcast by a factor of 10.[52] In 2017, the Big Five had a combined value of over $3.3 trillion, and made up almost half of the Nasdaq 100.[53] In 2017, Elizabeth Warren criticized Big Tech for offering free services to remain more popular than the competition.[54]

Alphabet (Google)[edit]

Google is the leader in online advertising (Google Ads), online search (Google Search), video sharing (YouTube), email (Gmail), web browsers (Google Chrome), web mapping (Google Maps and Waze), mobile operating systems (Android), and cloud storage (Google Drive). Google Cloud Platform is the third most popular cloud computing platform after Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Google and Meta have been called a digital advertising duopoly.[55] Google earns 82% of its revenue and most of its profit from advertising.[56] Alphabet is considered the global leader in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and self-driving cars. In 2019, Google claimed its Sycamore processor had achieved quantum supremacy.[57] In 2021, Alphabet's subsidiary Waymo was the first company to offer public robotaxi service.[58] In January 2020, Alphabet reached $1 trillion in market capitalization for the first time.[59][60]

Amazon[edit]

In 2017, Amazon was the leader in e-commerce with 40.4% market share, cloud computing, with nearly 32% market share, and live streaming with Twitch controlling 75.6% market share.[citation needed] With Amazon Alexa and Amazon Echo, Amazon is also the leader in the area of artificial intelligence-based personal digital assistants and smart speakers (Amazon Echo) with 69% market share followed by Google (Google Nest) at 25% market share. Amazon Web Services made up 59% of Amazon's profit in 2020,[61] and more than half of the company's profit every year since 2014.[62] After Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) was released in 2006, Google developed Google App Engine (now Google Cloud Platform) and Microsoft developed Windows Azure (now Microsoft Azure).[63] After crossing $1 trillion during trading hours once in September 2018 and again in January 2020,[64][65] Amazon closed above $1 trillion for the first time in April 2020.[66] In November 2022, Amazon fell below $1 trillion for the first time since 2020,[67] part of a 51% decline from $1.7 trillion at the beginning of 2022 to $834 billion at the end of the year.[68] By May 2023, Amazon stock was again worth more than $1 trillion.[69]

Apple[edit]

Apple sells consumer electronics, including laptops, smartphones, and smartwatches. Apple shares a duopoly with Google in mobile operating systems, with Apple's iOS controlling 27% market share and Google's Android controlling 72%.[53][70] In August 2018, Apple became the first publicly traded U.S. company in history to reach a market capitalization of $1 trillion.[71][72] In August 2020, Apple became the first publicly traded U.S. company in history to reach a market capitalization of $2 trillion.[73] In January 2022, Apple became the first publicly traded U.S. company in history to reach a market capitalization of $3 trillion.[74] In January 2023, Apple fell below $2 trillion.[75] Apple closed above $3 trillion for the first time in June 2023 and closed above $3 trillion again in December 2023.[76][77]

Meta[edit]

Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook)[78] owns the Facebook social networking service, the Instagram image sharing service, and the WhatsApp instant messaging service. Facebook also acquired Oculus in 2014, entering the virtual reality market.[79] After closing above $1 trillion for the first time in June 2021 as Facebook,[80] Meta Platforms finished 2021 below $1 trillion.[81][82] In February 2022, Meta Platforms fell to less than $600 billion (setting a record for the largest one-day drop in U.S. stock market history),[83][84][85][86] and was no longer within the top 20 most valuable U.S. companies after falling to $270 billion in October 2022.[87][88] In January 2024, Meta crossed $1 trillion during trading hours.[89]

Microsoft[edit]

Microsoft controls the majority of market share in desktop operating systems (Microsoft Windows),[90] productivity software (Microsoft Office and Microsoft 365),[91] and business communication software (Microsoft Teams).[92] Microsoft owns the second biggest cloud computing platform (Microsoft Azure)[93] after Amazon Web Services. Microsoft is also one of the biggest companies in the video game industry (Microsoft Gaming). In April 2019, Microsoft reached $1 trillion in market capitalization for the first time.[94] In June 2021, Microsoft crossed $2 trillion for the first time,[95][96] and in October 2021 briefly surpassed Apple as the most valuable company in the world before finishing the year second to Apple at $2.5 trillion.[97][81] After its stock fell during most of 2022,[98] Microsoft finished the year below $2 trillion.[99] By May 2023, Microsoft stock was again worth more than $2 trillion.[69] In January 2024, Microsoft briefly surpassed Apple as the most valuable U.S. company,[100] and crossed $3 trillion during trading hours.[101]

Smaller companies[edit]

United States[edit]

Smaller U.S. Big Tech companies[b]
Company Revenue (USD)[102] Profit (USD) Subsidiaries
IBM 60 billion 2 billion Red Hat
Tesla 81 billion 12 billion
Oracle 50 billion 8 billion Cerner
Netflix 31 billion 5 billion
Nvidia 27 billion 4 billion
Salesforce 31 billion 0.2 billion Tableau
Slack
Adobe 17 billion 5 billion

Smaller companies like Adobe, Netflix, Nvidia, Oracle, Salesforce, Snap, Tesla, Uber, and X are sometimes referred to as Big Tech due to their popular influence.[103][104] X, although privately owned by Elon Musk, has been criticized for its outsized influence on politics.[103][105][106][107]

Nvidia[edit]

Nvidia is a software and fabless company which designs and supplies graphics processing units (GPUs), application programming interfaces (APIs) for data science and high-performance computing, as well as system on a chip units (SoCs) for the mobile computing and automotive market. Nvidia is also a dominant supplier of artificial intelligence (AI) hardware and software.[108][109][110]

In the early 2020s, Nvidia became the leading producer of AI chips.[111] In May 2023, Nvidia crossed $1 trillion in market capitalization during trading hours,[112] and was worth $1.2 trillion by November 2023.[113] In February 2024, Nvidia rose above $1.83 trillion in market capitalization, surpassing Amazon and Alphabet to become the third most valuable U.S. company after Apple and Microsoft,[114][115] and later crossed $2 trillion during trading hours.[116][117] In June 2024, Nvidia crossed $3 trillion in market capitalization and surpassed Apple as the second most valuable U.S. company.[118][119]

Tesla[edit]

Tesla's classification as a tech company has been debated. In 2022, Fortune included Tesla in Big Tech, and The Washington Post argued that Tesla vehicles are comparable to iPhones.[120][121] Business Insider argued that Tesla should be classified as an automaker.[122] Barron's argued that Tesla is a tech company, but not a good one due to differences in the IT and automotive markets.[123] The Wall Street Journal raised concerns about the supply chain, the semiconductor shortage, and the price of electric vehicle batteries.[124] In October 2021, Tesla crossed $1 trillion in market capitalization.[125][126] During the 2022 stock market decline, Tesla stock fell 73% from $1.3 trillion in November 2021 to $495 billion at the end of 2022, including a 40% drop in December 2022 alone.[127][128][129] In response to the stock price declining over twice as much as the Nasdaq Composite index, Tesla CEO Elon Musk advised employees not to be bothered by the "stock market craziness".[130]

Asia[edit]

Two Chinese technology companies, Alibaba and Tencent, were among the top ten most valuable public companies worldwide at the end of the 2010s. Smyrnaios argued in 2016 that the Asian technology giants Samsung, Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent could be included in the definition of Big Tech.[131] Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent and Xiaomi, referred to as BATX, are often seen as Chinese competitors to Big Tech. TikTok developer ByteDance and drone manufacturer DJI have also been called Big Tech.[132][133] Futurist Amy Webb has called the combination of the Big Five, IBM, Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent "G-MAFIA BAT".[134]

Causes[edit]

Nikos Smyrnaios argued in 2016 that four phenomena allowed Big Tech to emerge: technological convergence, deregulation, globalization, and financialization.[131] He argued that people like Nicholas Negroponte promoted technological convergence and made an Internet oligopoly appear desirable. The complexity of IT made competition law ineffective, resulting in industry self-regulation. Globalization allowed Big Tech companies to minimize their tax burden and pay foreign workers lower wages.[131] Without regulation, Big Tech earned big profits: in 2014, Google, Apple, and Facebook earned over 20 percent profit margins.[131]

Innovation[edit]

Critics have alleged that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act allowed Big Tech to evade responsibility for user-generated content. It states, "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." Section 230 has been called "the twenty-six words that created the Internet".[135][136] Without the legal requirement for content moderation, online services could innovate freely and achieved rapid growth in the early days of the Internet.[137]

According to Alexis Madrigal, the innovation that initially characterized Silicon Valley has been replaced by a strategy of growth through acquisitions.[138] For example, Apple started in 1976 as an engineering-focused startup company, and quickly claimed market share from less innovative competitors like Xerox.[138] The tech giants made timely investments in personal computers, websites, e-commerce, mobile devices, social media, and cloud computing, and rank highly on the list of companies by research and development spending.[139][140] However, large companies tend to focus on operational efficiency instead of new product development.[138]

Legal scholar Tim Wu speculated that Big Tech acquisitions could create "kill zones" that stifle competition by taking potential competitors out of the marketplace. For example, Facebook's acquisition of Instagram prevented Instagram from becoming an independent platform similar to Facebook.[141] On the other hand, Wu stated that Microsoft's concentration of market power created a platform for new kinds of innovation.[142]

According to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, "Virtually all so-called killer acquisitions represent the technologies and capabilities the companies view as critical to their competitiveness. If they purchase a company innovating within this zone, they are far more likely to develop its innovation than to bury it. In doing so, they often make the technology available faster and to more people than would otherwise be possible. If companies are prevented from making acquisitions, they are more likely to copy the products or develop alternative innovations than they are to ignore them. Assuming incumbents don't violate intellectual property laws, this type of competition is both legal and socially beneficial."[143]

Competition between cloud platforms including Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform contributed to open-source software infrastructure including LLVM and the Linux kernel. The "cloud wars" also caused Big Tech companies to invest in data centers and undersea cables. The operational efficiency of Big Tech technology stacks means startup companies typically must use Big Tech infrastructure instead of building their own.[144][145]

Business strategy[edit]

Nikos Smyrnaios argued in 2016 that Big Tech companies concentrate power by vertically integrating data centers, Internet connectivity, computer hardware (including smartphones), operating systems, applications (including Web browsers), and online services. He also argued that they concentrate power by horizontally integrating different services such as email, instant messaging, online searching, downloading, and streaming across platforms.[131] For example, Google and Microsoft pay for their search engines to be included with Apple's iPhone.[146] According to The Economist, "Network and scale effects mean that size begets size, while data can act as a barrier to entry."[147]

Capitalism[edit]

The 2020 American docudrama film The Social Dilemma argues that capitalism is the root cause of Big Tech's harmful practices.[148]

Antitrust efforts[edit]

United States[edit]

Under United States antitrust law, the consumer welfare standard assumes that large companies are not automatically harmful. Antitrust enforcement generally aims to prevent harm to consumers.[149] According to some policy analysts, Big Tech innovation benefits consumers.[150] Big Tech CEOs have consistently opposed antitrust regulation. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, testified that his company is important to United States national security.[citation needed] Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, lobbied Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to delay proposed regulations.[citation needed]

Antitrust investigations of Big Tech began in the late 1990s, leading to the first major case against Big Tech in 2001, when the U.S. government accused Microsoft of illegally maintaining its monopoly position in the PC market. Microsoft imposed legal and technical restrictions on PC manufacturers and users preventing them from uninstalling Internet Explorer and using Netscape or Java. The district court ruled that Microsoft's actions constituted monopolization under the Sherman Antitrust Act, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed most of the district court's judgments. The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on September 6, 2001 that it would not seek to break up Microsoft, and would instead seek a lesser penalty if Microsoft agreed to share its APIs with third-party companies and appoint a three-person panel with access to Microsoft's systems, records, and source code for five years. On November 1, 2002, Judge Kollar-Kotelly accepted most of the proposed settlement, and on June 30, 2004, the U.S. appeals court unanimously approved the settlement.[151]

In the late 2010s, Big Tech was investigated by the DOJ and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for anticompetitive mergers and acquisitions. Some Democratic presidential candidates proposed breaking up Big Tech companies or regulating them as utilities. FTC chairman Joseph Simons said, "The role of technology in the economy and in our lives grows more important every day...As I've noted in the past, it makes sense for us to closely examine technology markets to ensure consumers benefit from free and fair competition."[152][153] The United States House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law investigated Big Tech in June 2020, and published a report in January 2021 concluding that Amazon, Apple, Google, and Meta operated in an anticompetitive manner.[154][155]

On June 24, 2021, the United States House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law held hearings on proposed Big Tech regulations. Pramila Jayapal introduced HR 3825, The Ending Platform Monopolies Act, which passed the committee.[156] The bill proposed prohibiting platform owners from offering products and services on the platforms they own. For example, in 2010, Amazon attempted to acquire Diapers.com. When Diapers.com rejected Amazon's proposal, Amazon started selling diapers at a loss. Facing unprofitability, Diapers.com agreed to let Amazon buy the company even though Walmart was willing to pay more.[157] The committee voted that the reason for Big Tech monopolies is because of the consumer welfare standard, a legal doctrine stating that if the consumer benefits from corporate actions, those actions are generally legal. FTC chairwoman Lina Khan expressed a different view in her publication "Amazon's Antitrust Paradox".

On July 9, 2021, President Joe Biden signed Executive Order 14036, "Promoting Competition in the American Economy", a sweeping array of initiatives across the executive branch. The order established an executive branch-wide policy to more thoroughly scrutinize mergers involving Big Tech companies, with focus on the acquisition of new, potentially disruptive technology from smaller companies by the larger companies. The order also instructed the FTC to establish rules related to the use of data collection by Big Tech companies for promoting their own services.[158][159]

In June 2024, the DOJ and FTC opened an investigation into Microsoft, Nvidia, and OpenAI regarding their dominance in artificial intelligence.[160][161]

European Union[edit]

The European Commission, which has imposed sanctions on several of the high-tech giants

In June 2020, the European Union opened two investigations into Apple. The first investigation focused on whether Apple uses market dominance to stifle competition in music and book streaming. The second investigation focused on Apple Pay. Apple limits the use of the iPhone's NFC technology by financial institutions, including banks.[162][163]

According to European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager, fines are insufficient to deter anticompetitive practices. Vestager stated, "Fines are not doing the trick. And fines are not enough because fines are a punishment for illegal behaviour in the past. What is also in our decision is that you have to change for the future. You have to stop what you're doing."[164]

In September 2021, the United States and European Union began negotiating a joint approach to Big Tech regulation.[165] The European Parliament passed the Digital Markets Act in March 2022 in order to restrict data collection from European users, require social media interoperability, and allow alternative app stores and payment systems for Apple and Google smartphones.[166][167] The EU also passed the Digital Services Act in April 2022, which requires tech companies to take down hate speech and child sexual abuse, and ban advertising targeting gender, race, religion, and childhood.[168] Both the Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act were enacted by the EU in July 2022.[169] The EU defined Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, ByteDance, Meta, and Microsoft as "gatekeepers" under the DMA in September 2023, and required them to comply by March 2024.[170]

Criticism[edit]

According to The Globe and Mail, both left-wing and right-wing politicians have criticized Big Tech.[171] Progressives have alleged "runaway profit-taking and concentration of wealth", and conservatives have alleged "liberal bias".[171] According to The New York Times, "The left generally argues that companies like Facebook and Twitter aren't doing enough to root out misinformation, extremism and hate on their platforms, while the right insists that tech companies are going so overboard in their content decisions that they're suppressing conservative political views."[172] According to The Hill, libertarians oppose government regulation of Big Tech due to their support for laissez-faire economics.[173]

Scott Galloway said Big Tech companies "avoid taxes, invade privacy, and destroy jobs".[174] Nikos Smyrnaios described Big Tech as an oligopoly that dominates the information technology market through anti-competitive practices, ever-increasing economic power, and intellectual property.[131] Smyrnaios argued that the current situation is the result of deregulation, globalization, and the failure of politicians to understand and respond to developments in technology. Smyrnaios recommended developing academic analysis of the political economy of the Internet in order to understand the methods of domination and to criticize these methods in order to encourage opposition to that domination.[131]

Accusations of censorship and election interference[edit]

The practice of banning hate speech has received criticism from conservatives.[175] In July 2020, the United States House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law interviewed the CEOs of Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook. During the hearings, some members of Congress alleged bias against conservatives on social media.[176] Matt Gaetz protested Amazon's ban on donations to hate groups, stating that Jeff Bezos should "divorce from the SPLC".[177]

On November 5, 2020, President Donald Trump alleged "historic election interference from big money, big media, and big tech". Conservative newspaper The Washington Times criticized Trump's claims as lacking evidence.[178] During Trump's speech that incited the January 6 United States Capitol attack, he accused Big Tech of rigging the 2020 election and promised to "get rid of" Section 230. According to Trump, "They rigged it like they have never rigged an election before, and by the way, last night, they didn't do a bad job either."[179] After Trump's Twitter account was suspended, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief spokesman Steffen Seibert noted that Merkel found Twitter's halt of Trump's account "problematic", adding that legislators, not private companies, should decide on any necessary curbs to free expression if hate speech incites violence.[180][181]

According to a February 2021 report by New York University researchers, conservative claims of social media censorship could be considered disinformation because the deleted statements were false. The report also recommended that social media platforms should increase their transparency to push back against claims of censorship.[182][183] Conservatives argued that Facebook and Twitter limiting the spread of the Hunter Biden laptop controversy "proves Big Tech's bias".[184][185] In some cases, Big Tech platforms reversed actions perceived as censorship. The YouTube channel Right Wing Watch was banned for showing far-right content to expose extreme views, but the channel was restored after viewer backlash.[186] Human Rights Watch stated that excessive content removal, especially on Facebook, meant losing evidence of human rights abuses.[187]

Facebook has also been accused of censoring left-wing opinions. Facebook removed ads by Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren, who advocated breaking up Facebook. Warren accused the company of having the "ability to shut down a debate" and called for "a social media marketplace that isn't dominated by a single censor".[188][189]

Accusations of inaction toward misinformation and disinformation[edit]

Following Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, Facebook was criticized for failing to curb disinformation.[190] In the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal, Facebook users were targeted for political propaganda based on their online activity, which Facebook monitored and shared without consent.[191] In 2019, a Senate Intelligence Committee report criticized Facebook and Twitter for failing to stop the spread of misinformation.[192] In response to criticism of their handling of misinformation and disinformation during the 2016 election, Big Tech companies cracked down on fake accounts and trolling.[193][194]

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Big Tech was criticized for allowing COVID-19 misinformation.[195][196] According to Representatives Frank Pallone, Mike Doyle, and Jan Schakowsky, "Industry self-regulation has failed. We must begin the work of changing incentives driving social media companies to allow and even promote misinformation and disinformation."[197][198] President Joe Biden criticized Facebook for allowing anti-vaccine activism.[199][200] Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, said, "While they fail to take action, lives are being lost."[201] In response to the criticism, Big Tech companies deleted numerous social media accounts and banned health-related false advertising.

Human Rights Watch has criticized Big Tech, primarily Facebook, for allowing misinformation to spread in developing countries.[187]

Censorship by governments[edit]

Big Tech companies have faced political censorship. China banned Google in 2010 because Google refused to censor search results critical of the Chinese Communist Party.[202][203] Meta and X have been banned in China since 2009.[203]

In India, Facebook and Twitter were accused of censorship during the 2020–2021 Indian farmers' protest.[204][205] The Wall Street Journal stated that Facebook only restricted content criticizing the Indian government, even if government supporters posted false statements.[206]

In 2021, Alexei Navalny criticized Apple and Google for complying with a Russian government order to ban the Smart Voting app.[202] On February 24, 2022, the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. In March 2022, Russia blocked Facebook and Twitter because of "disinformation" and "fake news".[207] On March 21, 2022, Russia recognized Meta as an "extremist organization", making Meta the first public company recognized as extremist in Russia.[208] Microsoft's LinkedIn has been blocked in Russia since 2016.[209]

Environmental impact[edit]

The environmental impact of Big Tech is a phenomenon in which many aspects of Big Tech contribute to negative impacts on the environment and climate change. In the big data age, technologists and people in general find it valuable to view emerging technologies with a critical lens, one of which is geared toward the environment. As these emerging technologies become more popular, they consider the extent at which they contribute to changes in the environment and whether they are inherently positive or negative.

A 2022 report from Greenpeace and Stand.earth highlights the technology sector's rapid growth, driving a significant increase in electricity consumption, projected to rise by over 60% between 2020 and 2030. This increase in energy usage is coupled with a rise in carbon emissions attributed to the sector's heavy dependence on fossil fuels. While some Big Tech firms have committed to transitioning to 100% renewable energy for their operations, this commitment has not yet extended to their supply chains. Seven out of ten ranked consumer electronics brands have committed to achieve 100% renewable energy across their own operations by 2030, with Apple, Google, and Microsoft already achieving this goal.[210]

In 2023, Big Tech accounted for approximately 4 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, surpassing those of the aviation industry.[211]

Reuse of copyrighted content[edit]

On May 9, 2019, the Parliament of France passed a law intended to force Big Tech to pay publishers for the reuse of substantial amounts of copyrighted content (related rights). The law is aimed at implementing Article 15 of the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market of the European Union.[212]

Alternatives[edit]

Alt-tech is a collection of social networking services and Internet service providers popular among the alt-right, far-right, and others who espouse extremism or fringe theories, typically because they employ looser content moderation than mainstream platforms.[213][214][193] The term "alt-tech" is a portmanteau of "alt-right" and "Big Tech".

The fediverse is a collection of federated social networking services that can communicate with each other even if they are controlled independently. Users of different websites can send and receive status updates and multimedia files across the network. The term "fediverse" is a portmanteau of "federation" and "universe".[215]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Based on data from the 2022 Fortune 500.
  2. ^ Data is based on the 2022 Fortune 500.

References[edit]

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