In the wake of the discovery that Russians bought ads on social media while trying to further divide the US electorate, several, including the authors of an article in The Guardian, find the description of companies as large as Google and Facebook by Louisiana senator John Kennedy very apt. During the senate hearing exploring the role these companies had in the Russian ads, Kennedy said that the corporations know too much about us and too little about themselves. The authors of the article quote him, “If the CEO came to you… and said I want to know everything about Senator Graham… You could do that, couldn’t you?” and Kennedy continued that on the other hand, “You don’t have the ability to know who every one of your advertisers is, do you?” Leaving aside other issues, and addressing their size, the article’s authors recommend that the government pass legislation to stop such large concerns from buying anymore companies. Facebook already has 2 billion users and controls 77% of social media activity. Google has been acquiring companies for a long time, often stifling new start-ups. The issue of anti-trust legislation is already applicable the authors maintain and needs to come to the fore.
Stopping these companies may keep them from getting bigger than they already are, but may not ensure that the best interests of the public will be served simply because these corporations are already too big to be concerned about the consequences of their actions upon consumers. When is a corporation too big? Increasingly some have ventured to say Google and Facebook meet the criteria. And what about Amazon? There are those who are beginning to warn that its size is not in the public interest either.
The products of these companies are so burrowed into our lives, it makes it all the more important for us to decide the extent to which we want to support them.