The Editorial Board, The Boston Globe
Never in the history of the world has a single company had so much control over what people know and think. Yet Washington has been slow to recognize that Google’s power is a problem, much less embrace the obvious solution: breaking the company up.
Google accounts for about 90 percent of all Internet searches; by any honest assessment, it holds a monopoly at the very gateway to information in the modern world. From there, the company’s power radiates outward, dominating everything from maps to smartphone operating systems to video distribution — vacuuming up huge quantities of highly specific data about users along the way.
Along with Facebook, Google owns sites and services that, by some estimates, influence 70 percent of all Internet traffic. Not coincidentally, the two companies also form a duopoly that gets 73 percent of all digital advertising in the United States, and virtually all the growth in ad spending, on the Internet. Once the lifeblood of a vital free press, and later of a vast array of independent sites serving every possible interest, ad dollars increasingly flow to two tech giants that organize information produced at other people’s expense.
Google’s power is bound to grow still more. Last year, it spent more on federal lobbying than any other company. By tweaking the way information appears on search pages, Google can already promote its own websites and banish competitors to digital oblivion. (Last year, European regulators fined the company $2.7 billion, alleging that it favored its own services over competitors’.) In coming years, as Google’s vast data trove feeds ever more sophisticated artificial-intelligence algorithms, the search giant’s lead over its competitors will lengthen.
© 2018 The Boston Globe