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How to Tame Big Tech

The US presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are right to call for stronger action to rein in powerful tech companies like Amazon and Facebook. But a successful strategy will have to look beyond antitrust laws.

ITHACA – The Internet was once hailed as a powerful democratizing force – enabling innovative start-ups to compete with established businesses, disrupt entire industries, and create new ones. But as some of those startups grew into behemoths, they turned this force on its head. Far from leveling the playing field, Big Tech now largely owns it, and rather than democratizing the economy, the Internet has ended up exacerbating the world’s inequality problem.

Big Tech’s rise has made a few people extremely wealthy. The richest among them, Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, lost $7 billion – more than the total wealth of several countries, including Burundi and Sierra Leone ($3 billion each) – in a single day last week. And yet the biggest risk he faces as a result is falling to second place in the global wealth ranking, after another tech founder, Bill Gates.

Meanwhile, some 736 million people still lived in extreme poverty (less than $1.90 per day) in 2015, and billions more lived on less than $2.50 per day. Many workers worldwide – including low-level employees at tech companies like Amazon and freelancers who use platforms like Uber to find customers – face poor and deteriorating working conditions and stagnant wages. As labor’s share of income declines, capital’s share increases – trends that benefit the wealthy above all.

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