It seems that every week is a big week for Big Tech these days. Sometimes hitting record highs, sometimes taking a big hit.
But I wouldn’t be worried about market jitters. The real Sword of Damocles for Big Tech could come as early as this week, when a supposedly free-market Trump administration could launch a landmark lawsuit against one of the biggest and most successful companies not just in technology, but in any industry ever created on American soil.
The company is Google, the world’s greatest search engine, which has been in the crosshairs of politicians of both parties. Barring something dramatic, it will soon be the target of litigation brought by the Trump Department of Justice and many states’ attorneys general for alleged antitrust abuses.
Google doesn’t fit the classic definition of an antitrust target by costing consumer money — it’s a free service for consumers that makes much of its money on advertising. But what makes Google enticing for class warriors is its size ($1 trillion market cap), massive profitability and omnipotence as everyone’s favorite search engine, which also allows it to allegedly play dirty.
It’s been accused of skewing search results to advertisers and giving top billing to search results that favor progressive political thought, not to mention mining user data for its business.
Given the politics of the moment, Google may be the first, but probably not the last, tech company to get roasted at the hands of the government not for doing anything terribly wrong, mind you, but for simply being too big and successful and the latest whipping boy for politicians in both parties.
I’ve seen this before with the banks after the 2008 financial crisis, though at least the banks created the financial crisis that led to the Great Recession some 10 years ago. Big Tech ushered in an economic renaissance and helped keep our economy from falling into another Great Depression during the pandemic.
I say this not as a Pollyanna about tech or any big company using its might to push for laws that benefit its bottom line (see the support Big Tech gave to net neutrality, which was essentially a free ride on cable operators’ backs). I have no doubt that there are plenty of lefty programmers out there working for Google or Facebook or Twitter who would love to push political commentary that seems to support their wokeness, though for some reason, I’m never at a loss for commentary that appeals to my libertarian leanings.
And yes, I worry about my privacy, as any American who read Orwell would about centralized power keeping tabs on us all.
But Google or Facebook or Apple isn’t the government; they’re tracking my web searches to sell me stuff, which is why I keep getting ads for chin-up bars and hairy-chest dad-bod hoodies. (I bought one as a birthday gift for my pal and Fox Business colleague Neil Cavuto.)
Sorry, I’m more worried about politicians looking for an easy scapegoat to make us all forget the real problems we have to face in the months and years ahead and destroying an American business success story. It doesn’t take a Karl Rove political genius to figure out that politicians on both sides of the aisle have screwed up stuff royally during the pandemic, and yet I’m supposed to believe a crackdown on Google for showing preferences in its search engine to its advertisers will help cure COVID or get the economy running full steam ahead.
It will obviously do neither, and will make achieving the latter a lot more difficult. A little context: Apple, Amazon, Alphabet (Google’s parent), Microsoft and Facebook are the largest companies in the stock market and their strength and size only grew during the pandemic. Tech represents about 12 percent of GDP, and $1.3 trillion in wages, according to Price Waterhouse.
That may make them a monopoly in the eyes of Elizabeth Warren, but it also made them a massive employer, a payer of a lot of taxes and a useful and cheap tool for consumers during a difficult time.
Woken up to NFL woe
The football season is now upon us, and like many fans of the sport, it couldn’t come soon enough for me. But the game’s number crunchers are worried. COVID forcing many stadiums to go fanless is one concern with football being able to produce decent revenues this season. So are plans by the NFL to politicize the game.
I spoke with some football business executives and here’s how they broke down the league’s difficult finances in 2020. Football is a $16 billion-a-year sport, with about $8 billion of its revenues coming from television rights, according to John Tatum, CEO of the Dallas-based Genesco Sports Enterprises.
So keeping decent television ratings is key. The lack of excitement from the crowds will likely turn away some viewers. Another likely turnoff: Decisions by the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to embrace social-justice slogans on the field and even on helmets as the season opens this week.
Football fans may be all in on social justice, but if history is any guide, they also hate politics being part of the game. The last time the NFL embraced political messaging, with widespread kneeling by players, TV viewership fell dramatically. But at least the league had fans in the stands to make up the difference.
Which means woke football could be a money-losing proposition.