16 Jun

5 Times Big Tech Took On The Government

Mark Zuckerberg, Big Tech

Technology now exists as an extension of our everyday selves. With so much reliance on tech, a collective fear has been growing that tech companies might be holding too much power over us. Governments are stepping in to protect their citizens… but with varying degrees of success.

Here are 5 recent times big tech has gone head-to-head with governments.

Facebook vs Australia

You’ll recall this year Facebook threw a tantrum over new laws in Australia requiring Facebook to pay independent news organizations for content to feature on the site. In retaliation, Facebook removed all news features from its site for one week, displaying an unprecedented power move. Not impressed, the blackout saw world-wide outrage with Facebook labelled as a ‘bully’. To avoid a stalemate, the Australian government made amendments to the laws. Naturally, both sides claimed victory.

Apple vs the EU

Big tech have been criticized for utilizing tax loopholes to deepen their own pockets. But in 2020, the EU’s Supreme Court of Justice overturned a 2016 ruling for Apple to pay over €13bn in taxes. Apple were accused of funneling revenue reports into Ireland (offering several tax benefits). Dublin was also accused of offering illegal tax breaks. But both Apple & Ireland are walking away scot-free to the EU’s dismay. Dutch MEP Paul Tang called this new ruling “deeply unfair”. Despite Apple paying the most tax of any company in the world, dispute remains over Apple’s suspiciously low pre-tax profits and high costs.

CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, stands in congress at anti-trust hearing.

Apple at Congressional Hearing. Image from Digital Trends via Yahoo Finance.

Amazon vs Donald Trump

The Bezos-owned Washington Post seldom wrote a glowing story about former President Trump. The Department of Defense was seeking $10bn worth of cloud computing infrastructure to support millions of military personnel. Amazon Web Services was the favorite for the deal due to their highly sophisticated systems. When Microsoft was awarded the contract, Bezos accused Trump of interfering with the selection process due to a personal vendetta. What sounds like a playground dispute of he-said she-said has cost Amazon a potential fortune; US government spending on cloud computing is estimated to rise to $1tn. Despite an appeal from Amazon, Microsoft seems likely to keep a hold of the contract.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sits between Donald Trump and Jeff Bezos at a White House meeting in 2018.

Trump, Nadella and Bezos at the White House in 2018. Image via Associated Press.

Google vs the USA

Google is the latest target of anti-trust scrutiny by the US government who claimed, in 2020, that the company is running an illegal monopoly. The Department of Justice found evidence of Google paying mobile phone companies, to have Google as the default search engine. Debate remains as to whether this practice constitutes as a simple business deal or “collusion”. We won’t be seeing an outcome for a long while, because what constitutes as an illegal monopoly still remains unclear.

TikTok vs China vs the USA

With over 689 million users, using the app an average of 52 minutes daily – everyone wants a slice of TikTok. That included Donald Trump. When Trump announced a TikTok ban in the US due to cyber-security concerns from China, users were furious. Trump urged Chinese owner “ByteDance” to sell Tik Tok to a US company. While initially a deal was proposed, recent legal action from China put a spanner in the works. President Biden is now seeking to re-evaluate the security risk posed by TikTok, suggesting its unlikely TikTok will reside on US soil anytime soon.

Cases like these make apparent the power and politics surrounding big tech. Policy solutions seem less straightforward than ever.

We can only hope for a sustainable relationship between big tech and big government.

Header Image: Mark Zuckerberg, Image via Christoph Scholz, Flickr.

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