A Highly Specific and Incomplete Summary of Big Government vs. Big Tech
Both Brian Armstrong, Founder and CEO of Coinbase and Mark Zuckerberg, star of the movie “The Social Network,” (kidding), have cited the US governments strong hand in public addresses this week.
“My hope is the U.S. embraces this kind of innovation, even if it comes from a company like Facebook that they’re not necessarily very happy with.”
- Brian Armstrong (Link to article)
It’s funny, no one really uses the word “power” to describe individuals anymore. Maybe the word “Superpower” has changed the perspective of the meaning. At the very core, Facebook is power, and that is where the friction lies between the lawmakers and Facebook. It’s about power. It’s not about privacy, it’s not about Libra, it’s about power.
Zuckerberg and Facebook are power the same way that Bill Gates and Microsoft represented power in the 1990s, and John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil represented power in the 1900s. It’s odd that no one uses the word power, because when hosting a conversation between Big-tech and Big government, that’s the entire story. It’s like describing an elephant without saying, “Well, it’s an elephant”.
“Facebook has too much consumer data.”
“John D. Rockefeller has too much control over Oil.”
In the 1910s the Standard Oil monopoly became so powerful that President Taft filed an anti-trust against John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil, to break it up. His empire was growing too strong… however, the irony is that when the US broke Standard Oil into 50 different pieces, it became more efficient, and John D, became more wealthy than ever (I think it was something like 5-10x more wealthy). But it was wealthy with capital, which came with less control. (Learned this from reading Titan)
Now let’s assume the analogy is correct. Let’s assume this is history rhyming. What changes this time? Does the government file an anti-trust against Facebook, like President Taft did to Rockefeller in 1911? Or like against Bill Gates in 1998? And what does that mean? What happens? And why should I care?
To be clear, I’m pro-tech and pro-human. If we are going to tie the world closer together and solve the hardest problems of today, I believe we need great technology. I also believe that if anyone has built what Mark Zuckerberg and those other brilliant minds at Facebook have, we should praise it. Do you know how many countries in the world wish that their citizens started Facebook?
I think that the power battle between big tech and big gov has just started. I’m excited to see how it plays out.