The tech giants are too big. But what if that’s not so bad?
For a year and a half — and more urgently for much of the last month — I have warned of the growing economic, social and political power held by the five largest American tech companies: Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft.
Because these companies control the world’s most important tech platforms, from smartphones to app stores to the map of our social relationships, their power is growing closer to that of governments than of mere corporations. That was on stark display this week, when executives from two of the five, Facebook and Google, along with a struggling second-tier company, Twitter, testified before Congress about how their technology may have been used to influence the 2016 election.
More from The New York Times:
What to Watch for as Facebook, Twitter and Google Executives Testify on Capitol Hill
Russian Influence Reached 126 Million Through Facebook Alone
Sony's Fortunes Improve, From Rising Profit to a Return for Aibo
Yet ever since I started writing about what I call the Frightful Five, some have said my very premise is off base. I have argued that the companies’ size and influence poses a danger. But another argument suggests the opposite — that it’s better to be ruled by a handful of responsive companies capable of bowing to political and legal pressure. In other words, wouldn’t you rather deal with five horse-sized Zucks than 100 duck-sized technoforces?
The insatiable appetite of digital technology to alter everything in its path is among the most powerful forces shaping the world today. Given all the ways that tech can go wrong — as we are seeing in the Russia influence scandal — isn’t it better that we can blame, and demand fixes from, a handful of American executives when things do go haywire?
That’s not ridiculous. Over the past few weeks, several scholars said there are good reasons to be sanguine about our new tech overlords. Below, I compiled their best arguments about the bright side of the Five.