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Tech Titans at Bay?

Summary:
Though the tech monopolists may capture significant short-term gains from the accelerating shift online, the recent congressional antitrust hearing showed that they can no longer avoid the harsh glare of the political spotlight. The writing may be on the wall. CAMBRIDGE – Big Tech is back in the spotlight – and not in a good way. On July 29, the chief executives of Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook spent more than five hours fielding tough questions about their overwhelming market power from a bipartisan antitrust panel in the US House of Representatives. Is the end of an era approaching? How to Prevent the Looming Sovereign-Debt Crisis Teradat Santivivut/Getty

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Though the tech monopolists may capture significant short-term gains from the accelerating shift online, the recent congressional antitrust hearing showed that they can no longer avoid the harsh glare of the political spotlight. The writing may be on the wall.

CAMBRIDGE – Big Tech is back in the spotlight – and not in a good way. On July 29, the chief executives of Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook spent more than five hours fielding tough questions about their overwhelming market power from a bipartisan antitrust panel in the US House of Representatives. Is the end of an era approaching?

In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a boon for tech companies. As Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Tim Cook, Google’s Sundar Pichai, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg all noted in their opening statements at the antitrust hearing, people appreciate the services their companies provide. Recent research indicates that the COVID-19 crisis has deepened this appreciation.

This is not surprising. Digital technologies have enabled workers to do their jobs from home, students to continue their classes while schools are closed, and people to stay in touch with loved ones and entertain themselves while sheltering in place.

Tech companies have been reaping enormous benefits from this shift. In the first half of 2020, while the global economy confronted an unprecedented recession, Amazon’s share price rose by about 40%, fueled by rising online purchases and increased used of cloud services. Zoom’s market value has more than tripled since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, as it became a hub for remote meetings and online socializing.

As for Google and Facebook, they suffered temporary losses from reduced advertising revenues. But they still account for an overwhelming share of the digital-advertising market – four-fifths in the United...

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